Remember when turning 40 was considered being “over the hill,” marked by a symbolic tombstone engraved RIP on top of a birthday cake?
Today, turning 40 is more synonymous with “running up a hill,” as women in this age bracket tend to be at the peak of busyness.
Surveys and census data show more women over the age of 40 are starting families, getting married (for the first or second time) and are at the pinnacle of their careers.
Over the hill? Hardly. But, running at such a fast pace up the hill can cause you to put your health on the back-burner and easily lead to making fatal mistakes that can potentially damage your health and shorten your lifespan. Mistake No. 1: Neglecting Heart Health
It is a common misperception that heart disease is primarily a man’s disease. But, this leading killer of men is also the leading killer in women. In fact, 10 times more women die of heart disease every year than from breast cancer.
There are simple diet and lifestyle habits that are very effective at preventing or even reversing this disease. For example, never smoke; favor a plant-based diet and nix the junk foods and carbs; exercise daily -- even a 30-minute brisk walk can significantly lower your risk; go to bed before 10 PM (staying up to midnight regularly can double your risk); and reduce the damaging effects of stress by practicing an effective stress-reducing techniques daily, such as meditation or yoga.
Certain supplements, including omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D3, can also help protect against several cardiovascular risk factors. Mistake No. 2: Mismanagement of Menopause
Early menopause is currently defined at age 44, but new research is showing menopause is hitting women even earlier. A recent study in the journal Human Reproduction
found that girls who start their periods at age 11 or younger are more likely to go through menopause in their 30s.
Being aware of the symptoms (mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, memory problems, irritability and fatigue) and knowing your options to manage menopause miseries will give you a leg up on addressing these issues before they become problematic.
Instead of running to your doctor for potentially health-damaging hormone replacement therapy, try to restore balance to your body naturally through healthy diet and lifestyle choices.
Certain herbs and supplements have also been shown to be helpful and safe. For example, Relizen
is a nutritional supplement that contains more than 180 nutrients derived from purified Swedish flower pollen. In all clinical studies of 300 or more women, Relizen was shown to significantly improve quality of sleep, diminish fatigue and irritability, reduce night sweats, and lower hot flash frequency and intensity. Other research-proven herbs that can help include black cohosh, maca and flax lignans. Mistake No. 3: Weight Gain Acceptance
Gaining weight is common with aging, but it’s not inevitable. Energy expenditures decrease after menopause due to loss of muscle and hormonal changes, making weight loss more difficult. Even small amounts of weight gain can negatively impact your health by increasing your risk of diabetes, arthritis and other chronic diseases.
Small diet and lifestyle changes can help you easily maintain your healthy weight. Changes can include swapping refined carbs with veggies and fruits; ditching fancy coffee for regular coffee; and eating your main meal by noon.
In addition to aerobic exercise, also include yoga for stress management and pumping iron to increase bone density. Find exercises you enjoy that can you can do for the rest of your life, like ballroom dancing, swimming or tennis. Stick to a routine, and recruit an exercise buddy if you have trouble staying motivated.Mistake No. 4: Not Loving Yourself
It’s particularly common for women to not practice self-care by age 40, after putting off their own needs to raise and nurture families.
Research shows being “in love” boosts your immune system, and generating self-love can have the same result.
How do you nurture self-love? Ask yourself every day, “What can I do to honor and love myself?” The answer may be having fresh flowers in your home, scheduling a massage, treating yourself to a movie, or simply spending quiet time alone to reflect on a few things you appreciate about yourself.
Love is an emotion that interacts with your mind and body through biochemical reactions, and has the most powerful positive influence your health. Loving others first begins with loving yourself.