Want to be in the best possible health? Then check our guide to the health routine you should start and stop. By NATHALIE GIBBINS.
In this decade, your metabolism starts to drop if you don’t stay active, and your body begins losing rather than building bone. After 35, your fertility takes a rapid nose-dive.You need to start protecting your health for the future.
BEFRIENDING YOUR DENTIST
“Chips begin to appear in tooth enamel at this age, and they’re made worse by tooth grinding, a common problem in stressedout 30-somethings,” says dentist Uchenna Okoye, of the Gloucester Road Smile Centre, London. “The shape of your mouth changes, too, as your teeth wear down, so it’s important to check your ‘bite’ is working well.” Also, pregnancy wreaks havoc on teeth and gums. “It’s essential to work with a dentist to avoid problems. Prevention is so much better and cheaper than cure,” she says.
RETHINKING YOUR DIET
If you were partial to fast food in your 20s, now’s the time to redress the balance. “Every time you eat carbohydrates, your body produces insulin to lower blood sugar,” says Professor Charles Clark, of the London Diabetes And Lipid Centre. “Eating a diet high in refi ned carbohydrates and sugars, for years, overworks the insulin response, and can eventually lead to insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes. Act now to prevent problems in your 40s.” Cut back on crisps and biscuits, and swap processed carbs like white bread with brown bread instead.
EATING BRAIN FOOD
Cognitive brain function starts to decline after 40 but you can help prevent it from happening by acting now. “The receptors that carry messages between nerves in your brain decline in number after 40,” says Professor Clive Ballard, director of research for the Alzheimer’s Society, “which is why memory and mental ability slow down with age.” Studies have shown that antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E protect the nerve cells and receptors. Do take supplements and eat more fruits and vegetables.
TORTURING YOUR TOES
By your mid-30s, you’ve got thefeet that are truly yours. “Inherited conditions such as hammer toes, high arches and structural problems will come to light during this decade,’ says Emma Supple, spokesperson for the Society Of Chiropodists And Podiatrists. “It’s important to wear shoes that fi t properly and see a podiatrist if you notice any changes or pain, so that the problem doesn’t haunt you into your 60s and 70s.’” And remember, if you’ve had a baby, your shoe size may increase because pregnancy hormones loosen the ligaments in your feet
As with so many vices, the damage alcohol causes accumulates over time. “Your liver is an amazingly resilient organ, but keep abusing it for years and you’ll be very lucky to avoid adverse side-effects,” says Andrew McNeill, director of the Institute Of Alcohol Studies. Bingedrinking (usually defi ned as drinking more than six units of alcohol in one sitting) is being blamed for the seven-fold increase in liver disease in women aged 35 to 44 since the Seventies. Cutting down is wise.
POPPING THE PILL
A report recently revealed that the risk of heart disease in women using the combined oral contraceptive pill and who also smoke is 20 times higher than in non-smoking pill users. For this reason, doctors advise smokers to stop taking the(the months or years of transition leading up to the menopause). The perimenopause also triggers a rise in androgens, the hot and sexy little hormones that can make you feel like a love-struck teenager!
“Regular check-ups and tests are more important as you grow older because they allow you to catch problems at earlier, more treatable stages,” says Dr Annabel Bentley. She advises that everyone in their 40s should talk to their GP about having a physical examination that includes tests for weight, cholesterol levels and blood pressure. If you have a family history of diabetes, breast, ovarian or bowel cancer, you should be screened for these, too.
HELPING YOUR HORMONES
The average age of menopause (when your periods cease permanently) is 51 but it can happen many years either side of this. During the peri-menopause, which lasts about 10 years, you might suffer irregular and heavy periods, hot fl ushes, fatigue, mood swings and sleep disturbances as your hormone levels change. “Exercise, healthy eating and increasing your intake of phytooestrogens can help with these conditions,” says Dr Peter Bowen- Simpkins. Rich sources of phytooestrogens include black cohosh, soya and red clover.
PILING ON THE POUNDS
“Your body is now producing less oestrogen,” says Belinda Linden, head of medical information at the British Heart Foundation. “This increases the risk of heart disease as oestrogen lowers levels of bad cholesterol. So it’s important to keep your weight under control to protect your heart.” Stay active and calorie-control your diet, cutting back on foods rich in saturated fat and sugar. Your metabolic rate slows down as you age, but regular strengthtraining can boost it so ask your gym for advice.
NEGLECTING YOUR EYE CARE
In the mid-40s, everyone finds it more diffi cult to focus on things nearby because the lenses of the eyes lose their elasticity. But even if your sight seems fi ne, do visit an optician. “Your optician can check your general eye health and pick up other health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure,” says David Cartwright, director of professional services at Boots Opticians. Your risk of glaucoma (when the pressure of the fluid in the eyes becomes too high) shoots up after 40 and can cause loss of vision if not treated. Cartwright recommends having a baseline reading, so that changes can be picked up at later tests.
LETTING THE WRINKLES WIN
Your skin’s oil production has slowed down drastically and wrinkles are beginning to appear in your 40s. “The only anti-ageing product that is proven to improve skin and reduce sun spots and reverse damage is retinol,” says consultant dermatologist Dr Richard Pye. Retinol is found in many anti-ageing creams but in low concentrations.