There are a lot of preconceived notions about what it’s like to be in your 40s. Undeniably, it’s the best decade of your life, yet it often calls to mind TV commercials about hair loss, vaginal dryness, and a decaying metabolism. But guess what? People in their 40s are straight-up rejecting these ageist myths. (In fact, for the first time since World War II, women in their 40s are more likely to become mothers than teenagers. How’s that for rebuking myths about turning 40?)
Now that you’re 40, it’s time to shatter those problematic illusions about what it means to enter your fifth decade and take back the title. After all, you’re the only one who can decide what your 40s are like, not a handful of statistics or unfounded myths perpetuated by strangers on the internet. And for more great aging advice, check out the 50 Things No Man Over 40 Should Own.
Your sex appeal has expired
Not true. In fact, you’re just getting started. Men and women are both super sexy in their 40s—with or without labels such as “cougar” or “silver fox.” Just look at all of these ageless celebrities for proof.
You’ve reached your peak
Gary Heavin was 40 when he opened up the first Curves fitness center. Vera Wang didn’t enter the fashion industry until she was 40 and now she’s one of the premiere wedding dress designers. Julia Child wrote her first cookbook at 50. For more examples of people who struck it big in middle age, check out this list of 40 People Who Became Famous After 40.
Your metabolism shuts off completely
While we don’t recommend binge-eating Cheez Doodles all the time, it’s true that your metabolism can be saved (or at the very least, managed). Sure, it might be easier at 40 to put on a few pounds than it is to lose them, but by drinking ice water (which causes the body to burn more calories, quicker, by having to up the body’s temperature) and adding varied protein into your diet, you can more easily combat a decreasing metabolism.
It’s time to dress your age
Negative. Turning 40 doesn’t suddenly mean you have to frequent Brooks Brothers or Coldwater Creek for every age-appropriate ensemble in your closet. While it may be best to stay away from funny ties or sandals in the office, your personal style is what you make it, no matter what your age.
People over 40 are irrelevant
Actually, you’re the boss, and you’re officially running the show.
People younger than 40 can’t relate to you
So maybe you don’t quite understand the millennial lingo, but that doesn’t mean you’re not relatable. When you reach your 40s, you find that you do all of the same things you did before—and with the same people—and you simply find that you’re way more knowledgeable.
The most important parts of your life have already gone
Maybe you’re done having children. Maybe you’ve been successful in your career or well-traveled. But none of these things mean that the most important parts of your life have already passed. There is still so much to do at 40. You can travel more, you might become a grandparent, you might switch careers, or even decide to do something different with your time like write a book, focus on your art, or even volunteer. At the end of the day, whatever you do post-40 is just as important as what you did pre-40. So set some new goals and get started with the 10 Ways to Get Your Best Body in Your 40s.
Becoming a grandparent is your next milestone
The average age a woman becomes a grandparent is 50, according to LegacyProject.com, and it’s definitely not the next big milestone in your life. Think more about changing your career, picking up a new hobby, or even dating someone new. Whatever it is, you’re in control of your life and your milestones are a reflection on your life choices.
Bikinis are off the table
There is no rule that says once you reach 40, you’re destined to only collect cover-ups and skirted bottoms. If someone tells you that, borrow one of the 40 Words People Over 40 Don’t Understand and tell that person, “Bye Felicia.”
Weekends are for the younger crowd
Sure, bouncing back from big nights might be a littler harder, but if you feel like a girls’ night out dancing with your friends, do it! Or if you and your boys want to hit up a bar to watch the basketball game, be on your merry way! Believe it or not, statistics are on your side, with 28% of women over 45 admitting they drink as much as their adult children. See? Alcohol is for everyone!
Your face will be devoured by wrinkles
Studies actually show that women in their 40s are generally happier, more confident, and enjoy a ton more sex, on the whole. And while taking care of your skin is crucial no matter what age you are, that doesn’t mean that wrinkles and the likes are imminent. Be healthy, be confident, rub some moisturizer on your face, and stop worrying about getting lines on your face. They’re the mark of a well-lived life.
You’re too old to be hired
You have the one thing every hiring professional wants: Great experience.
It’s too late to explore your sexuality
Exploring your sexuality could mean re-discovering one’s sexual orientation or sexual preferences and libido. Either way, there’s no such thing as being past one’s sexual prime, whether you’re experimenting with homosexuality for the first time or just trying to expand your sexual experiences with things like toys, masturbation, or whatever interests you.
In statistics gathered by AARP, over half the people in a study over age 45 described sexual activity as a “very important part of their lives” and that it has “a direct impact on the quality of their life.” Additionally, 36% of people reported having sexual intercourse once a week, minimum. And if you’re looking for ways of really spicing up your bedroom, invest in one of these.
You’re definitely going gray
Going gray doesn’t have as early an onset as society tends to think. In fact, 1 in 10 people over age 60 haven’t gone gray. Sure, once we hit our 40s, the body makes less melanin, which is responsible for hair color, but every person’s experience is individual, so to think that turning 40 immediately means gray hair is just not the case.
40 is too old to go back to school
Just turn to the statistics: the amount of “older” Americans heading back to the classroom is steadily on the rise, with the rate of enrollment increasing faster than those just graduating high school. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that students over age 35 account for 17% of all college and graduate students in 2009. By 2020, that percentage is expected to have risen to nearly 20%.
It’s harder to bounce back from a sickness
Incorrect. In fact, people over 40 are less likely to get sick. Why? Because by the time we reach 40, we’ve been exposed to so many different viruses that our bodies have developed strong immune systems that are more difficult for viruses and colds to break down. Take that, kiddos!
People over 40 don’t need to sleep as much
It is true that there is a correlation between aging and getting less sleep. But it isn’t true that people over 40 don’t need to sleep as much as they used to. The National Sleep Foundation maintains that “sleep needs remain constant throughout adulthood,” so actually, you need just as much sleep as you always did.
Vaginal dryness hits hart
Vaginal dryness can happen in our 40s because as we age, estrogen levels decrease (and estrogen is crucial to a woman’s arousal). And while it’s true that many of us will experience vaginal dryness, it’s not an inevitability. Sure, it may be dryer than normal, but the affects can be countered by using a vaginal moisturizer, engaging in regular sexual activity, and using a lubricant.
Men can’t get an erection anymore without help
While age can play a role in erectile dysfunction, it is certainly not a direct cause of it. According to WebMD, 1 in 4 patients seeking medical help for erectile dysfunction for the first time are under the age of 40. Risk for erectile dysfunction is increased by smoking and drug-use, no matter a person’s age.
Bowel movements become few and far in between
Constipation becomes a problem as we age because we lose muscle mass all over, but we also lose muscle tonnage deep in our bowels. There’s an easy fix though: less dairy, more intake of high-fiber, more vegetables, and more protein. Constipation doesn’t have to be an inevitable reality once we enter our 40s.
You start shrinking
As early as our 30s, the “discs between our vertebrae tend to flatten, the space between our joints narrowing”, causing us to lose an inch or two in height. This phenomenon is known as “shrinking,” and while it’s possible, it’s not an inevitability. The effects of shrinking can be combatted by resistance training at the gym and a healthy diet full of vitamin D and calcium.
You have to brush your teeth more often
Actually, it’s proven that people over 40 experience significantly less sensitivity in their teeth. As we age, dentin—which is the inner tissue of the teeth—increases, solidifying a stronger amount of insulation between the teeth’s enamels and nerves. That means an increased amount of pain tolerance and much less sensitivity!
Libido significantly decreases
Sex is actually more enjoyable and more frequent for people in their 40s, so kiss that libido myth goodbye. A healthier and more pleasurable sex life is potentially the result of a statistical drop in inhibitions. Seventy percent of women say they had more satisfying sex lives in their 40s, as do 74% of men.
You lose your energy
Energy certainly diminishes as we get older, but maintaining a steady, frequent workout regimen can really help with boosting energy. A significant loss of energy can also be a result of not sleeping as much (see #17). So if that’s the case, you’ll want to focus on regulating your sleeping patterns.
Deodorant is no longer a necessary purchase
Do us all a favor and keep deodorant on your grocery list! While it’s true that our eccrine glands (the ones responsible for making us sweat) tend to thin out as we age, we still continue to sweat and produce a body odor. So don’t cross the Speedstick of the list just yet…
You’re not strong anymore
There’s no need to feel intimidated by the younger guys bench-pressing their body weight at the gym or the college-aged women who lift and do squats. Growing older doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your stamina or your strength. Muscle mass does decrease as we age, but there is still ample opportunity in our 40s to work toward leaner, stronger muscles.
Leaking while you laugh is the new norm
Leaking is never normal, no matter your age. Leaking, while you laugh or before you can make it to the restroom, is an indication of stress urinary incontinence, a problem that affects over 60 million Americans and needs to be medically treated, according to the National Association for Continence.
UTIs are more common
In your 40s, your body doesn’t make as much estrogen as it once did, and one of estrogen’s responsibilities is to protect the body against infection. But the bacteria that resides near the vulva and the remainder of the female reproductive parts is always there, so an increased risk in UTIs isn’t a result of more bacteria. It’s actually a result of less estrogen.
It’s the decade of hearing loss
We’re not quite there yet, folks, so to anyone who is warning of you of imminent hearing loss, tell them not to rush it. Most people start experiencing hearing loss as a result of aging closer to age 65. Somewhere between your 40s and 60s, the inner structure of the ear begins to change.
You’ll start talking to yourself
Actually, talking to yourself is hardly the marker of going senile (or an indication of mental illness, for that matter).
And forgetting everything…
Sure, we’ve all misplaced our keys at one point or lost our phone charger to the impenetrable depths of the couch, but should we ready to experience forgetfulness at a different level once we turn 40? Experts say nahh. The brain continues to produce new cells at every age; cell production in the brain does not deteriorate as we get older, so loss of memory is not inevitable. You’re more likely to be sharper than you’ve ever been in your 40s.
Get used to bloating
Anyone is susceptible to bloat, no matter your age. According to the National Institute on Aging, people in their middle age are more likely to acquire belly fat, which can be mistaken for inflation. But bloating isn’t the real issue, as bloating can affect anyone for any number of reasons.
You’ll start developing skin tags
Despite what many people may say about skin tags, they are not an inescapable part of growing older. In fact, it’s not even proven that skin tags are correlated to age. A skin tag is made by friction rubbing against the skin, which does not necessarily have to do with entering your 40s.
Your body will no longer digest cheese
Gouda lovers, don’t fret. It’s a myth that you will certainly turn dairy or lactose intolerant once you enter your 40s. Our lactase level does decrease as we get older—which is what helps our bodies digest dairy products—but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll immediately going to become intolerant. Probiotics are a great way to regulate your bowel movements and to fight off intolerance.
It’s time to start wearing sunscreen
Wearing sunscreen isn’t a necessary part of being in your 40s; it’s actually a necessary part of being human. No matter your race or whether you burn or tan, all skin is susceptible to the sun’s hurtful UV rays, and overexposure can cause or increase a person’s risk of melanoma, also known as skin cancer.
Once you’re 40, you’ll need glasses
You just need better lighting. According to the American Optomeric Association, increasing good lighting is crucial to reading more clearly. The reasoning for this is that as we age, we tend to need more light in order to decipher words on a page. This can be easily fixed by using brighter lights or only reading in a very well-lit area.
It’s time to add prune juice to your grocery list
Hey, if you want to start drinking prune juice, good on ya. The juice wrought from prunes and dried plums has an exorbitant amount of health benefits like improving digestion, reducing the urge of overactive bladder, and building bone mass—but is it completely essential to integrate into your diet once you’re 40? No.
It’s okay to stop using protection during sex
Sexually transmitted infections do not discriminate, even when it comes to age. In your 40s, you are still vulnerable when it comes to sexual disease transmission, so if you are not in a committed relationship or marriage, being 40 is not a reason to pull the goalie.
Your chest needs a breast lift
Fine—maybe the girls don’t have the perk they once did, but there’s absolutely no validity to the myth that you need plastic surgery help once you turn 40. Breasts do sag over time (as do certain male parts), but that doesn’t mean you can’t embrace the sag and have to turn to surgery for a lift.
Shaving is no longer a thing
Don’t throw out your razor just yet. As you age, where your hair grows tends to change, and many women find themselves developing a bit of fuzz on their faces. So while you might not feel the need to shave your legs or armpits anymore, some women do choose to shave the bit of hair that can grow above the lip or on the chin. But that’s completely your preference. And for more great advice on aging, here are the Top Longevity Secrets from the World’s Oldest People.
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