Believe it or not, turning 40 means you are out of the age range in which a lot of diseases most commonly develop. These include Type-1 diabetes, Lupus, Crohn’s disease, and testicular cancer. The bad news is that past 40, a bunch of other diseases—including a number of cancers, Type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases—begin to become a lot more common.
But before you resign yourself to the prospect of dealing with chronic diseases once your life has, at 40, truly just begun, know that there are plenty of lifestyle changes that you can make to lower your risk of developing these diseases in the first place or lessen the impact they have. Want to know what they are? Here are 40 behavioral tweaks you can make to keep on enjoying life to the fullest. For more on staying healthy, learn the 40 Ways Your Body Changes After 40.
Make regular check-ups your bag
After turning 40, regular checkups and testing are crucial for preventing heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer and a slew of other life altering and life shortening diseases. A 2007 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health followed thousands of 30 to 49-year olds over a period of 15 years and found that those who sought regularly preventative care were less likely to get sick. If you want your appointment to be as painless as possible, check out these 10 Secrets for Maximizing Any Doctor’s Visit.
This noted muscle builder is a rich source of plant-based omega-3s and folate, which help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. But there’s more: Folate also increases blood flow to the genitals, helping to protect both men and women against age-related sexual issues. Aim for 1 cup fresh spinach or 1/2 cup cooked per day. And if you’re finding yourself more aroused than usual, consider spicing up your bedroom with one of these.
Several studies have shown that meditation helps improve many different types of conditions, including depression, anxiety, chronic pain, diabetes, and high blood pressure, as well as improving concentration, memory and reasoning skills. If you think that you don’t have time to meditate, think again. Mediation is one of the 30 Ways to Destress in 30 Seconds or Less.
Increase your calcium
At this point in your life, you should be thinking about bone density and what you can do to strengthen it. To maintain bone density, consume 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium daily along with vitamin D and moderate exercise.
While you’re increasing calcium to help your bones, cut out soda. Yes, even the diet stuff. High levels of phosphorus in dark sodas weakens bones, and a study published in FASEB Journal found that mice with high blood levels of phosphorus had a nearly 25% shorter lifespan. For more great aging advice, memorize the 34 Bad Habits Everyone Should Stop by Age 40.
Adapt your workout routine to you who you are now
Once upon a time you could walk off an injury sustained from an intense workout—an ibuprofen or two was all you needed. Things change in your 40s.
As we age, our bodies aren’t able to tolerate the same level of intensity. Things break, tear, and bruise more easily and those injuries tend to linger longer. That doesn’t mean you should give up working out, but it does mean that you should listen to your body and exercise in a way that won’t sideline you for weeks on end or worse, require a surgery of some kind.
“While movement is super important, we need to do what is good for our bodies as we get older,” says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition.
Don’t over-exercise to offset over indulgence
Smith says that a lot of her clients exercise super hard to compensate for a less-than-restrained approach to eating. “Our ability to do that as we get older changes—our bodies change, and our metabolism changes,” she says, adding that beating your body up to indulge your penchant for donuts and bacon is—as pointed out above—a bad idea, not least because maintaining a healthy weight really is 80% diet and just 20% exercise.
Get that belly off
Here’s a sobering reason for eating well and exercising at an intensity that won’t hobble you and keep you out of the gym: the beer paunch is spewing toxins and causes diabetes, heart disease, liver failure and all sorts of other problems. The good news: You can target belly fat by eating delicious foods that actually turn off the genes responsible for its production.
Guava provides 600% of the day’s vitamin C in just one cup. By contrast, a small orange packs just 85%. Studies suggest that those with high levels of vitamin C in their systems may also have the lowest incidence of diabetes.
Shake your tree
Your family tree. Use a service such as 23&Me that will analyze your genetic info and tell you what diseases you’re genetically predisposed to.
Get Your K
Eating leafy vegetables like kale, collards, and mustard greens can help ward slow cognitive decline, according to new research that reviewed the diets of nearly 1,000 participants.
Why? It’s all down to their high vitamin K content. Researchers discovered that people who ate one to two servings of leafy greens daily had the cognitive ability of a person 11 years younger than those who consumed none.
Stand up for yourself
Want another reason to join the standing-desk craze? Sitting for less than three hours a day could add two years to your life, according to a theoretical analysis of existing data published in BMJ Open.
Eat dark chocolate
If your vice is chocolate, good news! Cocoa products are rich in flavonoids that, according to a 2010 BMC Medicine study, can lower blood pressure among those with both hypertension and prehypertension. Other research indicates that cocoa’s flavanols can help the body form nitrites, the same chemical in beets and beet greens that widens blood vessels, eases blood flow and blood pressure levels. Nibble on dark chocolate with a cocoa content upwards of 70%.
Brush and floss
You’ve got more than cavities to worry about if you don’t brush and floss and eschew reminders from your dentist’s office. Great oral hygiene can lower risks for heart disease, dementia and stroke.
Use more turmeric
Getting older means that the body’s inflammatory response is often surplus to requirements and can actually frustrate the healing process. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, blocks the effects of pro-inflammatory enzymes and chemical pain messengers. Turmeric has also been found to interfere with the growth and spread of cancer cells and lower cholesterol levels. You can take it in capsule form or incorporate it into your cooking. Sprinkle it on a tofu scramble, toss it with roasted vegetables, or add it your brown rice.
Booze: sip, don’t guzzle
Ready for some good news? Research shows that moderate drinking can help prevent heart disease, dementia, and lengthen life. In 2010’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the Department of Health and Human Services said there was “strong evidence” that moderate drinking prevented heart disease, and “moderate evidence” that it helped prevent dementia.
What’s moderation? In a meta-analysis of 34 studies that followed subjects for years, the American Medical Association said that “1 to 2 drinks per day for women and 2 to 4 drinks per day for men are inversely associated with total mortality.”
Keep your bedroom cool
Believe it or not, studies show that lowering the thermostat before bedtime can safeguard you from the kind of aliments that develop past the age of 40. See, as we sleep, our bodies cool slightly, causing reparative growth hormones to be released. If you’re too warm, you get fewer of those hormones. Plus, being cooler reduces the body’s level of cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to overeating, diabetes and disease-causing inflammation.
Drink green tea
Its potent antioxidants may also lower levels of “bad” cholesterol levels while simultaneously increasing levels of “good” cholesterol levels, according to Harvard researchers. Other research has indicate that the polyphenols in green tea may block cholesterol from being absorbed in the intestine and also help the body get rid of cholesterol.
Quit your late-night show watching habit
Researchers from Harvard Business School found that people who normally slept for seven hours or less a night and went to bed only one hour earlier experienced a measurable drop in blood pressure. Lower blood pressure reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
n fact, keep all your TV consumption to a minimum
Every hour of TV you watch after age 25 cuts your lifespan by about 22 minutes according to research from The University of Queensland, Australia. Aussie researchers also found that people who spent an average of six hours a day watching TV died nearly five years earlier than people who didn’t watch any TV at all.
If you’re hungry eat something, if you’re not, like, don’t.
Dietitian Zoe Nicholson, co-founder of the moderation eating movement, advocates “intuitive eating,” meaning eating only when hungry and not because it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner time. “When we eat intuitively, our bodies crave a variety of nourishing food, we are much less likely to overeat or comfort eat and it becomes easier to maintain a stable healthier weight,” she says.
Drink Greek coffee
Researchers from the University of Athens Medical School conducted a study on 71 men and 71 women who lived on the Greek island of Ikaria and found that those who drank boiled Greek coffee on a daily basis had better endothelial functioning than those who drank other kinds of coffee.
Endothelial dysfunction has also been shown to be predictive of future adverse cardiovascular events, and is also present in inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.
Dance like no one’s watching
Research from Queen’s University Belfast shows that people (people beyond their salad days, in particular) can dance their way towards improved health and happiness because of the activity’s social, mental, and physical benefits.
Cut down on meat
A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that vegetarians have a 12 percent lower risk of premature death than meat eaters.
…especially processed meat
A 2013 study linked a diet heavy in processed meats—like sausage and bacon—to a higher risk of developing cancer and heart disease.
Think about death
Several studies have shown that when we’re reminded of our own mortality, we’re more likely to make better decisions about our own health, like using sunscreen, smoking less, and exercising more.
Various cultures claim yogurt as their own creation. What’s not disputed is the 2,000-year-old food’s health benefits: Fermentation spawns hundreds of millions of probiotic organisms that serve as reinforcements to the battalions of beneficial bacteria in your body. That helps boost your immune system and provides protection against cancer. Not all yogurts are probiotic, though, so make sure the label says “live and active cultures.”
According to a University of Michigan study, volunteers may live longer than people who don’t give of their time. Published in 2013 in the journal Psychology and Aging, it posited that people who give back could be rewarded with lower blood pressure and therefore a reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.
When you were 20, you might have gotten away with getting only four or five hours of sleep, but those days are long gone. It’s crucial to your health and sanity that you schedule adequate sleep—at least seven hours—each night. To help you do just that, check out the 10 Tips for your Best Sleep Ever.
Talking of shut eye, check this out. A regular short nap dramatically cuts the risk developing coronary heart disease. A study of nearly 24,000 people over six years found that occasional nappers had a 12% lower coronary mortality, while those who napped at least three times a week for at least 30 minutes had a 37% lower mortality.
Double-down on potassium
Although we’re not saying you should need to double your banana consumption, it is important that you increase your potassium intake because it can help lower risk for high blood pressure. Good sources of potassium include most fruits and vegetables like bananas, potatoes, avocados, and spinach.
Make time for friends and family
Epidemiological research has demonstrated a strong link between chronic stress and the occurrence of coronary heart disease. Other research has shown that employees who experience work-related stress and individuals who are socially isolated or lonely have an increased risk of a first heart attack or stroke. If you feel like your proverbial plate is overloaded at work, talk to someone about it and make quality time with friends and family non-negotiable.
Cut the sugar
The link between increased sugar and diabetes risk is right up there with “smoking causes lung cancer” on the list of immutable medical truths—despite what soda manufacturers are trying to tell us. But Mayo Clinic researchers have even gone further, saying that added dietary fructose—either as table sugar or the main component of high-fructose corn syrup—may be the number-one cause of diabetes.
Move to the city
Research shows that urbanites tend to live longer and healthier than their country-mouse counterparts.
Make antioxidants your best friend
By now you probably know that antioxidants are healthy, but the nutrients are especially important as we age in order to prevent and fight against problems that may arise such as skin damage or even certain cancers.
New research has found that the reason melanoma rates are so low in regions like the Mediterranean is due, at least in part, to their vaunted Mediterranean diet. Foods high in antioxidants, particularly deeply colored fruits and vegetables, can help fight the oxidizing effect of UV rays. One study in the British Journal of Dermatology found participants who ate five tablespoons of tomato paste (a highly concentrated form of fresh tomatoes) daily showed 33 percent more protection against sunburn than a control group. For more on living the Mediterranean lifestyle, check out these 5 Italian Healthy Living Secrets That Will Change Your Life.
Don’t go to bed angry
In a study of 1,700 married adults, researchers from Brigham Young University found that that the more arguing there was in the relationship, the worse the adults’ health.
Eat more salmon
Fatty fish like wild salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation, slow the plaque buildup inside blood vessels, and increase the ratio of good to bad cholesterol levels. An analysis of 20 studies published in the journal JAMA indicates that eating one to two 3-ounce servings of fatty fish a week reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by an impressive 36 percent!
Take the stairs
Researchers from the University of Geneva calculated that among people with a sedentary lifestyle, simply taking the stairs was enough physical activity to burn body fat and lower blood pressure.
Don’t order in
A study published in Public Health Nutrition in 2012 found that people who cook at home up to five times a week were 47 percent more likely to still be alive 10 years later than those who didn’t. Find the 10 Best Additions to Your Diet here and get on it!