If you're like many of us, you may have breezed through the first two decades of adult life without paying much attention to health issues. But moving into your 40's and 50's means it's time to take a look at some health and diet considerations you may not have thought of when you were younger. As you approach middle age, making your health a priority through diet changes and preventative health checks can greatly impact your quality of life.
Take Note of Your Diet
Our bodies experience many changes in our 40's and 50's. As metabolism slows, and women experience the hormonal changes of menopause, it's important to focus on your diet and include more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains to prevent weight gain and rising cholesterol. Also, experts suggestincreasing your calcium intakeafter age 50 to 1,200 mg daily to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis.
Make Time for Mammograms
As you enter middle age, your doctor may advise screening tests for certain diseases and conditions based on your current health and family medical history. Screening tests may detect symptoms and abnormalities early on, increasing the chances of effective treatment. For example, the Mayo Clinic recommends mammograms for women 40 years of age and older. Their findings show that regular screenings reduce breast cancer deaths for women between 40 and 50 by 15 to 29 percent.
Colorectal Cancer Screening
Colorectal and stomach cancer may be detected early through screening tests as well, such as colonoscopies or faecal occult blood tests, which Cancer Care Australia recommends men and women have every two years starting at age 50.
Prostate Cancer, Lung Cancer, and Cervical Cancer Screenings
The American Cancer Society recommends regular cancer screenings for men and women according to your age. Men at a higher risk for prostate cancer based on family history should talk to their doctor about starting screenings by age 45, and depending on your smoking history, men and women should consider lung cancer screening by age 55. Women in their 40's should continue to get a Pap test and HPV test every five years, or at least a Pap test every three years.
Heart Disease, Stroke, Diabetes Testing
If you have a family history or lifestyle putting you at high risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or any other conditions, talk to your family doctor about the right time to start taking specialized screening tests, and which ones are covered by your health insurance.
For example, in the UK, adults between the ages of 40 and 74 can get an NHS Health Check free of charge to screen for heart issues, and the tests include blood pressure, cholesterol and BMI (body mass index).
Schedule these Health Checks Annually
By the time you reach age 50, you should schedule annual physical exams, according to Duke University's School of Medicine. Depending on your overall health and risk factors, scheduling an annual physical exam may be a good idea prior to age 50.
Continue to visit your dentist at least once every six months if you don't have dental problems, and arrange to have your eyes checked every two to four years. Be sure to let your optometrist know if you have a family history of glaucoma, cataracts, or age-related macular degeneration.
It’s important to remember that improving your eating habits and prioritizing wellness checks for age-related, lifestyle, and hereditary medical conditions may add years to your life and greatly improve your overall health.