Staying healthy in your 30s, 40s and 50s
Updated: February 19, 2013 11:57AM
HINSDALE — For many adults, the second decade of life is relatively a healthy one. But following their 20s, adults start to see many changes, physical and mental, that can prove challenging when trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Whether you are 29 or 59, it’s important to understand the health risks accompanying each decade and take steps to address them.
For people entering into their 30s, their bodies are undergoing a great deal of change. Extra stress and added weight increase risks for medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and pre-diabetes.
Indeed, this is an optimal time for patients to get a complete physical, along with some baseline blood work. Maintaining a balanced diet, along with aerobic exercises, at least five times a week, are the baseline essential healthy habits. I also emphasize limiting alcohol intake and smoking cessation. These lifestyle modifications are essential to building a foundation for a healthier future.
As people enter their 40s, stress continues to be an ongoing factor, as many balance careers and families, with the added concerns of financing their children’s college education. In this decade of life, women typically enter perimenopause, the five to 10-year period before their menses ceases, while men may see a drop in their testosterone levels.
Emphasis on reproductive health continues for people in this age range, as women are encouraged to follow-up for annual gynecological exams and. In this decade, a combination of stress, unhealthy habits, and obesity worsens the risk for other co-morbid conditions, such as depression, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
Good nutrition with plenty of fruits, vegetables and fiber, good hydration, as well as aerobic and weight-bearing exercises remain important in dealing with these continuing changes. Annual physical exams and baseline fasting blood work are important at this age.
When entering their 50s, risk factors continue to accumulate as women start their battle with menopause. Lack of estrogen raises their risk for both heart disease and osteoporosis. I recommend daily aerobic and weight bearing exercises, with addition of calcium and Vitamin D supplements.
Post-menopausal women will require a baseline osteoporosis screening, while men will need annual prostate specific antigen levels for prostate cancer screening. People entering this period of life should schedule their first colonoscopy, to screen for colon cancer.
Healthy living, no matter the age, goes beyond purely physical. I always address mental health with my patients. I recommend meditation and yoga, as they promote physical and psychological healing. In addition, forming a good network of social and spiritual connections help people cope better with their daily stressors.
This is important because mentally healthy people feel better about themselves, inspiring them to safeguard their physical health and make changes to improve it. If they suffer from a chronic condition, mentally healthy people are more likely to comply with their doctor’s treatment plan.
Remember, that a peaceful mind is as important to your health and happiness as a perfect body mass index. If you have a genetic predisposition to a disease, you may not be able to change it, but there are always ways to improve your overall health.
As Buddha said, “Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth …” It is never too late to begin your journey. Talk to your doctor to find out what can be done.
Smitha Rajasekhar, M.D., is a board certified family medicine physician who treats patients at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital.