Your body changes with every passing year and so should the way you think about your health. To help, here is our 'Guide to Good Health' with some important aspects of health to focus on during the decades from your 40s onwards.
Lifelong health habits:
Adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle is important for good health throughout your whole life. By implementing the following habits you can improve your health at any stage of life:
Be Physically Active!
Being physically active at all ages can help reduce the likelihood of obesity, delay the onset of chronic disease and reduce the severity of chronic disease. It is good for your social life and mental health as well as helping to reduce the risk of falls and prolonging independent living. The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on at least five days of the week. If you've not been physically active for some time, discuss your plans with your doctor before commencing a new exercise program.
Eat well: Many Australians do not consume enough fruit and vegetables in their diets, which may increase their risk of cardiovascular disease and some other serious health problems. On average, men tend to eat less fruit and vegetables than women. Ensure you are eating the recommended two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables every day.
Reduce the drink & cut out cigarettes: Smoking is a major risk factor for cancer, chronic airway disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke, as well as a variety of other health problems. Similarly, excessive intake of alcohol over time increases the risk of developing some cancers, cirrhosis of the liver, cognitive problems and dementia, as well as leading to sexual difficulties in some men.
In your 40s:
Support your liver health and your body’s detoxification pathways by minimising alcohol and caffeine consumption. Drink at least two litres of filtered water daily and include plenty of cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, kale and cauliflower) in your diet. Additional support for liver health is available from herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion root and schizandra.
Women: During your 40s, hormone balance helps to minimise menopause symptoms. For symptom-free menstrual cycles, support liver and digestive function, address stress, support hormone health, maintain a healthy body weight, and eat a nutritionally balanced diet.
Men: It’s time to focus on prostate health. From your early 40s onwards, the inner layers of the prostate gland enlarge slowly and progressively. Support your prostate health now in order to reduce your risk of experiencing benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) later by including plenty of cooked tomato in your diet (it’s rich in lycopene, which supports prostate health). You may also like to take supplements containing ingredients like saw palmetto, pygeum, zinc, essential fats, selenium and pumpkin seed oil.
In your 50s:
Support your cardiovascular health with nutrients like fish oil, hawthorn, garlic, coenzyme Q10, a Mediterranean-style diet and regular physical activity. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly may also prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. Try taking a supplement like chromium, carnitine, magnesium, alpha lipoic acid and herbs such as gymnema to help support normal blood sugar levels.
If you’re feeling any aches and pains, be aware that early diagnosis and appropriate management of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can have a positive impact on these conditions and your quality of life. Some key supportive options include a glucosamine & chondroitin combination, MSM, fish oils and krill oils. Some people also find benefits from a 'nightshade-free diet', this is from a family of plants including tomato, potato, eggplant and capsicum. Additionally, make sure you stay active and exercise, in particular walking a minimum of 30 minutes at least three days a week.
Women: If menopause symptoms strike, depending on the symptoms, try black cohosh, sage, isoflavones (from soybeans) and St John’s wort. Swap caffeine for peppermint tea, give up chocolate and spicy foods, and eat plenty of legumes and green vegetables. Be aware that your risk of osteoporosis increases after menopause, so make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D and participate in weight-bearing forms of exercise on a regular basis.
Men: Don’t be tempted to think that osteoporosis isn’t a concern for you; one in three men is also affected. To help reduce your risk as you get older, ensure you’re consuming adequate calcium and vitamin D, and stay physically active, making sure you include some weight-bearing activities (such as weight lifting, running or walking) into your routine.
In your 60s:
Continue to look after your heart, blood sugar, bone and joint health. In addition, support your eye health with antioxidant-rich foods such as bilberry, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, capsicum, corn, orange and peaches. Consider taking additional nutrients to support your eyes, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, zinc, vitamin C and selenium. Increase the amount of time you spend in the sun, aiming for 10-15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure daily to keep your vitamin D levels high. You may also like to consider taking a vitamin D supplement.
In your 70s and beyond:
Reduce the risk of dementia by keeping your blood pressure and blood sugar levels under control and by keeping physically, mentally and socially active. Supplements that may support brain health in old age include folic acid, and vitamins B6 and B12, as well as ginkgo, which may help delay or help prevent cognitive changes in individuals with normal cognitive function. Also take steps to avoid falls and broken bones by improving your balance and muscle strength; this can be achieved by participating in activities like yoga, tai chi, Pilates, and taking vitamin D supplements may also be beneficial.