Tips for Staying Healthy in Your 40s

"Lordy, lordy, look who's forty!" The big 4-0—it's a milestone for sure, signaling a time of transition from young adulthood to middle-age.

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This is an important decade for preventing health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer later in life. So, if you've been making healthy lifestyle choices, keep it up in your 40s, and if you haven't, now's the time to start! Healthy habits like eating right, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, not smoking, drinking alcohol only in moderation, and wearing your seat belt can help reduce your risk for a number of chronic medical conditions.

Contact your health care provider if you notice changes in, or have questions or concerns about, your physical, mental or emotional health. Ask about recommendations for routine exams, screening procedures and immunizations in your 40s—and follow your doctors’ advice.

When it comes to safety, use common sense and pay attention to laws, rules, regulations and guidelines. If you haven’t done so already, find out about your family health history—and make sure your health care providers have this information. Genetic factors can play an important role in your risk for certain health problems.

Common Health Concerns in Your 40s

Here are some health concerns that you may find yourself faced with in your 40s:

Chronic pain—The risk for arthritis, back pain and other painful conditions like tendonitis increases with age. While you can't do anything about the number of birthdays you've celebrated, you can take steps to reduce your risk for health problems caused by wear and tear and overuse.

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Stress—While there's no escaping many of the responsibilities that come with life in your 40s—career, finances, family obligations like caring for children and aging parents—you can prevent yourself from being overwhelmed. Take care of yourself—eat right, exercise, keep in touch with people who are important to you and find time to do things you enjoy. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week—physical activity can go a long way toward helping you manage your stress.

Blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and homocysteine levels, resting heart rate—These indicators of heart health can tend to slowly creep upward as you get older, increasing your risk for several serious medical conditions, including heart attack and stroke. It's important to follow your health care provider's recommendations for monitoring these factors and keeping them within healthy levels through lifestyle measures and/or medication, if necessary.

Blood glucose—Diabetes is a significant health problem in the United States and risk for type 2 diabetes (the most common form of the disease) increases with age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 26 million people in the U.S. have diabetes and about 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 have been diagnosed or have the disease but don't know it.

Body mass index (BMI)—Chances are, you've watched the needle on the scale slowly inch up over the past several years—even if you try to eat healthy and exercise regularly. In addition to your BMI, which determines if your weight is within a healthy, overweight or obese range, your health care provider will also pay attention to your weight distribution. This measurement compares your waist size to your hip size and is used to help evaluate your risk for weight-related health problems.

Osteoporosis—Peak bone mass (maximum bone density and strength) gradually declines in your 40s and beyond, increasing your risk for osteoporosis—bone loss that can lead to fractures and other problems. After menopause, women are at even higher risk for this condition. A healthy diet and regular weight-bearing exercise, including strength training, can help prevent osteoporosis.

Anxiety and depression—It's important to take care of your mental health in your 40s. Changes in mood are a normal part of life, but extreme anxiety, loss of interest and energy, an inability to experience pleasure, withdrawal from usual activities and interactions, and apathy toward important matters is not. Talk to your health care provider about mental health screening.

Additional Health Concerns in Your 40s

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Sexual and reproductive health is an important part of overall health in your 40s. Common issues include sexual dysfunction (e.g., female sexual dysfunction, erectile dysfunction), sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and infections (STIs) including HIV/AIDS, and contraception.

Men in their 40s may experience symptoms of testosterone deficiency, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, enlarged prostate) or transient erectile dysfunction. Occasional impotence affects about 50 percent of men between the ages of 40 and 49. Although the average age of menopause is about 51, many women in their 40s begin experiencing symptoms of perimenopause (e.g., hot flashes, irritability).

Skin problems—adult acne, sun damage, age spots and wrinkles—often concerns for 40-somethings. It's important to keep your skin healthy, so contact a dermatologist if you have concerns. Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 whenever you're in the sun—skin cancer is now the most common type of cancer in the United States.

Changes in vision and hearing loss are also relatively common problems for people in their 40s. You may find that you need glasses for the first time in your life, or that you need (gasp!) bifocal lenses—glasses designed for reading as well as distance—to see clearly. You also may notice that your senses of smell and taste are not as strong as they once were.

Urinary incontinence, overactive bladder and digestive problems, including ulcers, are other conditions that are more common in people over the age of 40. Remember, when it comes to your health, you are your own best advocate. Speak up if you aren't feeling your best.

Health Care Recommendations in Your 40s

Recommendations for medical exams, screening procedures and routine tests in your 40s vary depending on your family history, your overall health and your personal risk factors. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the goals of routine health care in your 40s are to develop and maintain the doctor-patient relationship, encourage a healthy lifestyle, screen for disease, assess risk for medical problems and update immunizations.

Follow your health care providers' advice about routine medical care. The following are general guidelines for people 40–49 years old:

  • Physical exam (check-up)—Every 2 or 3 years or as recommended; height, weight and BMI calculation, blood tests, urinalysis and mental health screening
  • Dental exam and cleaning—Every 6 months to 1 year or as recommended
  • Comprehensive eye exam—every 2 years or as recommended
  • Blood pressure screening—Every 2 years or as recommended; more often if you have hypertension or other conditions like diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease; ask your health care provider about the benefits and risks of aspirin therapy to reduce heart attack and stroke risk
  • Cholesterol screening—Every 5 years or as recommended
  • Diabetes screening—as recommended in people at increased risk and those with certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure
  • Baseline skin exam to determine your skin cancer risk—subsequent exams may be performed every 3 months to 3–4 years, depending on your risk
  • Baseline EKG (electrocardiogram)
  • Colorectal cancer screening—beginning at age 45 if at increased risk (e.g., due to family history of the disease)
  • Immunizations—Annual flu (influenza) vaccine, tetanus booster (every 10 years), pneumococcal and hepatitis vaccines (as recommended)
  • Additional screening tests for women in their 40s—Annual clinical breast exam , pelvic exam and mammogram; Pap test and bone density test (as recommended)
  • Additional screening tests for men in their 40s—Testicular exam at every physical exam or as recommended; talk to your doctor about PSA screening and prostate cancer risk

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 19 Jul 2012

Last Modified: 20 Jul 2012