We’re firm believers that life truly begins at 40. Sure, you can’t binge on junk food and breeze past the gym without consequences anymore, but by now you’re set in your career, you’ve got a little bit of cash stowed away, and you have a much clearer idea of what you want out of life.
If you’d also like to feel your best—and look your best—during your best decade, then read on, because we’ve compiled the ultimate secrets for making your 40s also your healthiest decade yet. And for more on making the most of your 40s, read up on the 40 Ways to Have a Healthy Sex Life After 40.
Adopt a Pet
Feeling stressed from work and raising a family? Adopting a pet might sound like another anxiety-inducing responsibility to add to the list, but it may actually have the opposite effect. One study published in Anxiety, Stress, & Coping found that “petting an animal reduced state-anxiety,” and the effects applied to animal lovers and indifferent subjects alike. And if that’s not enough to convince you to head to the shelter ASAP, then read up on these 15 Amazing Benefits of Adopting a Pet.
Skip the Soda
We get it: When that 3pm slump hits, all we want is to grab a can of diet soda and power through to the finish line. But you may want to find a new way to stay energized—one study published in Obesity determined that the average person consumes 222 calories daily from beverages alone, with no nutritional benefits.
Walk It Out
Of course, fitting in a few workouts every week is great for building muscle and working off those extra slices of pizza. But there’s yet another reason to work up a sweat: Canadian researchers found that by walking for three hours a week for six months, subjects with vascular dementia were able to improve their brain function. The study authors speculate that the gym sessions improved brain activity by increasing blood flow to the brain and reducing blood pressure.
Make New Friends
The Beatles once wisely advised us to get by with a little help from our friends, and their words are now backed by science. One study estimates that socializing can add nearly half a decade to your lifespan! Consider forging friendships with these 50 Amazing Jokes You Can Text to Friends.
Go Easy on the Sauce
It’s fine to grab a drink after work every now and again, but going overboard poses some serious health risks. Research published in Stroke found that middle-aged people who drank more than two alcoholic drinks every day had a 34 percent increased risk of stroke compared to light drinkers. Surprisingly, drinking poses more of a risk to heart health than high blood pressure or even diabetes.
Indulge in Indian Food
The spices in Indian cuisine have long been praised for their belly-slimming benefits (see: the 50 Ultimate Flat-Belly Secrets for Summer), but one spice in particular helps both the body and the brain. According to a study from UCLA, daily consumption of curcumin—found in turmeric—improved mood and memory in subjects with minimal memory loss. Maybe that’s why India has such a lower rate of Alzheimer’s compared to the Western world!
Chug Cherry Juice Before Bed
As we age, we tend to get less sleep—but that doesn’t need to be the case. To wake up well-rested, try gulping down a glass of fresh cherry juice before bed.
According to research in the American Journal of Therapeutics, the juicy drink can add nearly an hour-and-a-half to a person’s sleep cycle. Just make sure to avoid processed cherry juice, as it contains added sugar that can have the opposite effect on your beauty sleep. If snoring is your issue, then you’ll want to check out The 5 Reasons You’re Snoring Every Night—And How to Stop It.
Get It On
It’s no wonder Hugh Hefner lived to be 91 years-old: Having sex has been known to strengthen the heart, lower blood pressure, and release happy hormones that melt the stress away. Hey, if it’s what the doctor ordered…
Devour Dark Chocolate
The days of eating carrots for healthy eyes are finally over, thanks to science. Researchers from the University of the Incarnate Word in Texas recently discovered that eating dark chocolate can improve eyesight by 40 percent after just a few hours. Sweet!
Don’t let yourself fall into a bad habit of Netflix and chilling in a dark room every weekend. We love being lazy as much as the next person, but our waistline craves the great outdoors. Recent studies show that the sun’s blue light—which is visible during the day—helps eliminate “bad” fat cells that lead to obesity and heart disease. Just be careful when you go outside: the last thing you want to deal with is these sunburn side effects.
Always Wear Sunscreen
Any time the sun is out, regardless of the season, your skin needs to be protected from damaging UV rays. Head out sans sunscreen and you leave yourself vulnerable to a sunburn, which damages our collagen-producing cells and prevents the skin from smoothing out wrinkles and other blemishes.
Eat More Home-Cooked Meals
People who eat out often blame their bad habit on a lack of free time. Cooking at home certainly requires more effort than ordering from a takeout menu, but studies show that a home-cooked meal is healthier and cheaper than dining out.
“By cooking more often at home, you have a better diet at no significant cost increase, while if you go out more, you have a less healthy diet at a higher cost,” study author Adam Drewnowski told Science Daily. And for help making a restaurant-quality meal at home, try using Bobby Flay’s top steak-cooking secret.
Watch a Funny Movie
If you’re feeling down in the dumps, laughter might actually be the best medicine. Research has shown that laughing triggers the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, similar to the effects of most antidepressants. So the next time you’re having a bad day, grab some friends and queue up the latest Seth Rogen movie!
Invest in a Standing Desk
One of the easiest ways to burn extra calories during the day is by ditching your desk chair. Standing burns 0.15 more calories per minute than sitting—and for a 143-pound adult, this means burning 54 more calories in 6 hours, just by standing up.
Hang Up the Phone
Part of staying young is getting with the times, and how many twenty-somethings do you see making a phone call? Just kidding, but you really should consider limiting your telephone time from now on. One study published in Oman Medical Journal found that increased cellphone use amended how the thyroid released hormones, and these altered levels can lead to weight gain, dry skin, and other negative side effects.
Serve a Fish Dish
Salmon, mackerel, tuna—it doesn’t matter what type of fish you’re eating, so long as you’re eating it at least twice a week. According to a report published in Circulation, eating the omega-3-rich food can reduce the risk of heart failure, coronary heart disease, cardiac arrest, and stroke. Doctors recommended focusing on salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna, as those are the fish with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
Relax with a Good Book
Joke’s on you, jocks—the nerds had it right all along. According to researchers at the Yale University School of Public Health, bibliophiles had a 20 percent lower risk of dying over a 12-year period compared to those who avoided the library. Not a big reader? No worries—you can start with The 30 Best-Selling Novels of All Time.
Take a Power Nap
If you can, try to sneak out during your lunch break for a quick 10-minute nap. Research shows that the small bout of sleep can boost energy levels and improve cognitive performance for the rest of the day. If you have trouble nodding off that quickly, try these 11 Doctor-Approved Secrets for Falling Asleep Faster.
Meditating before bed is a healthy, relaxing way to doze off with ease, and Chinese scientists are giving us yet another reason to incorporate the mindful habit into our nightly routine. According to their findings, eight weeks of meditation was enough to prevent major depressive disorder more effectively than traditional care. Nama-stay happy!
Consume More Calcium
Call this an homage to fromage. Experts believe that calcium helps the body burn fat for energy during exercise. In one study, men who exercised and took 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day lost 50 percent more weight after nine months than men who only hit the gym.
Start Your Morning with a Cup O’ Joe
If there’s one thing we learned from binging Gilmore Girls, it’s that no morning is complete without a cup of coffee. And it’s not just the caffeine that makes us love the strong stuff (though it certainly does help)—research in the Journal of Hepatology found that coffee consumption is associated with lower risk of liver stiffness.
“There is quite some epidemiological, but also experimental data, suggesting that coffee has health benefits on liver enzyme elevations, viral hepatitis, NAFLD, cirrhosis, and liver cancer,” Dr. Sarwa Darwish Murad told Medical News Today.
Binge on Berries
Every part of our body starts to deteriorate as we age, including our cells. But when it comes to sirtuin 6 (SIRT6), an enzyme involved in cancer and aging, the anthocyanins in berries may help reverse that process, new research from the National Institute on Aging has found. Evidently, an anthocyanin found in wild bilberries, raspberries, and cranberries called cyanidin reduced the activity of cancer-causing agents and increased the activity of cancer-suppressing genes. Berry nice!
Take the Stairs
Instead of taking the elevator up to your office in the morning, opt for the stairs. Why? Research shows that just 10 minutes of walking up the stairs can give you more energy than 50 mg of caffeine, or half a cup of coffee. Plus, it’s a great way to get your heart rate up first thing in the morning.
Snack on Almonds
Hungry for a mid-afternoon snack? Consider eating some almonds. The earthy nut lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol while simultaneously boosting heart-healthy HDL cholesterol, according to a study from Penn State.
“If people incorporate almonds into their diet, they should expect multiple benefits, including ones that can improve heart health,” study author Penny Kris-Etherton told Science Daily. Combine your nut intake with this breakfast staple, and your heart will have a suit of armor around it.
Slash Your Meat Intake
It’s the last thing most people want to hear, but eating too much meat—processed meats especially—can shorten your lifespan and lead to complications like cancer and heart disease. One study published in JAMA Internal Medicine concluded that vegetarians have a 12 percent lower risk of premature death compared to their carnivorous comrades.
A sense of satisfaction isn’t the only health benefit you get from volunteering your time to a good cause. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found that older individuals who volunteered for at least 200 hours per year decreased their risk for high blood pressure by 40 percent. “There is strong evidence that having good social connections promotes healthy aging and reduces risk for a number of negative health outcomes,” Rodlescia S. Sneed said in a press release.
Say Goodbye to Prepared Meals
Life’s too short to waste a meal on microwavable food—and it’ll be even shorter if you keep relying on the prepared packages. One study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that eating prepared meals is linked to an increased risk of excess belly fat and increased rates of obesity.
If you find your memory starting to fade, you may want to look into an acupuncture session. Research shows that consistent acupuncture may be beneficial for reducing the symptoms of pre-dementia by improving cognitive and memory function. Not surprisingly, it’s also one of our 100 Best Anti-Aging Secrets.
Spend Some Time in the Sauna
After your workouts at the gym, your heart will thank you for some sweaty sessions in the sauna. According to a study from the University of Eastern Finland, people who spent time in a sauna 4-7 times a week were 61 percent less likely to have a stroke than those who only went once. Researchers believe that the reduced risk is associated with a reduction in blood pressure and improved cardiovascular function.
Take a Bath
Bubble baths are the perfect way to unwind—and burn calories—after a long and stressful day. According to a British study, taking an hour-long bath burns 140 calories, the same amount you’d burn walking for half an hour. Apparently, soaking in hot water can reduce inflammation, which helps burn calories.
Eat Your Vegetables
You’re always telling your kids to eat their vegetables, so now it’s time to practice what you preach. An Australian study found that older women who had a high intake of cruciferous veggies like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower had less carotid artery wall thickness than those who skimped on their vegetable intake. A thickened carotid artery wall is associated with a higher risk of stroke, so don’t forget your veggies.
All physical activity has a profound anti-aging effect on the body, but it’s dancing in particular that keeps the brain young, according to a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Evidently, getting your groove on is more effective than endurance training in improving balance and reversing age-related brain decline. Plus, it’s way more fun!
Brew Some White Tea
White tea is loaded with antioxidants that can prevent cancer and heart disease. And according to one study, white tea even prevents the breakdown of elastic and collagen, protecting the skin from wrinkles and other damage. You’re going to develop quite a tea addiction after reading up on the other health benefits of sipping the earthy brew.
Buy Yourself a Nice Gym Wardrobe
Every woman (and even some men) know that nothing sets the mood for the day quite like cooperating hair. And the same goes for a good outfit: Research published in the Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology found that what we wear can psychologically affect our actions, meaning that cute workout clothes will translate into a better workout.
Don’t think that your body doesn’t notice when you’re feeling optimistic. Research from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine showed that people who were optimistic had longer lifespans. Keeping calm and carrying on might just be the secret to outliving everyone.
Never go to Bed in a Huff
Falling asleep in a fit of anger is no easy feat, and it may also be taking a toll on your health. In a study of 1,700 married adults, researchers from Brigham Young University found that more arguing correlated to a decline in the couples’ health.
We spend a shocking one-third of our lives at work, so the least we can do is make some friends with whom we can enjoy the ride. Plus, Tel Aviv University researchers conducted a 20-year study and found that subjects with the most support at work lived the longest. Those who isolated themselves at work were more than twice as likely to die over that same 2o-year period.
Who says you can’t take up new hobbies in your 40s? Skiing is fun, active, and can increase your metabolism, say researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. Working out and being in the cold raises levels of a fat-controlling hormone that improves metabolic levels.
Crack a Smile
Smile like your life depends on it! A 2010 study examined the smile intensity and frequency of baseball players from the 1950s and found that those who smiled in their photos (and meant it) lived an average of seven years longer.
Don’t Forget to Drink Water
Doctors recommend we consume anywhere from nine to 13 cups of water per day. And as we age, we’ll want to pay close attention to this advice, as research shows that staying hydrated can reduce your risk of heart disease by 60 percent.
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