Turning 40 is no big deal anymore – in fact there’s way more to celebrate about embarking on your 5th decade than there is to fear. But while 40 is the new 30 and women have never looked or felt better as they age, there are certain things that change in a woman’s body as she hits this important milestone - and to make sure we safeguard our future health, there are a few things we should do.
It might feel like a trivial thing, but poor flexibility in people over 40 is about more than you finding it a bit harder to do your shoelaces up in the morning. In fact, a lack of flexibility as we age is associated with arterial rigidity, meaning your heart has to work extra hard to pump blood around your body, leaving you at more risk of a heart attack or stroke. So if you find that, when seated, you struggle to touch your toes, let alone pass them if you reach forward, it’s definitely time to think about taking up yoga or Pilates.
Avoid Brain Fog
If it’s hard to learn new things and you feel unusually forgetful, don’t panic. Symptoms of the perimenopause kick in during your 40s (menopause has an average onset of 51) and fluctuating oestrogen levels can play havoc with your mental clarity. Oprah Winfrey’s favourite physician Dr Oz has the following recipe for his favourite phytoestrogen-rich green drink which can help combat the effects of the perimenopause.
To make four eight-ounce servings, combine two cups spinach, two cups cucumber, one bunch celery, a half inch or teaspoon gingerroot, one bunch parsley, two apples, the juice of one lime, and the juice of half a lemon in a blender, and mix until liquid.
Reduce sugar and eat fibre
Being over 40 is a risk factor for diabetes so it’s worth doing what you can to reduce any extra risk as you age. Maintaining a healthy weight is key here – as is avoiding sugar where possible and eating plenty of fibre which works to moderate the release of glucose in your bloodstream. Fibre-rich foods include green veggies, lentils, artichoke, avocado, porridge and popcorn.
Practice stress control
Whether it’s work, parenting or looking after your own parents, stress can reach particular highs in your 40s so it’s important to make sure you develop coping strategies so these unavoidable situations do not negatively impact your health. A calm heart beats faster when you breathe in and slower when you breathe out. Stress inhibits this natural heart rate variability which can trigger health changes and illness, says Claire Michaels Wheeler MD, author of 10 Simple Solutions to Stress. Repercussions can include increased blood pressure, less energy to the brain, lower libido, and faster cell death – making you basically age faster. To get your heart beating to the right rhythm, Dr Wheeler suggests breathing in through your nose for 4 beats, and out for 8, twice a day, or more if you feel stressed. "It activates the vagus nerve that runs from the brain to the pelvis, relaxing the heart, muscles, airways, gastrointestinal tract, and blood vessels," she says.