In your 40s you may start to experience some subtle mid-life changes, such as having trouble sleeping or maybe you’re straining to see small text. What you need in this phase of your life is more movement, to manage hormonal changes, set boundaries and – as always, drink more water. Treating yourself well is the best way to do damage control in your 40s.
Here are eight tips and lifestyle changes to look out for to stay healthy in your 40s.
As you enter your ’40s your body will naturally slow down. But maintaining mobility is important to reduce the rate of bone loss and strengthen the muscles around the joints. Slipping into a sedentary lifestyle can lead to stiff joints, which in return restricts your movement. Lifting weights at least twice a week can help maintain bone and muscle mass. Add yoga to your routine to increase suppleness and strength too.
Most women enter perimenopause in their ’40s. This is where the body reduces the amount of estrogen and eggs it produces. You may be starting to notice changes in your menstrual cycle – heavy bleeding is a common symptom.
“There are many options to stop heavy or painful bleeding,” says Brisbane gynaecologist Dr Ameratunga. “You don’t need to suffer, and hormonal options are not the only solutions out there. Simple and convenient measures, such as endometrial ablations, exist. Discuss your symptoms with your gynaecologist if your period is interfering with your daily activities.”
Sleep problems are common during times of hormonal change. Symptoms, particularly hot flushes and night sweats, can disturb sleep and set off insomnia. Relaxation techniques may help.
As life becomes more demanding and you’re bouncing between teenagers, careers, and your own parents, self-care means knowing what it takes for you to thrive and respect your own needs – whether that is more sleep, spending time with friends or alone. Learning to ask for support and showing self-compassion are also essential self-care strategies.
It’s easy to become consumed by family, career, bills and mortgage but it’s important to have fun. Those everyday stressors can contribute to cognitive decline over time, mainly due to high levels of the stress hormones. When you reduce stress, brain cells can regenerate. Start identifying daily stressors and look at ways to add fun into your day. Also, consider some form of daily relaxation to give your brain a chance to rest and recuperate.
Most women complain about their weight — with the average female weight gain at 500g per year. A drop in estrogen can cause weight to shift from your hips to your abdomen.
Dietitian Bronwen Greenfield says: This is where your metabolism starts to decline, so focus on portion control, increase your intake of protein and high fibre and low-GI foods to make it easier to prevent any unwanted weight gain. Eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables to boost your antioxidant intake can help protect against the development of certain chronic diseases. Your risk of developing health conditions like heart disease increases in your 40s.
Chronic inflammation is also associated with the development of chronic diseases, so focusing on minimising inflammation levels through diet is crucial. Reduce the intake of pro-inflammatory foods, like refined carbohydrates and foods high in added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and eating more anti-inflammatory foods such as oily fish, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, plant-based foods, fermented foods and turmeric can contribute to reduced inflammatory markers for better health.
Your metabolism slows down in your ’40s, so the health benefits of staying hydrated become even more important. Water prevents dehydration but it also increases blood circulation — two factors that can keep cognitive decline and nerve damage at bay. Aim for eight glasses of water a day. Fill up on water-rich fruits like citrus, berries, tomatoes and watermelon and veggies, including cucumbers and leafy greens for an added nutrient-rich boost.
Early heart disease usually has no symptoms and you may not be aware that you are at risk. See your doctor regularly to ensure that your heart is healthy and to assess your risk. Blood test results will identify whether you have high (more than 15 per cent); moderate (10 to 15 per cent) or low risk (less than 10 per cent) of a heart attack or stroke. The Heart Foundation strongly recommends having a heart health check if you’re more than 45 years old. The Singapore Health Hub recommends that a heart health checkup should be done every five years starting from the age of 18.
This post was first published in The Singapore Women’s Weekly August 2020 print issue.