As much as we, as women, hate to admit it, aging is inevitable, and with age our bodies change quite a bit. While in your 20s, it’s easy to overlook your health. Frequently going out, having drinks with friends and just enjoying being young, can take its toll on your body in the long run.
Here are the steps adult women in various age groups should do in order to take care of their health. No matter what age group you’re in, it’s always important to be consistent with yearly physicals and visits to the OB GYN, as well as other essential health checkups.
You may feel invincible in your 20s, but all women should take a few key steps to take care of their health and help avoid any future problems.
- Diet — It’s never too early to start eating healthy. By keeping a healthy diet in your 20s, it will be easier to maintain a healthy weight later on, and you’ll be set on the road to good eating habits for a lifetime. Make sure that your food is full of important nutrients such as vitamins, amino acid, fiber and folic acid.
- Exercise — Find an exercise you enjoy and stick with it. By getting into the habit of regular exercise, you’ll set yourself up for a lifetime of health benefits.
- Safe sex — Make sure to use condoms or other contraceptives, and get tested for STDs.
- Yearly well-woman doctor’s visit — It’s good to get into the habit of doing a yearly, preventative care checkup with your doctor. You may feel totally healthy, but it’s always important to keep on top of it.
- Wear sunscreen — Nothing ages your skin faster than the sun, so putting on some daily SPF starting in your 20s will keep your skin looking young and fresh, not to mention protect it from the harmful and sometimes cancerous effects of the sun.
You may no longer have the metabolism you did in your 20s, but you’re are much wiser. Taking care of your health should definitely become more of a priority.
- Maintain a healthy weight — If you didn’t get your diet and exercise regime under control in your 20s, your 30s is definitely the time to do it. In your 30s, not only does your metabolism start to slow down, but your muscle mass will also start to naturally decline, making weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight a bit more difficult.
- Keep on top of your yearly physicals and OBGYN visits.
- Self-exam — Do a monthly breast self-exam. If you experience any abnormal pain or notice any lumps, contact your doctor immediately.
- Family health history — By knowing your family’s health history, you might be able to take preventative steps to stave off heart disease, dementia or even catch breast cancer early.
Calcium and vitamin D intake — Your bone mass decreases with age; however, by incorporating more calcium and vitamin D in your diet you may be able to improve your bone health. Nutritious foods like salmon are high in both calcium and vitamin D.
- Mammograms — Get mammograms every one to two years, and stay on top of your other essential checkups, such as eye exams, mole checks, pap tests and pelvic exams.
- Manage stress — Studies have shown that excess stress can be dangerous for heart health, increase risk of diabetes and cause weight gain, among other health risks.
- Weight training — Starting at 40, we begin to lose about one percent muscle mass per year, so it’s important to start strength training in order to keep your muscles strong and healthy.
- Exercise your brain — A good predictor of how well your brain will do with age is the amount of exercise it gets. So go read a book, do a puzzle, work on your garden or even go for a walk. Research has shown that walking regularly at midlife may reduce your risk for dementia later in life.
- Vitamin B12 supplements — Vitamin B12 is important because it keeps the body’s nerves and cells healthy. It also can help prevent a type of anemia that makes people tired and weak. Older adults are at a higher risk for B12 deficiency, so adding more of it to your diet or taking it in a supplement can help avoid the risk.
- Menopause — Many women experience menopause in their 50s, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about menopause and what you can do to help alleviate the symptoms. Although menopause is inevitable, you don’t have to suffer silently; there are hormone therapies and other things you can do that will help.
- Stay active — Just because you may be retired, or close to it, does not mean you should be limited to a slow, sedentary lifestyle. Make it a point to stay social, go outside and get regular exercise. Not only is it important for your physical health, but also your mental health.
- Think positively — Some studies have shown that having a positive attitude and thinking positive thoughts about aging can add up to 7.5 years to your life.
- Eat more fiber — Adding more fiber into your diet helps your colon work better, helps lower your cholesterol and reduces risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer.
- Get enough sleep — Although this may be difficult sometimes, getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night will do your body wonders. Sleep is important and will help your body heal and repair your heart and blood vessels.
Danielle Tarasiuk is a multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles. Her work has been published on AllDay.com, Yahoo! Sports, KCET, and NPR-affiliate stations KPCC and KCRW. She’s a proud Sarah Lawrence College and USC Annenberg alumn.