When you’re young, getting locked into some bad habits doesn’t feel all that bad. For starters, who cares? You’ve got lots of time to get your life in order! But once you start to realize that you are getting old, the effects of years of bad habits can start to mount. These seemingly small habits that didn’t seem so bad a decade ago now can come with big consequences. Peruse our extensive list of the 40 bad habits you should jettison once you hit 40 years old—and you’ll be way better off. And for more ways to be your best self after 40, check out these 40 Amazing Habits to Adopt After 40.
Not lifting weights
Building muscle, and keeping muscle, gets even more important as we age as it starts to deteriorate. Called sarcopenia, this loss of muscle mass and function starts in your 30s and accelerates from there on out unless you counteract it by engaging in resistance exercise. You don’t have to become a bodybuilder. Just stress your muscles—it’ll make you more mobile as you get older and will rev up your metabolism to keep weight gain at bay. And if you’re looking to shed a few pounds as well, This is the Safest Way to Lose Weight Over 40.
The eventual emergence of crow’s feet around your eyes along with wrinkly, saggy skin and the appearance of more freckles and dart spots can be tied to overexposure to UV rays from the sun. Be sure to moisturize your skin everyday with a lotion that contains some sunscreen (30 SPF is fine) to keep wrinkles at bay and to lower risk of skin cancer, which is the most diagnosed cancer in the U.S. Remember: Wearing sunblock is one of the 100 Best Anti-Aging Secrets.
Eating out too much
Do you know why restaurant food tastes so delicious (usually…)? It’s because the recipes are loaded with tons of fat, mostly butter, and heaps of sodium—one study from the University of Illinois found that the food at sit-down spots often has worse nutrition profiles than grub at fast food joints. They are also costly and can quickly destroy your budget if you go out often or order take out regularly. Stick with a few times a month and choose your dishes wisely. To make positive changes in your diet, check out these 40 Heart Foods to Eat After 40.
Yeah, it was awesome in college—and even in the few years after graduation—to often get wasted with your bros at a tailgating party or on a night out shooting pool. But those days should mostly be a memory: studies show that regularly drinking too much alcohol can take a toll on your brain functioning and will even thwart any plans to get rid of that gut. One or two drinks a night has been shown to be beneficial to the brain, just leave the keg stands and drinking games to the kids. And for more on this, here’s Exactly How Much Alcohol You Should Drink.
Not having any hobbies
Coming home from work and eating some dinner, then plopping down on the couch for some Netflix before trudging off to bed a few hours later is fine sometimes, but you should break up that habit by getting a hobby. Activities that get you out and around friends or volunteering have been linked to longer life, but even just puttering around in the garage working on bikes or fine-tuning your woodworking skills is important to mental health. Not sure what you’re into? Look for your next big adventure in this list of The 40 Best Hobbies to Take Up in Your 40s.
Feeding yourself fried foods
A few fries every now and then and a basket of popcorn shrimp isn’t all that bad, but the trans fats in fried foods are linked to heart disease, cancer, and early death. After age 40 you should severely limit anything fried, the hit to your waistline and to your cardiovascular system isn’t worth it a few seconds of crisp deliciousness.
Being engaged with your job and working hard has been linked to higher life satisfaction and living longer, but stop staying late every night. It’s not good for your heart health as it increases stress and your belly fat, and it’s not good for your companies’ bottom line, as one 2014 study showed. The better the relationship between employees and managers, the less stress all around and better performance from everyone. And for more help finding balance, here are the 30 Best Ways to Fight Stress.
Drinking diet soft drinks
Dropping the soda habit is extremely important as the full sugar drinks are linked to lowered brain functioning, diabetes, weight gain, and cancer, among other maladies. But don’t think you can just switch to diet—multiple studies have shown that those artificially sweetened soft drinks can also increase your waistline and impact your brain. It’s healthier to stick with water as you get older, with the occasional fruit juice and regular tea and coffee.
Leaving a messy bed
Yeah, it was a drag when your mom berated you every morning about your unmade bed, but making up your bed before you start the day brings with it a great satisfaction and clean slate for the rest of the time you’re awake. Plus being greeted by a well-made and nice-looking bed before you fall asleep helps make the experience a separate and more sacred part of your life, which could lead to better sleep. And don’t take it from us: Take it from at least one speaker behind the 25 Most Inspiring Keynote Addresses of All Time.
Not planning for the financial future
By age 40, not have a solid financial plan for your future is cutting it pretty close, but there is still time to make moves that will help set you up after retirement. Take the time to meet with a financial planner and get honest and real about what you have to do to make your later years comfortable and relatively stress free. And then learn these 25 Daily Habits Rich People Swear By.
Staying up too late
Restful sleep has been shown in multiple studies to improve countless health markers, including keeping you trim and bolstering your immune system. Remember: sleep is also when your muscles (if you’ve been lifting weights and exercising) rebuild and repair themselves and get bigger and stronger. So try to get in 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night in a cool, dark, and quiet bedroom. For more help, read the 65 Tips for Your Best Sleep Ever.
Looking at your phone during dinner
If you call yourself an adult and are past the age of 40, it’s past time to redefine your relationship to your phone if it’s constantly glued to your face. And it’s an especially egregious habit if you can’t even sit down for dinner without always having to check your phone. Just stop—have some respect for those around you. Bonus tip: when going out with friends, have everyone place their phone face down—the first person to flip his phone over has to pay the bill. And for more offensive things you shouldn’t do, know the 40 Slang Terms No One Over 40 Should Ever Use.
Eating that extra cookie
You’re not a kid anymore, sneaking cookies from your mom’s cookie jar. You’re in middle age, there’s no excuse for not being able to exert some self-control and not gorge yourself with snacks and sweets when tempted. Excess sugar is very bad for you, leading to diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Not to mention, you’ll pack on the pounds.
Slights, affronts, and grudges aren’t worth the mental time they impose on your brain. But, c’mon, just relax. Who cares if that dude cut you off, or someone stepped on your toe? And even if your partner or family member has truly done something egregious, talk it out with them, you know, like an adult? Don’t let negativity fester.
Be sure to get something in your belly once you get up in the morning—it sets you up for more energy, less tendency to overeat the rest of the day, and has been tied to a more active metabolism. You’ll have a healthier heart, smaller belly, and overall better health. Just stay away from pastries, sugary cereal, and fatty meats.
Not paying off most of your debt
Carrying some debt is important if you want to take out a car loan or get a mortgage, as it helps with your credit score, but paying most of it down (and making payments on time) is important for your fiscal health. Try to get your debt-to-income ratio, or all your monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income, under 30% for a good credit score. And for more great personal finance tips, check out the 52 Ways to Be Smarter with Money in 2018.
Putting big portions on your plate
Unless you are a professional competitive eater, there’s no need to pile on the pasta or heap up the ham. Portion control is a big part of losing weight and keeping a normal weight steady, so try to exercise some restraint, especially as you get older and are less able to drop pounds. Fruit and veggies should be the size of a tennis ball, carbs a hockey puck, dairy four dice, protein a pack of cards.
Not contacting your mom
You don’t need to spend hours on the phone with your mom everyday, a few texts or emails will make her feel needed, and a phone call once a week or so will make her day. A 2010 study found that calling and talking to your mom can also prompt your brain to release the hormone oxytocin, making you feel better all around and reducing stress. And for more on motherhood, here are 30 Things Only Moms with Daughters Know.
Eating lunch at your desk
It’s a tough habit to break, but eating at your desk leads to weight gain and increased stress levels—studies show. Try setting up in a work space away from your computer or outside in a park or wooded area if the weather’s good, and resist the urge to glance at your phone every 2 seconds. And for more ways to stay fit during your 9-to-5, here are the 30 Best Ways to Stay Healthy While Working.
Skipping regular physicals
Once you get into middle age—30s and 40s—you should visit your doctor for a checkup every other year. Top tests you should be getting then include cholesterol and osteoporosis screenings. But into your 50s, start to make that meeting an annual one, and prepare yourself for fun stuff like colonoscopies and shingles vaccinations.
Talking behind other people’s backs
Petty and vindictive behavior should be beyond you once you get into your 40s. It’s not healthy to be a negative and gossipy person trying to bring down others. Focus on your own happiness and mental health, seek a therapist if you think they can help.
Visiting fast food joints
Heading to the local fast food restaurant when you were little was a blast, and the fatty fries and greasy burgers were a real treat. But if you haven’t aged out of the thrill of stuffing your face with fried foods and ice cream, it’s time to pull back and limit visits to once every few months. Fill your face with whole, fresh foods instead and save the fast food treats for special occasions.
Sitting all day
Hundreds of studies have come out in recent years that show sitting for extended periods of time is bad for your heart and your waist. Invest (or get your company to) in an adjustable standing desk so you can move between sitting and standing during work hours, and make a point to get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour or so to release stress and let blood vessels flow more freely.
Ignoring sodium intake
Taking in a lot of salt, over the 2,500mg recommended each day, has been linked to increased risk of heart failure, dementia, and diabetes. That amount is equal to about a teaspoon, so make sure to check nutrition labels and be careful with what you add into your food—most Americans get around 3,400mg a day. Trying substituting with something spicy—a 2017 study found it can curb sodium cravings.
Denying the dentist
Yeah, you know, you should be flossing every day. But besides that, and brushing your teeth twice a day, make sure you go to the dentist to get a teeth cleaning every six months to stave off nasty conditions like cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. Poor oral health has also been linked to an increase in heart disease and cancer.
Play with your smartphone in bed
The bed should be held as a place where you sleep, have sex, and that’s about it. The blue glow of your device’s screen can mess up your sleep patterns by confusing our internal clock. These disruptions can lead to poor slumber and increased risk of weight gain and the insidious ignoring-your-partner syndrome.
Buying low fat foods
Fat was considered the enemy for a long time, spurred on by some spurious studies paid for by the sugar industry, but now we know that getting moderate amounts of healthy fats are a good thing. So stop buying anything that’s labeled “low-fat” since those products often have fillers added, including sugar, to make them taste better but end up making them unhealthier. And for more great health advice, here are 40 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure After 40.
Everyone has ups and downs in their mental health—nobody sane is happy all of the time—and admitting that you are depressed and can use some help is a mature move. Seek out therapy and also add in alternative treatments like getting more exercise and engaging in meditation every week. If you’re trying mindfulness for the first time, we’ve got your back: Just read the 10 Best Ways to Focus Better During Meditation.
Letting stress get to you
Getting heated and angry about some mishap or mistake, whether at work or at home, isn’t a good look—nor is it good for your health. A study from the Yale University School of Medicine found that flying off the handle and becoming quickly irate can lead to a sudden heart attack, which kills about 400,000 people a year.
Snacking on cookies and chips
It’s time to put away the processed foods like cookies, cakes, chips, and candy, and move your snacking habits into healthier territory with whole food treats—like jerky, nuts, and berries—that are high in protein and fiber and antioxidants to tamp down inflammation. Processed stuff contains lots of white flour, sugar, and sodium, which isn’t doing anything for your health or waistline and promotes disease-causing inflammation.
Forgetting to vote
If you haven’t been engaged in civic affairs and the state of local and national government, and think your vote “doesn’t count,” then, as an adult over 40, you need to begin. It’s vitally important that you make your vote count by getting out there and participating in the process, no matter your political party, or lack off. A shamefully low 59.7% of eligible voters hit the polls in 2016.
Forgetting about sex
A stale and infrequent sex life is unfortunately something that happens to a lot of middle-aged couples, especially after 40. But sex and the intimacy that it brings to partners is a major factor in keeping marriages strong, so don’t neglect it. Talk to your spouse and figure out ways you can make it more fun and routine.
Refusing a flu shot
Lots of guys think that they don’t need to get vaccinated for the flu every year because they are healthy and strong enough to fight off any virus. Or they are under the delusion that the flu can only kill old people or babies, but getting a flu shot every year not only makes the duration of your illness shorter, it also lessens the spread of influenza.
Not paying attention to sugar content
Sugar really should be limited in your diet, and never added to anything, even coffee, since the sweet stuff can contribute to the development of diabetes and may even help fuel some cancers. Keep your sugar consumption restricted whole foods like fruit and some dairy, and try to stay under the recommended 25 grams per day.
Blowing off cardio
Some guys spend all of their time under weights, working on getting the perfect peak on their biceps, but solely focusing on strength doesn’t make for a well-rounded physique. Make sure you get in some endurance sessions rowing or running to ensure your heart is strong and more resistant to heart disease.
Neglecting your skin
Men, especially, don’t worry enough about their skin, but it’s an important organ that’s often neglected. Your skin gets thinner and loses fat as you get older, so it will start to look saggy and wrinkly. To keep it taut and supple, apply a light face moisturizer every morning and you’ll stay looking younger longer.
Spending too much time worrying about material things is not healthy for your psyche, but when it comes time to drop some of your hard-earned cash on a product, don’t skimp and go for the cheapest item unless it’s been shown to be far superior than pricier products. Shelling out for quality isn’t being pretentious because in the long run, quality will last longer and saving you time and cash. And for help, know the 30 Best Ways to Save Money on Clothes.
Raiding the fridge late at night
Consistently keeping your pantry and fridge closed at night can lead to a lower body weight over time, says a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism. Other recent studies confirm that shutting down the kitchen after around 7 p.m. is linked to better health overall and a leaner body.
Obsessing over what other people think
Once you hit a certain age, worrying about what people are whispering and gossiping and talking about is something to leave behind. If they feel the need to say something behind your back, that’s indicative of a personality flaw of their own, not yours. You’ll sleep better at night if you’re really don’t care what other people think.
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