Doctors are our guardian angels and no matter how hard it is to change our not-so-healthy habits, they will always have the best pieces of advice for us. With that in mind, here are 12 habits doctors wish you’d adopt after 40.
1. Confront your bad habits
Your vices can seriously damage your overall health. It’s true, with age comes wisdom, so take a closer look at the bad habits that are ruining your health.
“If you smoke, drink more than you should (more than one drink for women and two for men per day on a regular basis), gamble excessively … or struggle with other forms of addiction, it is critical to confront those bad habits and take action,” says Lisa Doggett, MD, a family physician based in Austin, Texas.
“The consequences of unchecked vices can increase with age, and reaching out to a physician, supportive friend, or other resources in the community can make a big difference.”
2. Prioritize preventative health
Make sure you schedule your annual physical exams! “Rates of chronic disease increase significantly as we age,” Doggett says. “Conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension can be detected early through routine medical visits, and early treatment reduces the risk of heart disease and other complications.
Cancer rates also rise as we age, so screening tests become more important in our 40s.”
3. Catch enough zzz’s
Getting enough sleep is really important and once you get into your 40s, you might need to reassess exactly how much sleep you’re getting.
“The quality of our sleep tends to go down with age, partly due to increased life stress and also due to hormonal changes that occur in both men and women over 40,” says Ivana Chapman, a fitness and nutrition coach based in Toronto. “Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep will enhance your immune system, reduce stress levels, and optimize your recovery from exercise.”
4. Keep technology out of the bedroom
“When it comes to sleep, 40-somethings are the worst. Most of their sleep disturbances come from overuse of technology—the blue light emitted from smartphones, computers, and televisions disrupt the natural circadian rhythm because it inhibits the production of melatonin,” says Walter Gaman, MD, co-author of Stay Young: 10 Proven Steps to Ultimate Health. “Avoid electronics two hours before bed and opt for a great novel instead.”
6. Stand up at your desk
“Many of the jobs that people in their 40s have call for heavy computer work. While your fingers may be going ninety to nothing, your large muscles are sitting stagnant,” says Gaman. “Sitting really is the new smoking because living a sedentary lifestyle increases inflammation and inflammation is the root of most chronic disease.”
7. Train with weights
“Training with weights two to four times a week builds muscle and maintains bone density,” explains Chapman. “It also makes it easier to maintain your weight, since a leaner body with more muscle is more metabolically active and burns more calories all day long.”
8. Eat more protein
Protein is an essential macronutrient that can help you lose weight and keep your belly full. Always remember that it’s important to eat the right kind.
“Building and preserving precious muscle isn’t possible if you’re not taking in enough protein,” says Chapman. She notes that the USDA’s recommendation—5.5 ounces of protein daily—is “unnecessarily low, and [they] don’t represent the amount of protein required for optimal health and muscle maintenance and growth.”
9. Add more nuts
Over the course of 20-plus years, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health followed up with nearly 156,000 men and women in four-year intervals. Their research, which was published in the British Medical Journal in 2019, determined that subjects who ate a daily serving of any type of nut had a lower risk of weight gain and obesity.
“Adding one ounce of nuts to your diet in place of less healthy foods—such as red or processed meat, French fries, or sugary snacks—may help prevent that slow, gradual weight gain after you enter adulthood and reduce the risk of obesity-related cardiovascular diseases,” study author Xiaoran Liu, PhD, said in a statement.
10. Protect your gut
“Eighty percent of your immunity is in your gut,” says Gaman. “Protecting your microbiome should be top priority. Do this by avoiding artificial sweeteners and increasing your intake of prebiotic- and probiotic-rich foods, like yogurt, sauerkraut, and asparagus.”
11. Breathe deeply
“I take 30 seconds to re-center,” says Michael Sinel, MD, an assistant clinical professor at the UCLA Department of Medicine. “This can be done simply by taking three slow deep breaths, by inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for six seconds. This helps me to clear my mind so that I can focus.”
Do not underestimate the power of meditation! “Our world is far too fast-paced and there are far too many perceived threats in it for our amygdalae to manage,” says Jonathan DeYoe, author of Mindful Money and founder of DeYoe Wealth Management in Berkeley, California. “Mindfulness practice, like meditation, can slow our natural reactivity and help us think through better solutions.”