Life after Forty — Prevention is Better than Cure
In your fabulous 40s, you still feel invincible — these are great years, after all.
But subtle changes are occurring that need to be addressed before they become problems. Here is some of the most common health shifts women experience:
Metabolism: Slowing by 2% per decade.
Muscle: Down by 6 to 7 pounds from 10 years ago.
Bone: Dropping by about 1% a year since your mid-thirties.
Stress: Especially high because of worries about kids, parents, health, career, and finances.
Depression: More likely now than later in life.
You generally tend to put on weight after 35 years of age because of reduced metabolism leading to obesity. Obesity (being overweight) is a leading health problem nowadays. Obesity is calculated weight in kg divided by height in m2. This measurement is called body mass index or BMI. Obesity is defined as BMI of more than 30.
Establish the following preventative habits now and you’ll not only counter these changes — you’ll stay healthier, sharper, more energetic, and more fulfilled for years to come.
1. Eat breakfast every day
Nutritionists agree that eating breakfast is essential to keeping weight down and calorie-burning metabolism up. The healthy-breakfast eaters continued losing over time even though they ate more total calories, while the low-carb group started regaining weight after 4 months.
Reason: A solid meal at the start of the day works in concert with metabolism, which is highest in the morning, fueling activity and preventing cravings that arise when blood sugar drops.
2. Jump start your metabolism
Strength-training for 6 months can increase your resting metabolism, so you’ll burn more calories even when you’re sitting on the sofa. Aim to exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
Bonus: Strength-training also helps you shore up bone, maintain balance, and avoid injury — important for protecting your skeleton both now and when you’re older.
3. Boost calcium and vitamin D
Both are essential for strong bones, but many experts feel current benchmarks are too low. The recommendation is that women in their 40s get 1,000 mg of calcium and 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D every day from foods like fortified milk or salmon, along with supplements if needed. Some nutrition experts suggest getting up to 1,000 IU a day for optimal health.
4. Practice stress control
A healthy, calm heart beats faster when you breathe in, slower when you breathe out. But stress inhibits this natural “heart rate variability,” triggering unhealthy changes body wide, including increased blood pressure, less energy to the brain, and faster cell death. In effect, stress makes you age faster.
To get your heart into a healthier rhythm, breathe in through your nose for 4 beats and out for 8 at least twice a day or anytime you feel pressure.
5. Pump up protein
Getting foods with all the amino acids needed to form complete proteins at least twice a day boosts levels of mood-lifting neurotransmitters in the brain, which can help relieve symptoms of depression, like slow thinking and poor memory. Aim for 4 ounces of protein at each meal. Good sources include fish, eggs, and quinoa. But don’t totally skip carbs: They boost mood by increasing production of serotonin in the brain.
6. Get essential check-ups
In addition to making health-boosting, stress-busting habits a part of your lifestyle, don’t neglect these routine tests:
- Eye exam: Every 2 to 4 years
- Blood pressure: Every 2 years
- Pap test and pelvic exam: Every 1 to 3 years
- Thyroid: Every 5 years
- Mole check: Every year
- Mammogram: Every 1 to 2 years
- Blood glucose: Every 3 years starting at age 45
7. Maintaining urinary control and pelvic floor tone
Both your bladder and bowels can become difficult to control and you may experience embarrassing leaking. Being overweight makes this worse as continual pressure can also weaken the pelvic floor.
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is composed of a thin sheet of muscle fibers and associated connective tissue between the pubic bone at the front and tail bone at the back. These muscles support the urinary system, uterus (womb) and vagina and back passage. The pelvic floor muscles contract when you cough, sneeze or strain, helping to prevent the involuntary leakage of urine. They help to support the pelvic organs, like the bladder, uterus in the correct position. They help in the control of passing of urine, gas and bowel motions.
In order for the pelvic floor muscles to carry out their function well, they need to be fit and adequately toned just like any other muscle in the body. Lack of control over the bladder leads to “urinary incontinence” and this has two types. The first one is “stress incontinence”and occurs when urine leaks when you sneeze, cough or exert yourself. The other type of urinary incontinence is “urge incontinence” (overactive bladder) when you need to go to the toilet more often and during the night and also find it hard to “hold on” and you may leak before you get to the toilet. Research has shown that obesity may make this condition worse and that weight reduction can help to improve the symptoms.
Prolapse is a bulging of the bladder or bowel, or uterus (womb) into the vagina or out of the vaginal entrance if more severe. It also results from a weak pelvic floor and is more common in overweight women and just gets worse with time.
How to exercise your pelvic floor muscles
- Pass urine
- Sit comfortably with your feet and knees wide apart. Lean forward and place your elbows on your knees. Remember to keep breathing throughout and keep your stomach, leg and buttock muscles relaxed.
- Imagine that you are trying to stop yourself passing gas from the bowel and at the same time trying to stop the flow of urine from the bladder. You should feel a lifting and tightening around the vagina and anus.
- Tighten your pelvic floor muscles maximally without using your buttocks, thigh muscles or abdominals as described above. Hold tight for as many seconds as you can (up to maximum of 10 secs).
- ‘tighten, hold and release’ as many times as you can (up to a maximum of 8–12 repetitions)
- Now perform the pelvic floor exercise, but squeeze and lift more firmly, then let go. This is called a quick contraction and will help your muscles react quickly when you laugh, cough, exercise or lift. Aim 8 to 12 contractions
- Do these 3 times a day.
Your life is just started at forty. Let’s aim to make the rest of our lives the best of our lives.