Remember when your back didn’t bother you and chronic diseases were low on your list of concerns? If you are 40 and better, you might feel just as adventurous as when you were 25, only wiser. With wisdom comes the realization that it’s vital to put your health first, so you can continue enjoying the things and people you love.
There are many things you can do to take care of yourself at any age. Below are the highlights, but be sure to ask your doctor about other steps — and don’t delay getting symptoms checked because you’re busy taking care of others. Early action can head off problems in the future. See downloadable prevention guidelines at the end of this post.
Your 30s: Prime time to lay the foundation for your future health.
- The best thing you can do for yourself is avoid smoking.
- Create good eating and exercise habits now.
- Have your annual GYN exams and talk with your doctor about your Body Mass Index (BMI).
- Have your blood pressure checked and your cholesterol tested. Controlling these two risk factors early can greatly lessen your chances of heart disease later.
- Perform a breast self-exam every month, and get a clinical breast check at least every three years
Your 40s: Turn awareness into action.
- Get a full checkup that includes a discussion about your BMI, sleep habits, and how much exercise is appropriate for you. The general recommendation is 30 minutes of exercise daily: a brisk walk, aerobics or bicycling — enough to break a sweat.
- Have your blood pressure and your cholesterol checked.
- Ask about a bone density screening.
- Continue your yearly pelvic exam and make sure a pap test is performed at least every three years
- Have a talk with your doctor about mammograms. The guidelines vary, but know that most doctors support mammogram screening beginning at age 40. The frequency might depend on your family history and other risk factors that you and your doctor can discuss together.
Your 50s: Cultivate your vitality.
- A full checkup includes your BMI, thyroid test, bone density and Hepatitis C screening (a one-time screening if your were born between 1945 and 1965).
- Be vigilant about your blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Get screened for diabetes if you have sustained blood pressure greater than 135/80, take medicine for high blood pressure or are at risk of developing diabetes.
- Continue your mammograms as discussed with your doctor.
- Begin scheduling your colonoscopies, first one at age 50, and talk with your doctor about how often they need to happen and the best procedure for you.
Your 60s: Time to nurture yourself and mentor the next generation.
- Keep moving.
- Keep an eye on your sleeping habits and your blood pressure.
- Get a bone mineral test around age 65. Talk to your doctor about repeat testing.
- Continue your breast self-exams and discuss the mammogram schedule that’s right for you with your doctor.
- Continue your doctor’s recommendations for colorectal cancer screening.
- Pay attention to any changes in your skin, including moles or discoloration. Include a skin check with your yearly checkup.
Your 70s and beyond: This is the time to give and accept help.
- Reflect on your achievements.
- Stay active — physically and socially.
- Continue checking your blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Have a mammogram every 1-2 years through age 74.
- Check your skin for any changes.
- Remember your flu vaccine every year.
- Most importantly, keep moving and enjoying the things you love.
Tell us what else you are doing to help prevent future illness and optimize your quality of life. Post a comment on this blog.
The Good News
Most chronic illnesses can be prevented or managed by improving lifestyle habits, including diet and exercise — and it’s never too late to make positive changes. See 8 keys to making lasting changes in your diet for more great tips.