Your health needs change after 40 and it's how you embrace this new chapter of your life that will determine the outcome of the years leading up to and following your retirement. It helps to be mindful of the things that impact your health. That includes your relationships, stress levels, and gut health, among dozens of other factors. To determine exactly how a person can stay healthy after 40, Best Life got several medical professionals to weigh in on the matter. Here are 10 of their tips:
1. Relationships. Do not underestimate just how important your relationships are with your friends, family members, and your spouse. "After 40, the most important thing to focus on, both for your health and your happiness, is the quality of your relationships," says physician Alexandra Stockwell, MD. "Research shows that the quality of your relationships at 50 is a better predictor of health at 80 than cholesterol levels and other screening tests. If you haven't done any personal growth training, life coaching, or therapy, it's definitely time."
2. Activity levels. Exercise is essential in terms of physical and mental well-being, and increasing your activity levels goes a long way in keeping you healthy after 40. "The majority of inspirational 80-, 90-, and 100-year-olds engage in meaningful exertion almost every day, but don't wait until you are that age," said Stockwell. "Whether it's dance, body-building, or hiking, find an activity where you move your body and learn new skills on a regular basis. It's the key to physical health and well-being, emotional resilience, and flexibility in thinking."
3. Phone usage. There are a multitude of health issues that come with spending too much time using your phone. That creak in your neck? It could be from spending hours hunched over your phone. Your recent bout of insomnia? Your phone may be to blame.
"Social media can have a profound effect on sleep. You have the intention to check Facebook or Instagram for five minutes, and the next thing you know, 50 minutes are gone," said Jerry Bubrick, PhD, a clinical psychologist. "You're an hour behind in sleep, and more tired the next day. You find it harder to focus. You're off your game, and it spirals from there."
4. Gut health. We often overlook our gut health, but paying attention to this becomes exceedingly important as you age. "After they turn 40, many of my clients regret not paying attention to their gut health. Things like constipation, chronic diarrhea, heartburn, and belching can all become the new normal," said Inna Lukyanovsky, PharmD, a functional medicine practitioner. "These can be signs of chronic silent inflammation that can eventually become more problematic, later manifesting as serious skin conditions, chronic fatigue syndrome, nutritional depletion, and decreased quality of life."
5. Emotions. Many people expect to have their emotions in check by the time they reach 40 so when something does rise up, they shove it back down and ignore it. This could hurt you not just emotionally, but physically too. "Some of my clients after 40 wish they spent more time understanding their emotions instead of bottling them up, which is a direct way to illness," said Lukyanovsky. "Dealing with emotions properly can help your physical and mental health. There are different methods and tools to learn to address emotions, so choose the ones that work for you."
6. Stress levels. Stress is bad for you and after years of accumulating, it could dramatically impact your health after 40. "Where your attention goes, your energy flows: 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints," said Keira L. Barr, M.D., a holistic dermatologist. "Stress can play a part in issues such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety."
7. Collagen and Elastin. With so many other health conditions to focus on, we often neglect our skin but simple measures can go a long way in combatting the ageing process. "Collagen is integral to the health and looks of your skin, as it forms part of the connective tissue in the body and gives skin firmness. Elastin is another protein found throughout the body that gives skin its flexibility and is also important to the skin's functions," said Manish Shah, M.D., a plastic surgeon. "The decrease of these proteins can cause the skin to look older, wrinkles to become deeper, and skin to appear less vibrant. To preserve the collagen and elastin you do have, stay hydrated, moisturize, use sunblock, and eliminate damaging habits like smoking and eating unhealthy."
8. Job satisfaction. Hitting your 40s does not mean you need to stick it out in a job or career you no longer enjoy. The average person spends a large chunk of their life at work, so why would we compromise our happiness for a job? "Keeping a healthy work environment is very important. We spend eight hours of our daily life at work, so finding a job you have a passion for and enjoy is critical," said dentist Maryam Bakhtiyari, DDS. "In addition, being around coworkers who are team-oriented, effective communicators, positive, and dependable is just as integral to mental health."
9. Carbohydrate intake. As we grow older, our metabolisms start to slow down. To avoid weight gain and to stay healthy after 40, we need to change the way we eat and that means cutting back on carbohydrates. "For those of us in our 40s, we can agree our metabolic activities have been reduced and need to compensate with a better-regulated diet and exercise regimen," Bakhtiyari said. "Eating a low-carbohydrate diet — coupled with an increased intake of vegetables and routine exercise — is crucial to staying fit and healthy."
10. Depression. Despite vigorous awareness campaigns, mental health is still treated as something completely separate from physical health. We would not ignore physical symptoms of chronic illness like diabetes, yet so many of us tend to dismiss symptoms that could hint at mental illness. Ignoring this could be detrimental to your health. "As men get older, they tend to become tougher and more stubborn. Oftentimes, this leads to a true lack of insight into their own feelings and emotions," said Daniel Kim, DO, an otolaryngology specialist. "It's important to be in-tune with your emotional needs, be able to identify symptoms of depression, and to discuss this with your physician."
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