Statistically, throughout the world, women outlive men. Part of that phenomenon is biological, but part of it is behavior. You don’t have to be a statistic! Planning to stay healthy now—no matter which decade you’re in—will help you live a longer life.
In your twenties, you’re strong and healthy. You can pretty much do whatever you want to do. But if you don’t have a long-range plan, you could find yourself in a health bind down the road. Here are some dos for your twenties.
- Eat a healthy diet. Yes, it’s easy to just grab a burger when you’re hungry, but making it a habit can lead to health problems in the long run. Choose healthy, nutrient-dense foods and drink lots and lots of water.
- Watch your portion sizes. Don’t fall into the trap of “super-sizing” everything because you feel hungry. Just slowing down the rate at which you eat will help you feel full without the extra calories.
- Get a good night’s sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours sleep for people in their twenties. And no, sleeping in on the weekends doesn’t “get you caught up.” The extra snoozing you do on Saturday or Sunday can make you feel more awake on Monday, but it does nothing to cure the fuzzy brain results of sleep debt. Try to sleep the same hours during the week and on weekends, too.
Wear sunscreen. Getting your vitamin D from being out in the sun is great, but even a mild sunburn means you’re getting too much sun. Excess UV rays affect your immune system and can lead to increased risk of skin cancer, dehydrating your body and speeding up the aging process.
In your thirties, you probably have less time to do the things you did in your twenties, so you’re probably a little less active. Now is a great time to buy a gym membership and use it. Outdoor activities are still one of the best ways to keep your body toned and fit while soaking in that vitamin D. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
- Talk to your doctor about health screenings. In your 30s is the time to establish baselines. Ask your physician to screen your kidneys, your liver, your blood sugar and your cholesterol. Making changes at this point is relatively easy. Don’t wait until it’s too hard.
- If you have to work to fit exercise in, make it a priority. A gym membership can help you stay in shape and may even be a place you can find new friends who can support you in your efforts to stay healthy. The gym coaches are great resources for exercises that help you tone any spots that are losing their prime condition.
- Stick to your healthy diet and moderate portions. Eat at the table without any distractions such as television or your cell phone. People who make it a habit to pay attention to their meals stay much healthier than those who munch mindlessly while watching TV. Make your menu as colorful as possible and eat lean meats for protein. Continue drinking lots of fluids and be moderate in your alcohol consumption. If you have started smoking, now is the time to stop.
In addition to your gym membership, make everything you do a little more challenging. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and get outside as often as you can. Managing stress is a little harder than it was in your thirties, so now is the time to find ways to let down. Many people find walking a great way to de-stress at the end of the day, even if it’s only a stroll.
- Don’t let your regular health screenings slip by. Be diligent about your annual physical and keep up with regular screenings. The sooner you catch problems that may be forming, the easier it will be to correct them. Based on your family history, are there problems you may be prone to? Talk them over with your physician.
- In order to lessen the impact of daily stress on your health, drink lots of water. Being dehydrated by just half a litre can raise your cortisol levels, according to Amanda Carlson, RD, who trains professional athletes. Don’t make the mistake of thinking all fluids are equal. Sodas and coffee are diuretics, wicking water out of your bodies.
- Watch your alcohol consumption. A couple of drinks a day can actually help you avoid coronary heart disease and perhaps even staving off Alzheimer’s disease. But overconsumption of alcohol is a killer.
- Up your exercise. Walk briskly for two miles to keep your body and mind healthy. Focus on keeping your joints moving and toning muscles. Walking also helps maintain healthy bones, because even men get osteoporosis (although not as frequently as women).
- Maintain a healthy weight. Levels of hormones that help you maintain muscle mass drop off in your 40s, so “middle age spread” is easy to develop. Adequate exercise and good nutrition can keep that belly flat and make your life much healthier.
You are probably flourishing in your job in your fifties. You’ve gained wisdom that comes from experience that makes you an asset to your company. Try to remember your job is what you do, not who you are. Being able to leave your work at work at the end of the day leads to a healthier, more satisfying life.
- Since you’re so busy at work, it may be easy to allow routine check-ups and screenings to slip. Don’t. Keep up your healthy regimens and discuss any changes with your doctor. Talk about supplements you may need to replace minerals and vitamins your body is no longer producing well on its own. You may take great satisfaction in your job, and that’s good. Just don’t let your health needs get pushed aside. Screen for blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, and testosterone. Your fifties is the time to start getting regular colonoscopies, too.
- Make sure you’re getting adequate exercise in your fifties. You may feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, but to be healthy into retirement, it’s important to schedule exercise sessions into your life, at least three to five days a week.
- Keep eating a nutrient-dense diet in moderate portions and drinking plenty of water throughout the day to keep you hydrated. Obesity leads to problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Even a few pounds add up. If you gain only 3 pounds over your ideal weight in a year, by the time a decade has gone by, you are thirty pounds overweight, and that’s a problem. Keep an eye on the scale.
- Avoid sugar. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, give yourself two weeks without sugar and the cravings will go away. Don’t substitute artificial sweeteners, though, or your body will simply continue wanting more sweets.
- Drink in moderation. It’s true that your body doesn’t metabolize alcohol as well as it did in your 30s and 40s, so understand that it will stay in your bloodstream longer than it used to, increasing the sedative effect it normally has. Discuss with your doctor how much you drink and whether any medications you are taking can be affected by alcohol.
You may be ready to retire in your mid to late sixties. Many men have a difficult time figuring out who they are as they leave the workplace, especially if they have found their sense of worth from what they do. Remember that what you do is not who you are. Start cultivating friendships that are your age and enjoy the same things you do so that you can support each other as your life changes.
- Get involved. Join community groups that focus on things you enjoy doing. Lend your wisdom to kids that need tutors to help them with their school work. Become a volunteer for a cause you believe in, or campaign for a politician you like.
- Start a hobby. Maybe you’ve never had time to enjoy something you like to do before, and now you do. Learn all there is to know about a subject you’re passionate about. Grow bonsai trees, read more books, write a book, join a chess club, or travel.
- Your regular health screenings are still important, so don’t neglect your doctor visits. Discuss any changes you notice and ask for help if you need it.
- Although you don’t need to exercise as vigorously as you did in your younger years, it’s still important to stay active and get some exercise every day. Focus on stretching your muscles and moving your joints. Swimming or yoga are two ways to have fun while keeping your body supple and pain-free.
People with the greatest longevity have something in common: purpose. Their lives are full and happy because they feel like they are contributing. Religion, community, family, and volunteering are good ways to know that you are contributing to your own life and those of others. Keep your brain sharp by being a perpetual student. There is always something new to learn, and one sure way to stay mentally sharp is to teach something you love.
- Learn your limitations. Carefully avoid falls as they can cause damage that may be slow to heal. If you need it, use a cane or a walker to keep you ambulatory. Walk with someone you love or with a friend to stay active.
- It may seem like it isn’t worth the effort to connect with friends and family, but staying connected is very important in your seventies. Turn off the television and call a friend to go out for lunch or take a swim class or go to a movie. Tell stories to your grandchildren or record them for posterity.
- It’s the rare seventy-year-old who is not taking some kind of medicine regularly. Speak to your doctor about any side effects or discomfort from medicines that have been prescribed and be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter.
Whatever decade you’re in, there’s always room for healthy improvement. Make the most out of your life by getting fit and strong and keep your heart, your mind, and your body active. Life awaits! Go out there and live it.