As we begin to age, it’s important to recognize that our health and wellness needs likely change. If you’re in your forties, you are still at an age where you can take steps to ensure healthy aging. Here are some health tips for women over 40 to consider.
1. Adopt a mindfulness practice
Whether it’s yoga, meditation or another practice that works for you, it’s thought that mindfulness practices can positively influence the plasticity of the brain. Brain health becomes increasingly important as we age, so establish a practice sooner rather than later.
2. Build muscle
This doesn’t mean that you have to lift huge amounts of weight and get bulky muscles — although if that’s what you enjoy, go for it! Muscle mass decreases as we age. If you’re physically inactive, it can decrease by three to five percent every decade after age 30. Adopting a strength training routine can be beneficial.
3. Protect your bones
Bone density decreases as we age, as well. And in particular, it decreases for women after menopause. Regular exercise and a diet rich in leafy greens can help to protect the health of your bones.
4. Decrease stress
Stress can lead to a wide range of harmful health effects, like negatively impacting your heart and brain. And we’re already at a greater risk for many of these conditions as we age. So whether it’s a mindfulness practice, as mentioned above, an exercise routine or making other changes to your lifestyle, cutting back on stress is important.
5. Have fun
At this age, it’s easy to fall into a rut with our routines because many of us just don’t have a lot of time, especially with busy work and family lives. But make sure you’re scheduling in time for enjoyable social events. And try something new with a friend or partner — go on a day trip somewhere you haven’t been before. It’s important to enjoy your life at any age.
6. Prioritize your own needs
Many of us, especially women, spend much of our 20s and 30s trying to please other people. But by the time you reach your 40s, you realize that doing that — if it goes against what you want or need for yourself — never works out well. You don’t have to say yes to every invitation. Upholding your boundaries is a good thing.
7. Get regular checkups
I think we can all agree that pap smears are the worst. But it probably goes without saying that getting your regular checkups becomes increasingly important as you age. It’s not fun, but it will benefit you in the long run.
8. Love your body
As women, we’re constantly being told that our bodies aren’t good enough. Unfortunately, having negative thoughts about your body is a nearly universal phenomenon among women in many parts of the world. But by the time you reach your 40s, give yourself permission to let that go.
9. Eat probiotics
Foods rich in probiotics, like yogurt or kimchi, are an important part of improving your gut health. And the health of your gut can have pretty wide-ranging effects on your overall health. Probiotics can be helpful in promoting wellness throughout the body.
10. Get honest about exercise
So often, we try to make ourselves stick to a particular exercise routine because it’s what people we know are doing, or what someone has told us we “should” do. But it’s more beneficial to find a type of exercise you really enjoy because you’re more likely to stick with it.
11. Let it go
For many of us, it has been a struggle to live authentically. We’ve been bombarded with messages about how we “should” be. We’ve developed images in our heads of what our lives “should” be like, even if that’s not what makes us happy. But when you reach 40, it’s time to say “forget that!” and start living the life that truly brings you fulfillment.
12. Pay attention to your body
We all have unique bodies with unique needs. And what’s more, those needs change over time. Doing what you always did may not be the best option. If you find you feel better on a different diet, go with it. If you get sleepy earlier than you used to, don’t worry about it, there’s no shame in turning in a little early!
13. Cut out processed foods
Foods high in sugar and corn syrup, as well as other pre-packaged, processed products, can be detrimental to your health in a number of ways. Switching to a whole foods diet will help to lower your risk of a number of health concerns, and can be beneficial to the aging process.
14. Cardio exercise
Just as strength training will help to slow the loss of muscle mass, cardio will improve your heart health, which is increasingly important as we age. Whether it’s jogging, biking or hiking, find a form of cardio exercise that you genuinely enjoy.
15. Get plenty of sleep
Getting enough sleep is important at any age. Without it, you’ll have increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and it can negatively impact your health in a wide range of areas.
16. Get your thyroid tested
Many women notice a dip in thyroid function as they hit their 40s. This can make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight, among other potentially detrimental health effects. Ask your doctor to check your thyroid in order to make sure it’s producing the proper level of hormones.
17. Take fish oil
As we age, the risk of heart disease increases. But the healthy fats in fish oil can help to reduce your risk. Also, consider adding fish to your diet — and if you’re concerned about mercury, consult with a naturopath or holistic medical practitioner.
— Sarah Cooke