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Turning 40: What to Know

Don't be blindsided by predictable health issues

Veteran and family at the parkIt's possible to turn 40 without facing major health events. Maybe the most you've experienced is a hospital visit when your children were born or a twisted ankle. But as you age, your body and health may need a bit more attention than in your younger years.

Whether it's chest pain, weight changes, or joint aches, age brings wear and tear and opens the door for aches and illnesses that can blindside you.

VA wants Veterans over 40 to start paying more attention to the following five health concerns:

  1. Know your numbers: blood pressure

    Don't be surprised if your blood pressure starts rising after age 40; that's common but should not be ignored. Luckily, there are many things you can do to lower your blood pressure. If you're over 40, the first step is talking to your doctor. Ask your health care team if you should monitor your blood pressure numbers. Lowering your blood pressure can help you live a better and longer life.

    My HealtheVet's Track Health feature is a powerful tool for managing your blood pressure and keeping a healthy lifestyle.

  2. Pay closer attention to your heart

    Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. The heart ages as you do. It's important to regularly exercise, maintain a healthy diet, and get checked by your doctor to make sure your heart isn't aging faster than you would expect.

    Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you are worried about your heart health. Never ignore chest pain or pressure; this should be evaluated right away, rather than waiting for a routine visit or a call or message from your doctor.

  3. Check your skin monthly

    Those years of getting "a healthy tan" or spending too much time in the sun can lead to something not so healthy: skin cancer. Check your skin once a month for changes, such as moles that change color, shape, or size. 

    Luckily, most skin cancers are curable if they are noticed early. So, don't forget to ask your doctor to check your skin if you find any changes.

  4. Too early for colon cancer screening?

    Colon cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in men and women. At your next appointment, be up-front about your health history and ask your doctor when you should start screening.

    Most people can wait until they turn 50 to get screened for colon cancer. However, you may need to start screenings at 40 or earlier if you:

    • have a family history or personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps

    • have a personal history of certain kinds of colorectal polyps, Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis

    • have a family history of colorectal cancers

  5. Don't forget for yourself or your loved ones

    VA follows the American Cancer Society recommends that all women should begin getting yearly mammograms by age 45. Women may also choose to start screening with annual mammograms as early as age 40. If there's a concern for risk factors, such as family history, talk to your health care team about being tested earlier and more often.

    Most women Veterans who are in their 40s receive mammograms through VA. Discover more about mammograms and how VA and My HealtheVet can help.

Manage your health with My HealtheVet

These aren't the only five health conditions you need to worry about, but it's a good start. You can't stop aging, but you can make choices that improve the process. It's important to get involved in your health care, and your My HealtheVet account has all the tools you need to get started.

Your online account makes it easy to refill a VA prescription or schedule your next appointment. You can also track your food and exercise.


Please vote in our unscientific poll. All responses are anonymous.

After turning 40, have you discussed your specific health conditions with your health care team?