Turning 40 is a major milestone for most women. The decade ahead signifies a new life season full of exciting transitions. From changing careers to watching your children grow up or caring for your aging parents, you may feel like a lot is changing around you – including your body. Use these five tips for managing the unique emotional and physical changes of your 40s for a lifetime of health and happiness to come.
1. Know Your Family Health History
While it’s never too early to take precautionary steps in your health, your 40s are a good time to get serious about collecting your family health history. Go back three generations, looking for any diseases or health conditions that might be hereditary in your family. Once you have compiled a family health history, write it down, and share with your children; it will be a valuable asset in their future. You should also use that information to take a health risk assessment to get a full picture of your personal risk factors, and to talk to your doctor about early screening if you are at risk.
2. Schedule Your Well-Woman Exam
Your 40s are an important decade for preventing health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer, from occurring later on in life. Beyond knowing your family health history, scheduling your annual well-woman exam has never been more important for chronic disease prevention and early detection. In your 40s, your health care routine should include:
- Eye Exam: Every 2 to 4 years
- Blood Pressure: Every 2 years
- Pap Test and Pelvic Exam: Every 1 to 3 years
- Mole Check: Every year
- Thyroid Check: Every 5 years
- Mammogram: Every 1 to 2 years
- Blood Glucose: Every 3 years (starting at age 45)
3. Boost Your Metabolism
As we get older, our metabolism naturally slows down. This is especially true for women over the age of 40, when the beginning of menopause causes decreased estrogen levels that slow down metabolism and increase appetite. As hormones and chemicals in your body begin to change, you may experience weight gain, even if you haven’t had weight issues before. You can proactively counter these physical changes by incorporating these metabolism-boosting dietary tips:
- Eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day
- Include omega-3 fats, like perilla oil, flaxseed oil and fish oil
- Eat a low-fat diet high in protein
- Aim for 35 grams of fiber daily
- Eat low-fat or nonfat dairy products every day
- Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation
- Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day
4. Practice Stress Control
Between work, family, community involvement, social events and other commitments, your busy life can start to compound. Stress can strike at any age, but you are especially prone to it during your 40s, when your body isn’t quite as resilient as it once was. Learning to manage stress and anxiety is important for your mental and physical health in the future. Remember that feeling overwhelmed at times is a normal part of life, but extreme anxiety, depression, loss of interest, lack of energy and withdrawal are not. Talk to your doctor about mental health screening if you are experiencing any of these feelings.
5. Strengthen Bones & Muscles
Your peak bone mass (maximum bone density and strength) gradually declines in your 40s and beyond, increasing your risk for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, and can lead to fractures and other problems. After menopause, women are at even higher risk for this condition. Bone thinning is a natural process that can’t be halted completely, but healthy diet, high in calcium and vitamin D, and regular weight-bearing exercise, including strength training, can help prevent osteoporosis.
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Your life and body change with each decade. The good news is that with the right diet, exercise, regular visits to the doctor and understanding the transformations in your body, you can keep looking great and feeling great for years to come! To learn more about developing healthy habits for a healthy life, visit Women’s Health at UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s.