Health check­list

for over 40s

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

There is no louder wake-up call than cross­ing the thresh­old into mid­dle age. Turn­ing 40, ac­cord­ing to cancer spe­cial­ist Dr David Agus, is when we be­gin to ques­tion our mor­tal­ity and take stock of our seden­tary, desk-bound lives – and rightly so, given that in our fourth decade we put on weight more eas­ily, get in­suf­fer­able hang­overs, take longer to get fit and re­cover from in­jury more slowly.

“This is when we be­gin to lis­ten to our bod­ies and avoid the things we know to be bad for us,” he says.

All is not lost, thank­fully, even if you have spent the past few years sit­ting on the sofa drink­ing wine.

The good news is, if we live more healthily and ex­er­cise reg­u­larly, we can en­joy a longer fuller life. “Dis­ease is of­ten a prob­lem in our fifth, sixth and seventh decades and we can do much to pre­vent it dur­ing our 40s,” Dr Agus says.

Life is against us, though, as we reach this mid­point. Our 40s, ac­cord­ing to Dr Muir Gray, au­thor of Midlife: Look Younger, Live

Longer, Feel Bet­ter, is our most chal­leng­ing decade to date – we’re the “sand­wich gen­er­a­tion”, jug­gling par­ent­ing, age­ing parents and our ca­reers. “The ad­ven­turer Bear

Grylls lives a very low-risk life com­pared to those who com­mute, sit at a desk and stare at a screen,” he says. “All these cause stress and in­flam­ma­tion, which de­crease the qual­ity and length of our lives.”

In your 40s you have to train more, not just in terms of ex­er­cise but in the way you work, eat, re­lax and sleep, he con­tin­ues. “The main prob­lem is stress – you’ve got to be dis­ci­plined in or­der to cope with life’s pres­sures.”

While we can’t slow down the natural pas­sage of time, if we de­velop the right at­ti­tude to our ad­vanc­ing years, we can feel younger and more en­er­getic. “Now is the time to start car­ing for your­self,” Dr Gray ex­plains. “Re­mem­ber: midlife is not the be­gin­ning of the end but the end of the be­gin­ning.”


Drink full-fat milk Par­tic­u­larly af­ter ex­er­cise, as this can help com­bat the re­duc­tion in mus­cle mass as­so­ci­ated with get­ting older, es­pe­cially once you’re in your 50s. It also con­tains cal­cium, which is es­sen­tial for our bone health.

You are not a cow Re­search sug­gests that those who graze are at greater risk of di­a­betes. “We weren’t made to eat all the time, and if we do our bod­ies be­come re­sis­tant to in­sulin,” Dr Agus says. Avoid eat­ing in front of the tele­vi­sion, use smaller plates and put all bis­cuits and cakes out of sight, says Dr Gray. “Eat slowly, putting your knife and fork down be­tween ev­ery mouth­ful.”

Say no to shiny pack­ets Ar­ti­fi­cial in­gre­di­ents – from sweet­en­ers to the chemical preser­va­tives in pro­cessed foods – ac­cel­er­ate age­ing and lead to in­flam­ma­tion and cell death, ac­cord­ing to nu­tri­tion­ist Dr Josh Axe ( David Mar­shall, a per­sonal trainer and au­thor of fit­ness guide Body­doc­tor, sug­gests eat­ing food that re­quires plenty of chew­ing with no E-numbers. “If it can be added, it should be avoided,” he says.

Take pro­bi­otics In­flam­ma­tion caused by the mi­cro­bial ac­tiv­ity in our gut can cause age­ing, par­tic­u­larly of the skin, says Liz Earle, au­thor of

The Good Gut Guide. “The healthy bac­te­ria and lacto­fer­rin found in plain live yo­ghurt can dra­mat­i­cally im­prove our lev­els of skin-friendly flora, which in turn leads to smoother, clearer skin, es­pe­cially for those prone to adul­ton­set acne or rosacea.” Drink cof­fee and tea – yes, you can

Too much caf­feine is de­hy­drat­ing and in­creases in­flam­ma­tion, but there is noth­ing wrong with cof­fee in mod­er­a­tion – caf­feine is thought to re­duce the risk of Alzheimer’s and it can en­hance phys­i­cal per­for­mance; per­sonal trainer David Mar­shall sug­gests a cup be­fore ex­er­cise. Mean­while, teas such as rooi­bos, black, green and white teas and oo­long teas con­tain an­tiox­i­dants thought to com­bat the age­ing process. Eat Mediter­ranean Swap red meat for or­ganic white meat, but­ter for olive oil and go easy on carbs, says Dr Gray, who also rec­om­mends pur­ple foods, which con­tain polyphe­nols as­so­ci­ated with a longer life, and pulses and lentils. Dr Axe sug­gests we add turmeric to our di­ets, which is thought to fight in­flam­ma­tion, arthri­tis, de­pres­sion and pain, while Liz Earle rec­om­mends al­monds and sun­flower seeds for their skin-plump­ing prop­er­ties. It’s not fat that makes you fat… It’s sugar, says David Mar­shall. Sugar also pro­motes a process called gly­ca­tion, which dam­ages cells and causes wrin­kles. “This doesn’t just mean avoid­ing sug­ary muffins and choco­late bars, but also sim­ple car­bo­hy­drates, such as white rice and pota­toes,” he says.

Tame your tip­pling… You don’t have to give up booze en­tirely, says Dr Gray, but it is sen­si­ble to have al­co­hol­free days as you age. His rule is one day a week in your 40s, two in your 50s and so on. “I’m in my 70s and I feel much bet­ter if I have four days with­out al­co­hol,” he says.

and don’t get drunk Too much al­co­hol leads to a bad night’s sleep. “It’s a ques­tion of work­ing out how much you can drink and still sleep through the night, and then never drink­ing more than that,” says Dr Agus. “I know that if I have one-and-three-quar­ter glasses of wine I am fine, but we all metabolise dif­fer­ently.”


Get to­gether We live longer if we live with some­one else, ac­cord­ing to Dr Agus, and if we don’t we should make an ef­fort to so­cialise reg­u­larly.>>

“Life is about hav­ing some­one to en­joy it with – we tend to do more if we have some­one to share it with,” he says. So get out there with your part­ner, or friends, or join a group to meet peo­ple and share ex­pe­ri­ences.

Re­lax! Midlife is a chal­leng­ing time for the mind and it is es­sen­tial to find ways to switch off, says Dr Gray. Take a cou­ple of min­utes to no­tice your breath­ing five times a day and ev­ery evening do some­thing that takes your mind off work and the stresses of your life: a long bath, read­ing a novel, gar­den­ing or yoga.

Get out Re­search by the Univer­sity of Michi­gan sug­gests that tak­ing walks in na­ture is as­so­ci­ated with a whole host of men­tal health ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing de­creased de­pres­sion, im­proved well­be­ing and men­tal health and lower stress lev­els. Stand up at your desk If you stand for eight min­utes of ev­ery half an hour you are at work, and move around for at least two min­utes, you can ex­pe­ri­ence lower lev­els of blood sugar and choles­terol, re­duced weight and im­proved con­cen­tra­tion, ac­cord­ing to a study by Cor­nell Univer­sity.

Form habits Our bod­ies thrive on reg­u­lar­ity, ac­cord­ing to Dr Agus. Try to get up and go to bed at roughly the same time each day and eat at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals for im­proved men­tal and phys­i­cal health. Sleep cool, dark and quiet Stud­ies show that those who live near an air­port live shorter lives. “The brain needs quiet while it is rest­ing,” says Dr Agus, who rec­om­mends in­vest­ing in black-out blinds and ear plugs.

It is es­sen­tial to fo­cus on get­ting qual­ity sleep as it has a long-term im­pact on our phys­i­cal and men­tal health as well as our weight and dis­or­ders as­so­ci­ated with car­diac func­tion and di­a­betes, agrees sleep spe­cial­ist Prof Jason El­lis.

“As we age we be­come more sus­cep­ti­ble to night-time wake-ups, so we need to work at cre­at­ing a calm en­vi­ron­ment that max­imises your chance of a good night’s sleep,” he says.

No screens be­fore bed Stop star­ing at your lap­top or phone an hour be­fore you want to sleep – stud­ies have shown that ex­po­sure to the blue-and-white light given off by these gad­gets pre­vents our brains from re­leas­ing me­la­tonin, a hor­mone that tells our bod­ies it’s night-time.

If, like Dr Agus, you are not pre­pared to give up the screen, in­vest in a pair of “geek” glasses, de­signed for gamers, with lenses that fil­ter the wave­lengths that the brain con­fuses with sun­light.

No gorg­ing af­ter 9pm Prof El­lis sug­gests lim­it­ing the amount of food and drink we con­sume in the hours be­fore bed­time to im­prove the qual­ity of our sleep. “Don’t down a pint of wa­ter be­fore bed; in­stead, sip wa­ter through­out the evening and eat ear­lier in the evening,” he says. “If the body is try­ing to digest and sleep at the same time, as you get older, di­ges­tion wins and you wake up.” In­vest in good-qual­ity bed­ding

Your mat­tress doesn’t have to cost a for­tune, but it must be com­fort­able to en­cour­age deep sleep, Prof El­lis says, and the same goes for your bed­li­nen.

While he doesn’t rec­om­mend sleep­ing in a sep­a­rate bed from your part­ner, he does sug­gest in­vest­ing in sep­a­rate du­vets to min­imise dis­tur­bance. “This way you cus­tomise the tog and fill­ing,” he says. “Don’t settle for two sin­gle du­vets, though; go for two dou­bles so you never feel short­changed.”

Con­quer your snor­ing Snor­ing is one of the ma­jor ob­sta­cles to a good night’s sleep and tends to get louder and more prob­lem­atic with age. Dr El­lis rec­om­mends snor­ers con­sider a mandibu­lar ad­vance­ment de­vice, an in­ex­pen­sive gum-shield style of con­trap­tion, which holds the lower jaw and tongue slightly for­ward to make more space for breath­ing and is proven to pre­vent snor­ing and mild to mod­er­ate sleep ap­noea.


Take as­pirin A low dose of as­pirin daily has been shown to lower the risk of heart at­tacks and strokes and can also, ac­cord­ing to re­search by Prof Peter Roth­well of Ox­ford Univer­sity, cut the risk of de­vel­op­ing cancer.

There are side ef­fects – as­pirin can in­crease the risk of de­vel­op­ing a stom­ach ul­cer and cause breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, so you should al­ways con­sult your doc­tor – but the ben­e­fits far out­weigh the risks, ac­cord­ing to Dr Agus. Don’t smoke And if you do, now is the time to give up. Re­search shows that those who quit smok­ing be­fore they turn 44 can live al­most as long as peo­ple who never smoked. In New Zealand, smok­ing is re­spon­si­ble for 5000 deaths a year, and about half of long-term cig­a­rette smok­ers will be killed by their ad­dic­tion. Get real about your skin A visit to a cos­metic der­ma­tol­o­gist is a good idea once you hit 40, to help you adapt your sk­in­care rou­tine to your age­ing skin with­out wast­ing money on

beauty prod­ucts that don’t work, says der­ma­tol­o­gist Dr Sam Bunt­ing. She rec­om­mends us­ing a retinoid cream at night, to in­crease skin cell turnover and stim­u­late col­la­gen syn­the­sis, while sk­in­care ex­pert Sarah Chap­man sug­gests a serum with an­tiox­i­dants, pep­tides and vi­ta­mins. Ex­fo­li­ate

reg­u­larly Ex­fo­li­ate both face and body, to re­move dead skin and speed up cell re­newal – but be gen­tle, as af­ter 40 your skin is more del­i­cate. For a glow­ing com­plex­ion, Sarah Chap­man rec­om­mends acid ex­fo­liants such as lac­tic acid, while make-up artist Jemma Kidd uses a dry body brush on her legs three or four times a week.

In­vest in your hair You should pay at­ten­tion to your hair as much as your face once you hit mid­dle age, says Lon­don hair­styl­ist Gary Gloss­man. “Hair be­comes drier and less sup­ple as it ages, so ap­ply reg­u­lar treat­ments such as masks,” he says. Cut­ting a fringe is a great way for women to “anti age” their look, he says, and keep­ing your hair­style cur­rent can also help you keep your ap­pear­ance younger looking.

Wear SPF sun cream daily Sun ex­po­sure is the main cause of pre­ma­ture skin age­ing – ul­tra­vi­o­let light speeds the for­ma­tion of lines, wrin­kles, and sun spots, while dam­ag­ing the skin’s abil­ity to re­pair it­self. Once you’re 40, wear at least SPF15 ev­ery day and SPF30 to 50 dur­ing the sum­mer. “It’s a good idea to choose one that func­tions as a primer whilst also pro­tect­ing from UV,” sug­gests Dr Sam Bunt­ing.

Brush your teeth Gum dis­ease not only causes bad breath but it is linked

to heart dis­ease, strokes and di­a­betes. Brush for two min­utes twice a day us­ing an elec­tric toothbrush, floss or use in­ter­den­tal brushes, and see the den­tist and hy­gien­ist as of­ten as they rec­om­mend, says den­tist Dr Nigel Carter. “There’s no point liv­ing into your 80s if you’ve got no teeth to eat with,” adds Dr Agus.

Stay away from the knife Avoid do­ing anything ir­re­versible to your body, warns Dr Agus. Not only will you have to re­cover from surgery, which puts strain on your body, but it is im­pos­si­ble to know how your cos­metic surgery will age.

Look af­ter your feet Now is the time to take stock of your foot health, as foot prob­lems can lead to knee, hip and back pain. Cut your toe­nails reg­u­larly, wash, dry and mois­turise your feet af­ter wash­ing, and only wear com­fort­able shoes –no high heels, ac­cord­ing to Dr Agus. The Alexan­der tech­nique and Pi­lates can build up foot strength, which will in turn help your pos­ture. See your doc and get your jabs

Treat aches, pains and ill­ness quickly to avoid them be­com­ing chronic, says Dr Agus, and keep up to date with your jabs, in­clud­ing the an­nual flu jab. He also rec­om­mends get­ting your choles­terol checked once you hit 40, as well as your CRP (C-re­ac­tive pro­tein, a mea­sure of in­flam­ma­tion in the body), CMP (com­pre­hen­sive meta­bolic panel, a mea­sure of liver and kid­ney func­tion, as well as con­di­tions such as di­a­betes) and haemoglobin A1c (your av­er­age blood-sugar level).


Walk ev­ery­where

Move­ment over time equals health, ac­cord­ing to Dr Agus. The sim­ple act of walk­ing in­creases stamina and fit­ness and re­duces stress. “The aim should be

150 min­utes of brisk walk­ing ev­ery week – take the stairs at work, get off the bus two stops early, anything to make you walk,” says Dr Gray.

Push your­self Ex­er­cis­ing shouldn’t be painful but, for max­i­mum re­sults, it should be un­com­fort­able, ac­cord­ing to Dr Agus. “Do yoga and Pi­lates be­cause you find them dif­fi­cult, not be­cause you find them easy,” he says.

Be an early bird As you get older, your me­tab­o­lism be­gins to slow down – if you ex­er­cise ear­lier in the day you will el­e­vate it for longer, says David Mar­shall from Body­doc­tor. “If you ex­er­cise just be­fore din­ner you will end up going to bed on a stom­ach full of undi­gested food and your me­tab­o­lism will plum­met.

Stand up straight! The bent sil­hou­ette of an el­derly per­son on road signs is only oc­ca­sion­ally the re­sult of spine dis­ease – more of­ten it is due to poor pos­ture ear­lier in life. Take up Pi­lates or the Alexan­der Tech­nique and never look at your phone as you walk. Ev­ery inch your head is ahead of the true ver­ti­cal line in­creases the weight your neck mus­cles have to>>

Do some­thing that takes your mind off work and the stresses of your life.

hold by 4.5kg. “If you do it for long enough, your head will per­ma­nently poke for­ward like a tor­toise,” he says.

‘LISS’ is more Low-in­ten­sity train­ing (oth­er­wise known as LISS) is not only kinder on joints than HIT – high­in­ten­sity train­ing – with less chance of in­jury, but it is proven to be more ef­fec­tive at in­creas­ing fit­ness and psy­cho­log­i­cal health and aid­ing weight loss. The in­ten­sity of a LISS work­out is be­tween 60 and 80 per cent max­i­mal heart rate for at least 40-60 min­utes. To es­tab­lish your op­ti­mum heart rate for a LISS work­out, sub­tract your age from 220. Your LISS heart rate will be 60-70 per cent of this fig­ure.

Ac­cept change The phys­i­o­log­i­cal changes that hap­pen to the body at this age cause loss of mus­cle, re­duc­tion in bone qual­ity and a re­duc­tion in max­i­mal oxy­gen up­take – how much oxy­gen it can take in and use – which es­sen­tially means a smaller “engine”, ex­plains older ath­lete spe­cial­ist Richard Bren­nan. All this means you might not per­form as well as you used to and re­cov­ery will take longer – go with it.

Lift weights Each decade af­ter 30, our mus­cles de­cline by up to eight per cent. This is why strength train­ing is key for main­tain­ing mus­cle mass, pre­vent­ing os­teo­poro­sis and burn­ing fat, says David Mar­shall. “You need to work out all your body, not just parts of it,” he says. Com­pared to car­dio­vas­cu­lar ex­er­cise, such as run­ning, re­sis­tance train­ing burns some 25 per cent more ad­di­tional calo­ries in the first hour fol­low­ing your work­out and may keep your rest­ing meta­bolic rate el­e­vated for up to 72 hours af­ter­wards.

Track your progress Wear­able technology such as a smart watch or FitBit can be a help­ful way to track your steps and work­outs and keep you mo­ti­vated, or you could down­load the One You Ac­tive 10 Walk­ing Tracker app, avail­able on iTunes or Google Play. “It’s not about 10,000 steps, it’s about mov­ing as much as pos­si­ble,” says Dr Gray.

Take up a new sport Now is the time to take up a new sport, ac­cord­ing to Dr Gray, to im­prove your balance and hand-eye co-or­di­na­tion as you hit mid­dle age. He rec­om­mends join­ing an age-spe­cific group or tak­ing up a so­cial sport, such as golf, that can be played into old age.

Get a dog If you want to get fit, get a dog. A dog pro­vides the per­fect an­ti­dote to a seden­tary life, es­pe­cially if you work from home, and is the most un­com­pli­cated of work­out com­pan­ions. There are even stud­ies to show dog own­ers get more ex­er­cise than the av­er­age gym goer.

“It’s not about 10,000 steps, it’s about mov­ing as much as pos­si­ble.”

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