40 Easy Tweaks to Boost Your Health After 40
A few steps, and you'll feel like you're 20 again.
At 20, some things are just easier. You can shake off a gnarly hangover by housing some carbs. You can lose weight by hitting the gym a couple times per week. And you can combat stress by regularly getting a solid seven-plus hours each night. But, by the time you pass 40, your body is a very different animal. None of that stuff is quite so simple any more.
However, while things might get a little tougher as you round the corner into middle age, it doesn’t take a full lifestyle overhaul to live your healthiest life ever. In fact, just a few easy tweaks will do the trick. Here are 40 to adopt—yesterday.
Wait one minute before having that treat.
In some cases, making big changes in your health only takes an infinitesimal investment of time. According to researchers at Rush University, when study subjects were forced to wait just 25 seconds to access a not-so-healthy snack from a vending machine, a significant percentage of snackers opted for something healthier instead.
Wear sunglasses on a regular basis.
Those shades do more than make you look stylish—they’re actually pretty important for your health, too. One study published in JAMA reveals a strong association between exposure to UV-B rays from sunlight and the development of cataracts, so if you have just a few seconds to spare, pop on those sunglasses before you head outside.
Walk to work (when you can).
If it’s a nice day outside, and you’re within a reasonable distance, leave the car at home and walk to work. One study in the Archives of Internal Medicine revealed that active commuting, like walking, can reduce obesity, blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and other heart disease risk factors.
Bring a water bottle with you wherever you go.
A little water can go a long way toward making you healthier. Research shows that even minor dehydration can affect both mood and cognitive ability, so make sure you’re getting at least eight glasses of water every day by bringing a water bottle with you and refilling it periodically throughout the day.
Eat an apple at the start of your meals.
An apple a day really can keep the doctor away. One of the easiest ways to improve your health is to snack on an apple before meals—not only can it help reduce the viability of bacteria in your mouth, one study revealed that people who ate apples before lunch reduced their total caloric intake by 15 percent.
Add a cool-down period to your workout.
Take a few seconds to stretch or otherwise cool down after your workout. Your whole body will thank you. Research shows that stretching after a workout can help safely lower your blood pressure to pre-exercise levels, reducing your risk of fainting.
Use a gradual light to wake up.
Feeling worse for wear in the mornings? Instead of rousing yourself with the less-than-dulcet tones of your alarm clock, try a wake-up light instead. According to a study conducted at the Psychiatric Hospital of Basel’s Center for Chronobiology, gradually waking up with a dawn simulator improved study subjects’ mood, mental acuity, and overall wellbeing.
Swap the milk in your coffee for almond milk.
Looking for an easy way to shave some calories off your daily total? Just switch the milk in your coffee for one of the non-dairy variety. While whole milk has about 150 calories a cup, unsweetened almond milk typically has less than 40. Bonus: almonds can even reduce your risk of heart disease.
Go for a lunchtime walk.
Instead of spending another lunch hour sitting at your desk, get up and go for a walk. According to the European Society of Cardiology, just 15 minutes of walking a day can reduce a person’s risk of death by 22 percent.
Floss every day. (Yes, every day.)
You’ve heard it from your dentist a million times, but it’s high time you took his or her flossing advice to heart. Try flossing after every meal to keep your teeth healthy and you might just enjoy a longer life, too—according to one study in the Journal of Aging Research, flossing daily reduced a person’s risk of death by 30 percent.
Get some controlled sunlight.
While sunbathing will likely never be a doctor-approved habit, upping your vitamin D levels with 15 minutes of controlled sunlight exposure a day can yield serious benefits in the long run. A review of research published in Neurosciences (Riyadh) found that vitamin D deficiency was linked with an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis, so go ahead and bask in those rays—just briefly.
Make sunscreen part of your daily routine.
You grab your keys, wallet, and phone before heading out the door, but you should be grabbing your sunscreen, too. And the earlier you start this habit, the better—research published in JAMA Dermatology reveals that individuals who regularly used sunscreen in childhood reduced their risk of melanoma by 40 percent compared to those with sporadic sunscreen use.
Plug in your phone far away from your bed.
Putting your phone just out of reach before bed could yield some major benefits for your health in the long run. Researchers at the University of Texas found that simply being in the presence of a smartphone can reduce a person’s brainpower, while the blue light it emits can reduce your body’s melatonin production, making it harder to get a good night’s sleep.
Sprinkle some flaxseed into your smoothie.
Make your favorite smoothie healthier in seconds with the addition of some ground flaxseed. While it won’t change the flavor or consistency of your drink, flaxseed provides a healthy dose of fiber, which can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, as well as infusing your meals with a vegetarian-friendly source of heart-healthy, inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids.
Add meditation to your daily schedule.
Just a few minutes of meditation a day can improve your health from head to toe. One study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology reveals that individuals who did between 10 and 20 minutes of app-based meditation over an eight-week period experienced greater overall wellbeing, minimized work-related stress, and reduced blood pressure as compared to a control group.
Swap just one daily cup of coffee for green tea.
Swapping just one cup of coffee a day for some green tea can yield major health benefits over time. A study in Frontiers in Pharmacology revealed that the epigallocatechin-3-gallate found in green tea is effective at reducing plaque build-up in the arteries that can contribute to heart disease and stroke risk.
Add some avocado to your meals.
Need some extra incentive to pay for extra guac? Tell yourself it’s for your health. Research published in Nutrition reveals that eating avocado with meals reduced study participants’ hunger and their desire to eat for a six-hour period, making it easier to lose those stubborn pounds that tend to stick around more often as you age.
Wash your makeup brushes every week.
All it takes is a few minutes a day to reduce your risk of a serious infection over 40. As people age, their immune systems tend to weaken, making them more susceptible to infections, like those caused by unwashed makeup tools. The good news? That makeup brush cleaner you get at your local drugstore can remove a significant percentage of the harmful microbes on your brushes, reducing your risk of developing staph or any other brush-related illness.
Do a “Meatless Monday.”
Shave hundreds of calories off your diet and reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease by implementing a so-called “Meatless Monday.” (It’s exactly what it sounds like.) By simply opting for veggie-based proteins instead just one day a week, you can reduce your risk of heart disease—or, if you choose to make it a permanent habit, research reveals that going fully vegetarian reduces a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease by 40 percent.
Use an under-desk exercise machine.
Even if you can’t make it to the gym during your workday, you can get a whole lot healthier while sitting at your desk with an under-desk elliptical. These machines keep your legs moving throughout the day, making you significantly more active than you would be just sitting in your chair, and potentially reducing your risk of heart disease and blood clots, as well.
Skip the artificial sweetener.
Ditch that artificial sweetener in your coffee or tea and you’ll be healthier in no time. Research suggests that not only can artificial sweeteners increase a person’s risk of weight gain, they actually make people more likely to crave real sugar, too.
Do ten body-squats before bed.
While many people tend to experience some bone loss in middle age and later life, doing some lower leg exercises may be able to reduce your risk of injury. Weight-bearing exercise is linked to reduced bone density loss and having stronger muscles, particularly on your lower half, may even reduce your risk of falls and broken bones.
Swap any soda for seltzer.
A can of soda has about 150 calories. A can of seltzer has none. Even if you only switch one soda a day for sparkling water, you can still satisfy that carbonation craving while ditching enough calories from your diet to lose more than a pound over the course of a month.
Write in a journal.
Want to improve your mental health in minutes? Even if you don’t have someone to dish your unpleasant feelings to, writing them down in a journal can help ease your mental burden. One study revealed that individuals who journaled about a stressful event were more likely to see the positives in the situation than those who don’t write about it.
Swap your chair for an exercise ball.
Make your workday healthier and more enjoyable by subbing an exercise ball in for that traditional desk chair. In addition to adding a little bit of fun to those hours stuck behind your desk with some bouncing, one study showed that students whose chairs were replaced with exercise balls had less physical discomfort and greater academic performance.
And improve your posture at your desk.
Good posture doesn’t just make you appear taller and leaner—it can also improve your health. Researchers at the University of Auckland have even found that a less slouchy, more upright posture alleviates fatigue and improves emotional state among people with depression.
Wash your sheets more often.
One simple way to improve your health in no time? Add a couple extra loads of laundry to your weekly routine. Your pillowcase may be harboring up to three million bacteria—some of which can make you ill—by the end of a week, so make sure you’re washing it a few times a week, especially as you get older and your immune system weakens.
Start your morning with eggs.
Move over, breakfast pastries—eggs are where it’s at, if you want to improve your health. Research suggests that replacing a carbohydrate-rich breakfast with a similarly caloric amount of eggs increases weight loss, and the selenium found in eggs may even reduce your risk of thyroid disease.
Go to sleep half an hour earlier.
Going to bed just half an hour earlier might make all the difference when it comes to the health of your heart. While getting under six hours of sleep has been linked to increased heart disease risk, hitting the hay half an hour earlier can push you into healthier territory, significantly reducing your CVD risk (and reducing your risk of a car accident, too).
Add some more garlic to your meals.
Garlic may be bad for your breath, but adding some to your favorite recipes can be a major asset to your health. Not only has garlic consumption been linked to reductions in heart disease risk, a study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology revealed that garlic’s antibacterial properties can even reduce your risk of food poisoning.
Slow down while eating.
Once you past 40, an easy way to live a healthier life is to turn any quick sad desk lunches into long, leisurely ones. Studies have found that eating more slowly increases satiety and reduces total caloric intake in both normal-weight and overweight and obese individuals, and taking your time with your food can also increase your enjoyment of your meals while reducing your choking risk.
Chase every alcoholic drink with a glass of water.
There’s no denying that hangovers get more painful the older you get. If you’re on a mission to improve your health, make sure to drink a full eight-ounce glass of water after every alcoholic beverage you consume. Not only will you knock out that pounding headache in the morning, you’ll reduce the cognition-sapping effects of dehydration, too.
Breathe deeper (and with more intention).
Pausing to take a few deep breaths throughout the day can improve both your mood and your overall health. Deep breathing has been linked to reductions in heart rate variability, which may extend your lifespan, as well as increased feelings of calmness and overall wellbeing.
Scrape your tongue after brushing.
Before you hit the hay for the night, take a minute to scrape or brush your tongue after cleaning your teeth. One study revealed that brushing and scraping your tongue are both effective means of reducing overall oral plaque and bacteria, both of which have been linked to increased cardiovascular disease risk.
Make oatmeal part of your daily routine.
Oatmeal isn’t just cheap and delicious—it’s also a great way to improve your health. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that oatmeal can reduce bad cholesterol, slashing your risk of heart disease in the process.
Swap half an hour of TV for a crossword puzzle.
Sure, binge-watching your favorite shows is fun, but swapping a single episode for a crossword puzzle instead can keep you healthier. Studies suggest a link between doing crosswords and reduced dementia risk, so if you want to keep your brain healthy and sharp, put down the remote and pick up a pen.
Talk to a therapist.
Whether you’re stressed out, dealing with an eating disorder, reeling from a bad breakup, or feeling deeply despondent, talking to a therapist is an easy way to get mentally (and, in tandem, physically) healthier in no time. And thanks to the internet, you don’t even have to go into an office to receive therapist’s services—”teletherapy,” through the power of the internet, lets you reap the same benefits right in the privacy of your own home.
Stop rubbing your eyes.
Yes, a habit as simple as rubbing your eyes could be putting your health at risk. Research from the University Hospital Brussels’ Department of Ophthalmology reveals a link between eye-rubbing, vision loss, and keratoconus—a change in the shape of the eye—so there’s no time like the present to quit this potentially-harmful habit while you still have your vision intact.
Hang out with your friends more often.
A weekly game night, drinks with your colleagues after work, or just inviting a friend over to watch a movie from time to time can have major benefits for your health. Not only is loneliness linked to everything from weight gain to heart disease, it can even suppress your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness and infection.
Turn down the thermostat (at night).
Dial the thermostat down just a few degrees for better health in a hurry. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases found that individuals who slept in a 66-degree room over six weeks increased their amount of brown fat, which reduces blood glucose and boosts metabolism. And if you’re ready to transform your body, read up on these 50 Weight Loss Secrets from People Who’ve Lost 50 Pounds.
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