Health

How to stay healthy and fit in your 40s and 50s

40s

In your 40s, you may start to experience some subtle midlife changes, such as having trouble sleeping or squinting to read small text.

Here are the best ways to implement damage control in this phase of your life.

Keep moving

Your body will naturally slow down, but maintaining mobility is important to reduce the rate of bone loss and strengthen the muscles around the joints.

Slipping into a sedentary lifestyle can lead to stiff joints, which in turn restricts movement. Lifting weights at least twice a week can help maintain bone and muscle mass. Add yoga to your routine to increase suppleness and strength too.

Hormone hijack

Most women enter perimenopause in their 40s. This is where the body reduces the amount of estrogen and eggs it produces. You may start to notice changes in your menstrual cycle - heavy bleeding is a common symptom.

Simple and convenient measures, such as endometrial ablation, exist. Discuss your symptoms with your gynaecologist if your period is interfering with your daily activities.

Sleep tight

Sleep problems are common during times of hormonal change. Symptoms, particularly hot flushes and night sweats, can disturb sleep and set off insomnia. Relaxation techniques may help.

Know your boundaries

As life becomes more demanding and you are bouncing among teenage children, elderly parents and career, respect your own needs and know what it takes for you to thrive - whether that is more sleep, spending time alone or with friends.

Learning to ask for support and showing self-compassion are also essential self-care strategies.

Brain drain

It is easy to become consumed by family, work and bills, but it is important to have fun. These stressors can contribute to cognitive decline over time, mainly due to high levels of stress hormones.

When you reduce stress, brain cells can regenerate. Start identifying daily stressors and look at ways to add fun into your day. Also, consider some form of daily relaxation to give your brain a chance to rest and recuperate.

Target kilos and eat better

Most women complain about their weight - with the average female weight gain at 500g per year. A drop in estrogen can cause weight to shift from your hips to your abdomen.

Dietitian Bronwen Greenfield said: "This is where your metabolism starts to decline, so focus on portion control, increase your intake of protein, and high fibre and low-GI (glycaemic index) foods to make it easier to prevent unwanted weight gain."

Eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables to boost your antioxidant intake can help protect against the development of certain chronic diseases, as your risk of developing health conditions such as heart disease increases in your 40s.

Chronic inflammation is also associated with the development of chronic diseases, so focusing on minimising inflammation levels through diet is crucial.

Reduce the intake of pro-inflammatory foods - refined carbohydrates and foods high in added sugars, saturated and trans fats - and eating more anti-inflammatory foods such as oily fish, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, plant-based foods, fermented foods and turmeric.

Drink more water

The health benefits of staying hydrated become even more important. Water prevents dehydration and increases blood circulation - two factors that can keep cognitive decline and nerve damage at bay.

Aim for eight glasses of water a day. Fill up on water-rich fruits such as citrus, berries, tomatoes and watermelon, and veggies, including cucumbers and leafy greens for an added nutrient-rich boost.

Listen to your heart

Early heart disease usually has no symptoms, and you may not be aware that you are at risk. See your doctor regularly to ensure your heart is healthy.

Blood test results will identify if you have high (more than 15 per cent), moderate (10 per cent to 15 per cent) or low risk (less than 10 per cent) of a heart attack or stroke.

The Singapore Heart Foundation strongly recommends having a heart health check if you are over 45 while HealthHub recommends that a heart health check-up should be done every five years starting from the age of 18.

This article was first published in The Singapore Women's Weekly (www.womensweekly.com.sg)

How to take care of your health in your 50s

50s

Your 50s is the perfect time to make your health even more of a priority, and this usually means making a few tweaks to your lifestyle. Generally speaking, what you need at this age is more movement, mentally stimulating activities and calcium. Here are five ways to take care of your health in your 50s.

Do not stop moving

Prevent injury by doing longer warm-up sessions when you work out. You need to maintain muscle mass and strength and preserve bone density, so you can consider combining walking with regular strength-training exercises for at least two to three days a week.

Play footsies

Dedicating a few minutes every day to your feet will help prevent common problems. Check your feet for any redness, swelling, blisters, dry patches, bumps and sores, moles and freckles as well as discolouration underneath the nails.

Seek help from a health professional if you are concerned and keep your feet and leg muscles and joints flexible with regular stretching.

Heel pain is common at this age and is very often caused by plantar fasciitis when tissue is damaged or torn from too much pressure. See a physiotherapist to help stabilise the ankle and heel.

Bone age

On average, women lose up to 10 per cent of their bone mass in the first five years of menopause. The good news is you can reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis with a few lifestyle changes, such as avoiding excessive alcohol intake and not smoking.

Boost your mind

Learning a new language or taking on other mentally stimulating activities has been shown to strengthen brain cell networks and help preserve mental functions. The effects of common life factors like chronic illness or loss of loved ones can lead to depression and anxiety.

Do not suffer in silence - seek help from a therapist and keep up with relaxation techniques. Yoga has been shown to have a positive effect on anxiety and depression, largely from the deep-breathing techniques, which reduce levels of stress hormone cortisol and regulate your heart rate.

Work it out

Regular exercise has many proven health benefits and can help prevent, delay or manage many of the most common chronic diseases - think heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and obesity - which affects adults 50 and older.

This article was first published in The Singapore Women's Weekly (www.womensweekly.com.sg).

WELLNESS & BEAUTY