Healthy Living in Your 40s

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Published: July 30, 2014

Health + Wellness

At 20, we worry about what others think of us. At 40, we don’t care what they think of us. At 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all. – Ann Landers

Welcome to part four of our series “Reinventing Your Health at Any Age.” We began with an overview of the three fundamentals of healthy living, followed by articles on living well in your twenties and thirties. This week our focus is on optimal health in your forties.

Your forties are a time when your life may become a little bit more “yours.” Chances are your children are no longer totally dependent on you, although they may still cause you the same amount of stress, if not more!

You may have already proven yourself in the workplace and no longer need to fight your way up the ladder. And hopefully you have settled into your family home, with an ever-growing collection of life’s mementos decorating every nook. So what better time could there be to take care of yourself than right now?

Keep moving

You have gained a certain respect for your body once you’ve reached your forties; if not, then this is certainly the age to find it. The female body at forty is suddenly hit by a triple whammy of challenges: gravity, hormones and a slowing metabolism.

Lean body mass will appear to diminish unless you work hard to build tone. Fat pockets begin springing up in new places, and unless you get to work burning them off, they will continue to sneakily creep on board.

Cardio remains key in this decade and onwards, so get your heart pumping and your weight in check. But keep in mind that resistance training just became a lot more crucial. Kacy Duke, a New York-based celebrity trainer, urges women in their forties to start lifting the weights: “You have to find the time to do it consistently and train hard.”

Learn proper form by taking a class or watching a professional tutorial video at home. Buy a set of dumbbells and get pumping today. Pilates are also ideal for women in their forties and beyond, as they tighten and strengthen the core, which is a problem area for most people.

Save face

You may be starting to notice changes in your visage. Fine lines and loss of elasticity may begin to show as you foxtrot through your forties.

A good skin-care regimen is a must – for starters, wear sunscreen! Although the extra melanin in dark skin protects from sunburn to some extent, the Skin Cancer Foundation notes that dark skin is in fact “even more susceptible to the deadliest form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma.”

Even if you never sunburn, make sunscreen a routine habit under your makeup or moisturizer each morning. Protect your entire body if you are exposed to the sun, and routinely check for enlarged or abnormally shaped moles.

Eat yourself beautiful

Much of what you see on the outside is a result of what went inside. You can thank healthy living in your thirties for your radiant glow now, and that cycle needs to continue. You can take your nutrition to the next level by supplementing with a good omega-3 product and a multi-nutrient antioxidant – both are excellent investments in the future of your health and beauty.

Follow a clean diet focused around lean proteins, lots of green leaves and colourful vegetables. Reduce your intake of sugar, which feeds wrinkles.

Also, be aware that dehydration will show on your skin, so limit your alcohol intake and stay well hydrated; three litres of water a day should be your goal in order to maintain a supple, glowing complexion. And remember, much of the liquid your body requires comes from your food, so an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits will help provide additional nutrient-rich hydration.

Stay vigilant

Medical tests have never been more important than they are in your forties and beyond. Give yourself the gift of making an appointment with your doctor to discuss the following essential screenings.

Suboptimal dietary choices combined with hormonal turbulence can take their toll, and if your pancreas can’t keep up, diabetes may ensue. Nigeria has the highest mortality rate from diabetes of all the African nations.

According to a registered nurse for the Mayo Clinic, “Diabetes is a deceptive disease, in that most people diagnosed have probably had it for a number of years without knowing. The symptoms aren’t obvious.” So be sure to get a fasting blood sugar test.

You should be checking your breasts regularly and having clinical screenings, too. Most experts advise mammograms for every woman over the age of 40.

Dr. Sandra M. Swain is president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the world’s leading cancer care organization representing physicians. She is in full support of regular mammograms for women over 40: “When you diagnose a breast cancer at an earlier stage, you are able to give the patient less treatment with less surgery, potentially less chemotherapy . . . so this is a really great benefit.” Talk to your doctor; your family health history may help determine whether to get one now or a little further down the line.

Finally, have you caught yourself squinting more, or found that your sight has become blurry? Get your eyes checked to see what vision support you might require and to test for macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma, all common conditions affecting forty-year-old eyes. You’ll be glad you did.

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