If you have been making healthy life-choices or keen to do so, this is an important decade for preventing health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancers later in life.
Changes that happen when one turns 40:
Losing weight will become more difficult as metabolism decreases. An average person will gain about 7-8 kilos between the ages of 40 and 50 due to this. Muscle tissue is lost at the rate of about 5% per year starting at 30 years of age. Hence by the time one hits 40, there is less muscle decreasing the basal metabolism making it easy to gain weight. Consuming organic high-protein food (almonds, fish, eggs, quinoa, lentils, hemp seeds, chia seeds, chicken etc) can counteract this to an extent.
Bone density might decrease, as bone density is known to decrease by about 1% per year from about 35 years of age. Weight bearing exercises can compensate this to an extent. Calcium supplements can also help. Taking care of bone loss from now onwards will help ward of osteoporosis in future.
Changes in skin, vision, sense of smell, taste, and hearing are noticeable at this age. Taste buds and the cells that detect smell die, as the person gets older. Many will have trouble-seeing close-up. Some will need more light for reading. Others experience glaring when driving at night or in bright sunlight. Dry eyes might become a problem. Due to loss of collagen under the skin, wrinkles and laugh-lines are more visible.
Lactose intolerance with age is a common problem more so in Asians. The enzyme lactase which helps digest milk and milk products lowers with age; lactose remains undigested creating gas in the intestines causing bloating, passing too much gas loose motions, bloating, abdominal pain, headaches, skin rashes. Adults are therefore advised to consume diary products in the form of fresh yogurt (curd) as some of the lactose has already been broken down when yogurts are cultured.
In women, changes to menstrual cycle will happen, as the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle will start to fluctuate due to the impending menopause in this decade of life. Most women will experience more painful or heavy periods. It s also not uncommon to once in a while miss a period or two. Excessive facial hair, hot flushes, loss of interest in sex, headaches, sleeplessness and often seen. Emotional symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings, and anger are also not uncommon.
Contrary to the sudden drop in estrogen levels in women when they hit 40, in men, testosterone production tends to decline by 1% per year from the age of 30. Low testosterone results in weight gain around the abdomen, difficulty in keeping muscle mass, depression, low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, weakness and mood swings.
Risk of breast cancer increases and that is why baseline mammogram is recommended at the age of 40 by the American cancer society. Any changes in future scans will help with early detection.
Turning 40 is not all doom and gloom. You will get more good-looking and sexy as men and women at this age are more confident, more decisive and less dependent on others.
What health check-ups to go for? Blood pressure (BP) checks every 6 months and cholesterol checks every 3 years is mandatory. Rule out diabetes by getting blood sugar tested. If there is a family history of heart disease, then exercise stress testing in order to check the working of the heart is advisable.
Women in addition to continuing monthly self-breast examination should have the baseline mammogram. Pap smears, which start when a woman becomes sexually active, should continue to happen every 3 years. 40 are the peak age for cervical cancer. Pap test can predict who is likely to develop a cancer of the cervix almost 3 years before the cancer develops. Mammogram can detect a breast cancer at a very early stage.
Dr Sai Lakshmi Daayana, Oncologist
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