Women's Health After 40: How to Lead a Healthy, Vibrant LifeBy Carole Anderson Lucia Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, R.D. Science-Backed
If you’re in your 40s, you’ve entered a phase of life that likely brings a new set of demands on your time and energy — like children going off to school or more tasks at work. At the same time, your body may be starting to feel just a bit … different. You may be noticing some stiffness in your joints that you didn’t have before, or perhaps you’re finding certain tasks a little more laborious.
We get it: It can be a lot to handle, with ever-changing challenges and commitments commanding your time and attention. But taking good care of yourself will help you stay healthy and vibrant, and give you the energy you need to handle all the responsibilities life throws your way.
Read on for seven ways to keep yourself at the top of your to-do list — and in top form — throughout your fourth decade.
1. Reduce your risk of diabetes
Diabetes is a serious condition that can damage many vital body systems over time, including your blood vessels, eyes, heart, kidneys and nerves.1
To help screen for the disease, the American Diabetes Association recommends that all adults get tested for diabetes beginning at the age of 45.2 Testing should begin earlier for people who are overweight or obese and who have at least one other risk factor, such as high blood pressure or a family history of diabetes. You should also be tested yearly if you have prediabetes.
To help prevent diabetes, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends losing weight and getting regular exercise as the two most important steps you can take.3 In fact, you may be able to lower your risk by losing 7% of your body weight and getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, such as walking briskly for 30 minutes, five days per week.3
2. Stay on top of your fluid intake
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash
As you age, you might experience a diminished sense of thirst, so it’s essential to drink enough fluid throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses daily.4 Use these 10 tips for drinking more water every day.
3. Keep your bones healthy
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the density and strength of your bones gradually begin to decline in your 40s.5 This increases your risk of osteoporosis, a type of bone loss that can lead to fractures.
To help keep your bones strong, the National Institute on Aging recommends that you:6
- Eat foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D. Good sources of calcium include plain nonfat Greek yogurt, part-skim mozzarella, nonfat or low-fat milk and soymilk.7 While few foods are naturally high in vitamin D, fortified foods, such as milk, are good sources. Other natural sources include fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna; egg yolks; and cheese. In addition, getting your daily dose of natural sunlight can help your body produce vitamin D.8
- Do regular weight-bearing exercise. Strength training, walking, hiking, climbing stairs, playing tennis and dancing are all good examples. Here are 5 more weight-bearing activities that are great for your bones.
4. Stay flexible
Photo by Burst on Pexels
You’ve probably heard that stretching exercises are good for you because they help keep your body strong and limber. But did you know they may also be good for your heart? According to research, poor flexibility in the trunk (torso) area, particularly in people over the age of 40, may be linked to arterial stiffening, which may increase the risk of cardiovascular disorders.9 Conversely, people who were flexible tended to have more elastic arteries, the researchers found.
The study authors concluded that flexibility exercises, such as stretching, yoga and Pilates, should be incorporated into your regular exercise routine to keep your body — and heart — healthy.
Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Yoga to get started.
5. Protect your sleep
If you find yourself tossing and turning most nights of the week, you’re not alone: Many people in their 40s find they have sleep problems.
- Don’t eat too close to bedtime. Also try to avoid carbonated drinks, which can trigger indigestion. These are the worst foods to eat before bed.
- Ditch the nightcap. Even though alcohol might help you fall asleep faster, your sleep can be disrupted later.
- Get regular exercise. Just 10 minutes of daily aerobic exercise can help you sleep better.
- Set the right temp. Your bedroom should be cool to get the best sleep, preferably between 60 and 67 degrees F.
- Get the right light. Natural light is sleep-inducing; artificial light is not. Research has shown that artificial light, especially the blue light emitted from cell phone and computer screens, disrupts your body’s circadian rhythms and suppresses the production of melatonin, which helps with sleep. So try to reduce or eliminate your screen time for 2-3 hours before bed, if possible, and try to get a healthy dose of bright outdoor light during the day.11
6. Know the signs of perimenopause
Photo by yacobchuck on iStock
While you probably won’t experience full-fledged menopause until your 50s — which, technically, happens when you haven’t had a period for 12 months — you will likely begin to experience some menopausal symptoms in your 40s as you enter perimenopause, or the “menopausal transition.”
One of the first and most recognizable signs of perimenopause is a change in your menstrual cycle. Your periods may happen more often or less frequently, and the length of your cycles may become longer or shorter.12
Other symptoms of perimenopause include the following, according to Harvard Health:12
- Hot flashes and night sweats. It’s estimated that 35% to 50% of women suffer hot flashes during perimenopause, which involve sudden waves of body heat, sweating and flushing. Each episode typically lasts between 5 and 10 minutes and can happen night or day, regardless of the weather.
- Sleep disturbances. Approximately 40% of perimenopausal women have difficulties with sleep. (Use the tips above to get better rest!)
- Memory and concentration problems. Many women report that they have short-term memory problems and difficulty concentrating during perimenopause.
While perimenopause lasts 3-4 years on average, keep in mind that you may not experience all of these symptoms, or they may be so mild that they hardly bother you. But if they are causing you distress or affecting your quality of life, be sure to talk to your doctor.
7. Stay on top of health screenings
The National Institutes of Health recommends these screenings for people in the 40-something age range:13
- Blood pressure: Have it checked at least once a year.
- Cholesterol: Begin screening between the ages of 40 and 45.
- Vision: Have an eye exam every 2-4 years starting at age 40.
- Immunizations: Get a flu shot every year.
Do you need help creating a plan to lose weight or eat healthfully? Having your own personal weight loss coach can help you do just that. Contact Jenny Craig for a free appointment to get started today.
Carole is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California who specializes in health and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, Yahoo News, Viv magazine and Lifescript. She's won several national awards for her work including a National Science Award and two National Health Information awards. A frequent contributor to Jenny Craig’s Blog, Healthy Habits, she enjoys gardening, spending time at the beach and adopting far too many rescue animals in her spare time.
Favorite healthy snack: jicama dipped in homemade hummus
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including a scientific, peer-reviewed paper. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.
Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig