Your 40s should be an exciting time filled with many healthy years, but there’s certain things we just can’t do anymore like avoiding exercise, eating like we’re teenagers and skipping medical screenings. Stopping bad habits now can help make your 40s a great decade so read the 10 tips below medical experts told Eat This, Not That! Health that will help you stay healthy longer. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Forgetting to Train the Brain
Dr. Vernon Williams, MD, sports neurologist and director of the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, CA says, “In the mainstream media, we see a lot of discussion about brain function as it relates to traumatic injury or a chronic condition like Alzheimer’s disease. In this way, the brain is seen as a passive organ or one that some unforeseen event happens to. But would it surprise you to know that the brain is a muscle that needs and can benefit greatly from focused and consistent exercise? It’s true. And many of today’s elite athletes are focusing on brain training to help them strengthen their approach to how they compete. But you needn’t be an athlete to reap the mental and physical rewards of exercising the brain. Much like the muscles in our bodies, our mental capacity is also subject to a type of ‘use it or lose it’ effect. But not every brain-boosting activity is created equal. Research has found that the most effective brain exercises break up your regular routine and challenge you enough to develop new pathways in the brain. Today, there are a variety of brain training programs, smartphone apps and other ‘gimmicks’ that claim to strengthen the brain’s performance. While some may be interesting, you don’t need to pay a subscription fee to reap their benefits.
- It involves something you haven’t learned before. This could be learning a foreign language, a new sport or even just taking a different route to work in the morning. The point is that it needs to be new and unfamiliar.
- It’s not easy. Challenging exercises, whether physical or mental, increase neural pathways because they demand focused effort.
- It develops a skill that can be built on. Find something that you can begin at a simple level and increase as you master each phase of performance. Various sports as well as other activities can offer this type of “building block” performance challenge.
- It pays off. Our brains are wired to appreciate rewards. Choose activities that are challenging but enjoyable.”
Stop with the bad posture, Dr. Neel Anand, MD, MCh Orth, professor of orthopaedic surgery and director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles says: “Back pain, specifically low back pain, can be caused by poor posture and weak abdominal muscles. And those are the specific areas that need to be targeted and strengthened to relieve the pain and prevent future flare-ups.
Maintaining posture is not only crucial when exercising, but in everyday life as well. ‘Bad’ posture is one of the top causes of chronic aching backs, and here’s why. The spine has three natural curves: a forward curve at the neck, a backward curve at the upper back, and a forward curve at the lower back. Good posture, with the spine aligned straight over the pelvis, helps maintain these natural curves, while a hunched posture can pull the muscles and add additional stress to certain areas. The upper back muscles will become overly developed and as the lower back and core muscles try to compensate, horrible back pain may ensue.
If you’re like most people, especially as they get older, it becomes second nature to walk around with bad posture or sit hunched over at a desk, and some people don’t even realize they are doing it. When you slouch, the muscles and ligaments in the back strain and work double-time to keep you balanced. The first steps in correcting this is to simply concentrate on sitting up straight and pulling your shoulders back and down when either sitting, standing, or walking. Correcting your posture can feel very odd at first because it is not a position our bodies have become unaccustomed to holding; but practicing over time and holding your back in healthy posture will eventually become second nature. It can be tough at first, but using these tips can be helpful:
Sit up straight in a chair with your hands on your thighs and your shoulders down. Pull your shoulders back and squeeze the shoulder blades together and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat this three or four times daily to strengthen those back muscles used for perfect posture.
Look at yourself in the mirror until you become more comfortable with the feel of good posture, glance at yourself in the mirror when you have the chance to get a good visual of your stance, and adjust your shoulders down and back accordingly. Some people even find it helpful to imagine a string down the center of their bodies from the ceiling to the floor, ‘pulling’ their head upwards to keep a long and straight spine.
The torso is a combination of muscles that all work together, and if the muscles in the front (the abdomen) are weak, guess which ones must pick up the slack – the lower muscles at the back of the torso. Weak abdominal muscles end up diverting the extra stress around the back, which leave the muscles overworked, sore and painful. Most everyone living with chronic back pain can benefit from strengthening their core muscles and introducing only a few exercises a day can help to improve the pain.
Here are a few abdominal strengthening exercises you can try at home:
Planks – start by lying on your stomach on the floor, place your feet shoulder width apart, and come up into a position like you were going to do a push-up. Instead of going down into the push-up, hold the plank position for about 30 seconds and then repeat three times (with a short break in between). Do this in the morning, evening, or both as you begin to get stronger.
Ab Crunch — but if you are going to do these, make sure your positioning and form are correct and also that you incorporate different types of crunches, to avoid further harming the back. Start these by lying flat on the floor on your back, bend the knees at a 90 degree angle, and focus on bringing your head and chest up to the ceiling. Try 5 sets of 10 to start, and increase as you build more stamina; but remember with these exercises maintaining a properly aligned posture is imperative to avoid any further injury!”
Starting a Workout Program Too Fast
Dr. Bert Mandelbaum, MD, sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, CA and author of The Win Within: Capturing Your Victorious Spirit states, “Along with new fitness activity for anyone who hasn’t engaged in it regularly comes a real risk for injury, which can range from fractures, sprains, strains, or knee and back pain. Whether you’ve been exercising for years and want to bump up the intensity, or you’re brand new to it, safety remains at the top of the priority list. Avoiding injury will enable you to keep moving toward your fitness goals. Because the last thing you want to do is end up on the sidelines nursing an injury and pushing pause on all your progress. So, before you go out and jump full speed into a new work-out regimen, here’s what you need to know to safely stay on track:
- Warm up and cool down
Just like you wouldn’t start up a car that’s been parked all winter long and zoom down the driveway before giving it time to warm up, the same goes for your body. We need a few minutes of warm-up time before any physical activity to get the blood flowing, and give the muscles and joints a heads-up that they’re about to be put to work, as cold muscles are much less flexible and much more prone to injury. A five minute warm-up of lower intensity activity is all you need before diving into the real workout. Something like brisk walking, jump roping, jumping jacks, or an elliptical trainer is a perfect transition before picking up the pace. At the end of a cardiovascular warm up, a few more minutes of muscle stretching is always recommended. Remember the point of stretching is not to force the muscles, but to allow them to move with the weight of your body, slowly and gently. Hold each muscle group in a stretch for about thirty seconds, and always do the stretching after the warm-up, never before. Cooling down is just as important as warming up, it allows your heart rate to slowly come back to a resting rate and makes recovery easier on the body. Stretching again after a cool down will loosen any tight muscles and increase flexibility, which will help for the next workout.
- Have a consistent workout plan
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘consistency is key?’ Well, this definitely rings true for physical activity too. It is much more beneficial on your body to exercise for thirty minutes daily, than to cram it all in over the weekend. I completely understand that life gets busy, and sometimes the weekends are the best (and only) free time we have to get a solid workout in. But don’t forget that simple things like walking the dog, raking leaves, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator all count as exercise. If you just don’t have the time for thirty minutes all together, break it up into two 15 minute sets a day. Getting some sort of daily exercise is healthier on your body than pulling a ‘weekend warrior,’ reduces the risk of injury, and will also make it possible to actually improve your fitness level as you build it up more every day.
- Vary your exercises.
One of the most common injuries related to exercise are those caused by overuse. Repetitive motion over time can really wear down and stress the muscles and joints, and make them more prone to injury. Avoiding this is easy, by simply varying your workouts. Instead of doing the exact same exercise 3 or 4 days in a row, switch it up and alternate with something different for one or two of the days. This engages a new set of muscles and gives the ones you just worked a chance to rest. Incorporate cardiovascular, weight training, and flexibility exercises – doing this will not only make sure every part of your body is getting stronger, but will also keep you from getting bored with the same pattern every day. If there’s one thing people say deters them from working out, it’s boredom. So have some different exercises on hand to keep the workouts exciting, and to minimize injury risk at the same time.
Whether you’re new to exercise or not, please remember that pain is not always gained. Yes there may be some level of difficulty as you build up your stamina and strength, but pain is never a good thing, and you can get fit without pushing yourself to the point of hurting. If you do feel pain, it may be an injury, so the best bet is to stop exercising, take the rest of the day off and revisit how you feel the following day.”
Dr. S. Adam Ramin, MD, urologic surgeon and medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles says, ” QUIT…NOW! With all of the information that’s out there about what a significant health risk it is, too many people still smoke. But know this: smoking isn’t just detrimental to your lungs. Your kidneys and bladder, your body’s filtration system, must process the toxins from cigarette smoke too. They weren’t made for such a burden. It kills them. Literally. From the risk of kidney failure to multiple types of urological cancers, smoking is one lifestyle habit that really isn’t worth it. Your lungs won’t be the only organs that breathe a sigh of relief.”
Not Monitoring Blood Pressure
Dr. Ramin asks, “Did you know high blood pressure isn’t only bad for your heart? It has serious and lasting effects on your kidneys too. In fact, uncontrolled high blood pressure is among the leading causes of kidney failure in the United States. But if you start early enough, before problems arise, keeping your blood pressure at a normal rate and your kidneys in proper working order can be easily accomplished with lifestyle modifications.”
“Obesity is among the highest risk factors for a host of cancers, including bladder and kidney,” Dr. Ramin explains. “But you may be surprised to learn that studies have shown that simply being overweight, not necessarily clinically obese, also increases risk. The great news? Unlike genetic or hereditary factors that we can’t control, obesity is preventable. Commit your 40s to maintaining a healthy weight, for your overall AND urological health.”
Not Getting Screening for Low T
According to Dr. Ramin, “For most men over 45, about 4 out of 10 suffer from Low T and there’s a lot more attention paid to testosterone issues today. Some of my patients are proactive and come into my office to find out about their levels. But others may not want to talk about it at all. The most common misconception is that low testosterone causes erectile dysfunction. The fact of the matter is that low testosterone doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the physical ability to get or maintain an erection. It has more to do with low desire and libido. The good news is that this condition should not be anything a man feels ashamed of and it is very treatable. There are a number of natural ways to raise testosterone, including engaging in exercise several times a week and, which can be a direct result of it – weight loss for men who are overweight. In other situations, a doctor may suggest starting hormone replacement therapy which includes giving testosterone in an injection, patch, gel, or tablets to raise his levels back to a normal, healthy range.”
Ignoring Prostate Health & Not Getting Screened
“Outside of skin cancer, prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer cause for men in the United States, with up to 1 in 9 receiving the diagnosis at some point in their lives. The great news is that most men have a high probability of surviving the disease, though as is the case with many cancer types, that likelihood decreases as the disease advances. Often, early on in cancer’s development, a man remains symptom-free. So, if we know that cancers caught and treated sooner give men a higher chance of survival, how does a man know what to look for? I bet you know the answer – REGULAR physicals. It’s that simple. Men who receive regular checkups and prostate examinations after age 50 have a much higher likelihood that cancer would be discovered and diagnosed at an earlier stage. I know it is common practice for many men to avoid the doctor when something doesn’t feel “wrong,” but it’s an inadequate approach to your health. Schedule your physical; it’s ALWAYS worth it.”
Not Getting a Colonoscopy
Dr. Ashkan Farhadi, MD, gastroenterologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA explains, “Based on current recommendations of major gastrointestinal scientific societies, the first colorectal cancer screening should be performed at age 50 – if there is no history of colorectal cancer in the family. Recently some societies opted to set the age to 45, but this is still not a standard of care.
Colonoscopy is the best method to get screened for a very common but preventable form of cancer in the USA. Currently 6% of individuals will suffer from this common form of cancer during their lifetime which can be prevented if they have a proper screening.”
Still Pulling All-Nighters
Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson, aka “The VibrantDoc”, a recognized leader in functional medicine and author of the new self-care book Vibrant: A Groundbreaking Program to Get Energized, Reverse Aging, and Glow says, “Just because you could pull all-nighters (mostly) successfully during finals week back in the day doesn’t mean you should be doing it now. Sleep is absolutely critical as you get older. Many different studies have shown that adults who regularly sleep less than 7 hours a night are more likely to get heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and depression. They may be more likely to develop dementia, since the glymphatic system cleans the brain of waste during deep sleep, which may get shortened in people who stay up too late. Sleeping fewer than 5 hours per day raises the risk of premature death, and staying up late is associated with more health problems, mood disturbances, more trouble with cognition, and weaker grip strength. The body heals and repairs itself during sleep, consolidating memories and helping to regulate appetite and mood. Not getting enough sleep is associated with carb cravings and weight gain, as well as mood disorders like depression and anxiety. If you’re not in the good habit of getting a good 7 to 9 hours of sleep on most nights, try creating a relaxing bedtime routine you do every night (warm bath, reading, meditating, quiet peaceful conversations), making your room as clean, cool, and dark as possible when you are sleeping, and turning in at the same time on most nights. This can help ease you back into a healthful sleep routine that can keep you younger and healthier, and might even help you live longer.” And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.