Women at 50: Eight Things Your Doctor Wants you to Know

Featuring Alex Buford, DO and Cindy Nunan, DNP, FNP-BC
Shore Physicians Group – Mays Landing Primary Care

As women approach 50, it’s more important than ever to visit your doctor regularly and be open with them about health and wellness changes you may be experiencing. When you have an open and honest relationship with your doctor, they can better help you live a healthier and happier life as you age.

Alex Buford, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, (DO), and Cindy Nunan, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), FNP-BC are primary care providers at Shore Physicians Group’s Mays Landing office. They are both passionate about helping their patients – especially women – live their best lives. In this article, they share eight things they want women 50 and above to know:

  1. You don’t have to put up with menopause symptoms. “If you’re experiencing frustrating menopause symptoms, especially hot flashes and sleep disruptions, we can help you,” said Dr. Buford. While it is different for each patient, Cindy Nunan, DNP and Dr. Buford offer an array of menopause support options. “We may suggest hormone therapy or diet changes, such as avoiding certain spices or getting enough nutrients. Hormone creams can also sometimes be helpful, and even certain antidepressants,” said Dr. Buford.
  2. It’s time to get serious about cancer screenings. Colonoscopies, mammograms and pap smears are the three cancer screenings women should have already had by age 50, but if you are behind on them, just see your doctor and get back on track now. Dr. Buford also looks for symptoms that could be signs of cancer. “If you’re experiencing sudden and unintentional weight loss, getting full fast, skin changes in the breast, or even night sweats, it’s important to tell us,” said Dr. Buford. She added, “After 50, pap smears continue to be important if you still have your cervix. If you no longer have it, you may still need certain screenings depending on why your cervix was removed.”
  3. Your happiness matters. Mental health issues can sometimes fly under the radar, so it’s important to bring up any possible mood changes with your doctor. “Tell me if you’re not as happy as you used to be. Are you no longer enjoying your favorite hobbies, retreating from family and friends, have significant sleep issues, or even overeating? These could all be a sign of mental health issues, which we can help with,” said Dr. Buford. “If it gets too complicated, we can refer you to a specialist.”
  4. Get ahead of heart disease and diabetes. Dr. Buford and Cindy Nunan, DNP agree that being active is the key to preventing heart disease and diabetes. “You just have to keep moving,” says Cindy Nunan, DNP. “I tell people 30 minutes every other day, five times a week. But, doing something is better than nothing.” Dr. Buford adds, “If you’re watching TV, stand up and move around for a few minutes. March in place, arm circles – start small to slowly build healthy habits.” Dr. Buford said she uses a risk screening tool to determine how frequently each patient needs a basic metabolic blood panel. She adds, “Keeping your blood pressure under control is also huge. If you snore or have sleep apnea, that needs to be addressed as well because it can increase your risk for developing serious chronic conditions.”
  5. Maintain a healthy immune system. Illnesses like flu, Covid, and pneumonia can be more serious in certain older patients because our immune systems can weaken as we age. Cindy Nunan, DNP looks at each patient’s medical history to determine which vaccines and supplements are appropriate for them. However, her biggest tips for a healthy immune system are to wash your hands, get plenty of rest, and exercise regularly.
  6. Resistance training can help slow bone loss. Cindy Nunan, DNP and Dr. Buford use a fracture risk screener to determine which patients are at risk of developing early osteoporosis or osteopenia (bone loss). Based on those results, they may recommend a DEXA scan earlier, but typically they’re not needed until age 65. They both stress the importance of resistance training to slow bone loss. “Ideally, you would have started resistance training in your late 20s/early 30s, but it’s never too late,” Cindy Nunan, DNP says. Dr. Buford adds, “You can use resistance bands, your own body weight, even cans of food. Gardening, pulling weeds – that counts too.” Cindy Nunan, DNP said smoking also contributes to bone loss by reducing blood supply to the bones and preventing calcium absorption, so now is a great time to quit.
  7. Don’t neglect your eyes. Cindy Nunan, DNP says, “Any changes in someone’s vision requires a visit with an eye doctor. They have the tools to see inside your eye and look for glaucoma, cataracts, etc.” People with certain chronic illnesses such as diabetes need to be screened annually. If you’re already seeing an optometrist for glasses or contacts, be sure you’re going regularly so they can catch any underlying vision issues.
  8. Your dietary needs change. Metabolism slows as you age, so it’s important to be more conscious of maintaining a well-balanced diet, and reducing your fat and salt intake. But it can be harder when you have more free time to socialize. Dr. Buford says, “Your kids may be more independent now, so you may be going out to eat with friends or getting takeout more frequently, which can really increase your calorie intake. Portion control is a big one. Yes, you can have a cupcake or a cookie (unless you have certain dietary restrictions) but it can’t be every day. Eating late at night can also lead to weight gain.” Cindy Nunan, DNP says if her patients have gained more than a few pounds, she wants to find out why. “That weight gain can go back to depression or anxiety, perhaps. It’s a touchy subject for a lot of people, so establishing a relationship with my patients is important. I want them to feel comfortable talking to me.”

If you are looking for a primary care provider you can trust, consider making an appointment with Alex Buford, DO or Cindy Nunan, DNP, FNP-BC at their Mays Landing office by calling (609) 365-6217. The Mays Landing office is located in the Festival at Hamilton Shopping Plaza (next to HomeGoods) at 4450 East Black Horse Pike, Mays Landing.