How To Be Healthy After 40

How You Can Be Healthy After 40

If you can form new habits of consistently restful sleep, an anti-inflammatory diet and regular exercise, you’ll transform your life after 40 into a new one.

By the time you turn 40, it’s not uncommon to feel the repercussions of past decisions, especially if those choices included long hours at a desk job, skipped gym sessions, or an unbalanced diet. 

As we enter our 5th decade, our bodies tend to remind us of our vulnerabilities, often echoing years of neglect with pronounced and sometimes sobering health signals. Diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension may start to surface, signaling that it’s time to pay closer attention to our health.

These conditions, while serious, are not necessarily a life sentence of decline. 

For example, heart disease can manifest as increased fatigue or difficulty in completing physical tasks that used to be routine. Diabetes might be hinted at by excessive thirst and frequent urination, while hypertension often flies under the radar, detectable only during routine medical checks. 

Fortunately, none of these health issues mean that it’s too late to make a change.

You only have to want to.

Your Attitude Determines Your Outcome

When it comes to getting healthy, the frame of mind with which you approach this can significantly influence your outcome. 

A positive attitude not only helps in setting goals to become healthy but also in maintaining the motivation required to get there. 

The desire to become healthy acts as the initial spark needed to ignite lifestyle changes such as improved diet, regular exercise, and better stress management. When this desire is coupled with a positive attitude, it creates a self-reinforcing cycle. 

Successes, no matter how small, fuel positive feelings and motivation, which in turn lead to more healthful actions. Conversely, a negative mindset or attitude might lead to a defeatist way of being, where temporary setbacks are viewed as permanent failures, thus stalling or ending progress.

As most people know, changes in habits require time to adjust to and may not always yield immediate results. However, with a positive mindset, you are more likely to view these as opportunities to learn and grow rather than insurmountable obstacles. 

It’s All About The Right Habits

Making changes, whether to your health or anything else, basically comes down to forming the right habits.

Habits are the small decisions and actions you perform consistently, almost without thinking. The power of habits lies in their ability to automate behaviors that drive us toward what we want to accomplish. 

For example, deciding to drink a glass of water every morning upon waking becomes a simple action that hydrates your body and kickstarts your metabolism for the day ahead. Over time, this single habit can greatly contribute to improving your physical health and energy levels.

The formation of new habits begins with the understanding that every large goal is a series of small, manageable steps. 

The key is consistency; performing small actions every day gradually rewires our brain to make these behaviors more automatic, thus embedding them into our daily routine.

Changing existing habits, however, requires a strategic approach. 

First Step: Identify What You Want Changed

The first step is to identify the habit you want to change and understand the cues and rewards that drive it. For instance, if you have a habit of snacking late at night, identify what triggers this behavior—it could be boredom, stress, or a cue like sitting down to watch television. 

Once the trigger is identified, you can begin to substitute a healthier behavior in its place, such as drinking a cup of herbal tea or engaging in a relaxing activity like reading.

Second Step: Start Small

To make this change enduring, start with small adjustments. 

If your goal is to reduce your sugar intake, start by replacing sugary snacks with healthier alternatives a few days a week, gradually increasing as your palate adapts. These small changes are more manageable and less intimidating, making you more likely to stick with them. 

Over time, these minor adjustments accumulate and can lead to significant health improvements. 

Here Is A Proven Way To Form New Habits

To make small changes that lead to notable results, adopt a methodical approach. It’s all about being consistent and dedicated to the changes you make. 

Here are a few steps to guide you:

More Than Anything:

To create any new habits, you have to first want to. You must sincerely desire to make a change, and do so from the heart.

Otherwise, whatever you hope to accomplish becomes an intellectual exercise. Most of those end in failure.

Mind games tend to stay there…in the mind.

1. Set Clear, Achievable Goals: 

Begin by defining what you want to achieve. Your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). 

For example, instead of a vague goal like “get healthy,” set a clear target such as “walk 10,000 steps a day” or “meditate for 10 minutes daily.”

2. Break It Down: 

Once you have your main goal, break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. 

If your goal is to walk 10,000 steps a day and you’re currently walking 2,000 steps, start by increasing to 3,000 steps a day, and gradually increase your target each week.

3. Integrate Changes into Your Routine: 

Embed the small changes into your existing daily or weekly routine. This integration makes it easier to stick to new habits without feeling overwhelmed. If you want to drink more water, start by drinking a glass every morning after you brush your teeth.

4. Celebrate Small Victories: 

Recognize and celebrate your progress, no matter how small. 

This could be treating yourself to something special for hitting a weekly goal or simply acknowledging your effort. Celebrating successes can boost your morale and motivate you to keep going.

5. Adjust as You Go:

Be flexible and ready to adjust your strategies as needed. 

If you find that a particular small change isn’t working, reevaluate and tweak it. Sometimes, a different approach might be necessary to make a habit stick.

6. Build on Small Successes: 

Once a small change has become a habit and you feel confident, add another small change. 

Over time, these small habits will layer and multiply, leading to significant improvements.

How Feng Shui Can Help You…A Lot

Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese art of arranging living spaces, is grounded in the belief that our surroundings can very much influence our behavior. 

Environmental Psychology is a field of study that explores the interplay between individuals and their surroundings. It examines how the natural and built environments influence human behavior, emotions, and well-being.

This branch of psychology delves into various aspects of the environment, from sensory experiences like sight and sound to spatial configurations and architectural designs. Its primary goal is to understand how environmental factors affect our daily lives and to apply this knowledge to improving environments in ways that contribute to mental and physical health.

You could call Environmental Psychology the scientific approach to the philosophy of Feng Shui.

The Chinese art becomes a way to address and alter your environment through thoughtful design and spatial arrangements, greatly influencing the behavior you’re working on.

Feng Shui Your Bedroom For Faster Results

A healthy bedroom helps create a healthy sleep

Based on the general recommendations that adults get around 7-9 hours of sleep per night, we spend about one-third of our lives sleeping. If you live to about 75, that equates to roughly 25 years of slumbering.

The truth is, that sleep is a foundational element that affects our physical health, emotional well-being, and cognitive performance. Each night, when we close our eyes, our bodies embark on a complex process of restoration and strengthening that affects everything.

This arguably makes the bedroom the most important room in your home.

The more rested and rejuvenated you are, the better your thought processes and performance will be.

This is where Feng Shui can really help.

Implementing the Chinese art in the bedroom can significantly enhance the quality of sleep, which in turn affects nearly every aspect of your physical and mental health.

Environmental Psychology supports much of Feng Shui. 

Empirical and Quantitative Studies of Feng Shui: A Systematic Review, by K.T. Han looks at the landscapes of actual good Feng Shui practices through the lens of environmental psychology. The majority agree with the application of Feng Shui, which has been tied to personal well-being and sleep quality.

Here is how to arrange your bedroom.

First, declutter.

To create a peaceful and conducive environment for sleep through Feng Shui, start with decluttering and simplifying the space. A bedroom cluttered with items can lead to a messy mind, which disturbs peace and tranquility. 

Remove items that do not serve a peaceful purpose, such as exercise equipment, desks, or any other items related to stressful activities. If possible, this also includes TVs.

If you can’t or don’t want to remove a TV from your bedroom, you may want to consider covering it up when you sleep. I did this initially when I was renting a smaller place and limited on space.

Second, consider the positioning of the bed. 

In Feng Shui, the bed should be placed in a “command position,” which means facing the door but not directly in line with it. 

This position is believed to provide psychological security, allowing you to relax fully. Ensure the bed has a solid headboard for support and stability, and if possible, leave space on both sides of the bed to make the bed more accessible.

Third, color is important as well.

Soft, soothing colors such as light blues, beiges, greens, and lavenders are ideal for a bedroom because they have been found to promote relaxation and calmness. These colors can help soothe the mind and make it easier to unwind and fall asleep.

Lastly, adjust the lighting.

Soft, warm lights can create a cozy and relaxing atmosphere in the bedroom. Avoid harsh lighting, and consider using dimmers or lamps with warm bulbs to allow for gradual transitions from wakefulness to sleep.

It’s Mostly About Inflammation And Sugar

If you’re unsure where to start in becoming healthy, there are essentially 2 things to address. You’ll want to try to avoid foods that cause inflammation and white sugar.

Inflammation is a natural immune response, but chronic inflammation can lead to a host of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

After the age of 40, the risk of developing these conditions increases, and managing inflammation becomes even more important. 

Dietary choices play a significant role in controlling inflammation. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and flaxseeds, are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. 

Similarly, antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, and spices like turmeric can combat inflammation. 

Conversely, processed foods, high in trans fats and sugar, can trigger inflammatory responses, suggesting a diet shift towards whole foods is beneficial.

Reducing white sugar intake is another critical aspect of staying healthy post-40. 

Excessive consumption of refined sugars can lead to weight gain, higher blood pressure, and increased risk of type 2 diabetes. 

These sugars, often found in sodas, desserts, and processed snacks, contribute to a high glycemic load that spikes blood sugar levels and can exacerbate inflammation. Reducing these sugars not only helps in managing weight but also stabilizes blood sugar levels, reducing the burden on the pancreas and the overall endocrine system.

Chronic inflammation in the context of everyday life: dietary changes as mitigating factors” by D Margină et al. (2020) discusses how lifestyle changes can lead to reduced inflammation and summarizes the effects on various biochemical markers.

Here is a list of foods that are known to cause inflammation, and ones that you may want to avoid.

1. Sugary foods and beverages – Such as sodas, desserts, and candies, which can increase blood sugar levels rapidly.

2.  Refined carbohydrates – Like white bread, pastries, and other foods made with white flour.

3. Fried foods – Such as French fries and fried chicken, which contain trans fats.

4. Margarine and lard – High in trans fats, which are linked to inflammation.

5. Dairy products – Some people may have an inflammatory response to the protein in dairy.

6. Alcohol – High consumption can damage the liver and cause inflammation.

7. Processed snack foods – Chips, crackers, and microwave popcorn often contain unhealthy fats and additives.

8. Certain oils – Particularly those high in omega-6 fatty acids, like corn oil and safflower oil, which can be pro-inflammatory if not balanced with omega-3s.

9. Artificial additives – Such as aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG), which some people may react to.

10. Poor sleep – Improper or bad sleep can impair the healing process, leading to prolonged or unresolved inflammation, which can contribute to the development of chronic inflammatory diseases.

Here Is How To Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect itself against harm, including infections, injuries, and toxins. However, when inflammation becomes chronic, it can lead to various health problems, such as arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes, as previously mentioned. 

Here are several effective strategies to reduce inflammation:

1. Adopt an Anti-Inflammatory Diet 

Focus on consuming a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods. 

This includes a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and flaxseeds. 

Foods particularly known for their anti-inflammatory properties include berries, tomatoes, and leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale. 

It’s also beneficial to incorporate nuts, especially almonds and walnuts, and healthy oils like olive oil. 

Conversely, it’s important to reduce intake of processed foods, sugary snacks, and red meats, which can trigger inflammatory responses.

2. Regular Physical Activity 

Engaging in regular physical activity is another effective way to combat inflammation. Moderate exercise, including walking, swimming, or cycling, can help reduce the levels of inflammatory markers in the body. 

It’s recommended to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

3. Manage Stress Levels

Chronic stress is a known contributor to inflammation. 

Managing stress through techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can significantly reduce stress and lower inflammation. Regular mindfulness practices have been shown to reduce the levels of cytokines, which are proteins involved in the inflammation process.

4. Get Adequate Sleep

Sleep, as described above, is very important for maintaining immune function and reducing inflammation. 

Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. Poor sleep can disrupt certain inflammatory responses in the body, making it essential to establish a consistent bedtime routine and create a restful sleeping environment.

5. Avoid Smoking and Limit Alcohol Consumption

Smoking is a major inflammatory trigger and can lead to elevated inflammatory markers. 

Similarly, excessive alcohol consumption can negatively affect the immune system and exacerbate inflammation. 

Here Are Some Examples Of An Anti-Inflammatory Diet

There are many combinations of anti-inflammatory, healthy foods you can concoct. You’re not limited to the few listed below, however, they can give you an excellent start.

Intermittent fasting is another excellent way of reducing inflammation and adding to your health. It consists of a daily 8-hour eating window, with the remaining 16 hours fasted. For more information, check out the article I wrote about it.

Mediterranean Influence

I chose to list some foods from a Mediterranean diet, as it’s celebrated for its numerous health benefits. It stands out as an excellent anti-inflammatory dietary pattern, largely due to its rich array of plant-based foods, healthy fats, and whole grains.

I also have found it quite satisfying and delicious.

This diet primarily includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, fish, and olive oil.

Sample Breakfast: 

Oatmeal with fresh blueberries, a spoonful of ground flaxseed, and a drizzle of honey.

Mediterranean Oatmeal

Sample Lunch: 

Grilled salmon salad with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and a vinaigrette dressing made with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

Mediterranean Salmon

Snack: 

A handful of almonds and a slice of fresh pineapple.

Mediterranean Nuts

Dinner: 

Quinoa stuffed bell peppers (use red and yellow peppers) with black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, and a sprinkle of turmeric and black pepper.

Mediterranean Quinoa

Dessert: 

A small serving of dark chocolate.

Mediterranean Dark Chocolate

Vitamins Can Fill The Gaps

Vitamins can make a huge difference

As we age, our bodies undergo various changes that can affect how we process nutrients, including the rapid depletion of others. 

After the age of 40, these changes become more pronounced, it’s important to have an adequate intake of specific vitamins and minerals to maintain health and vitality. However, the ability to absorb these nutrients efficiently can decrease with age, highlighting the importance of tailored nutritional support through diet and possibly supplementation.

While the benefits of maintaining a balanced intake of essential nutrients are clear, it’s equally important to approach supplementation with caution. 

Your health needs can vary widely based on factors like gender, existing health conditions, lifestyle, and dietary habits. For instance, women over 40 might need more calcium and vitamin D to protect against bone density loss, while men might focus more on vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids for heart health and cognitive function. 

Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new vitamin regimen. 

A doctor can offer guidance based on a comprehensive health evaluation, including blood tests that can detect nutrient deficiencies. 

This ensures that any supplementation strategy is both safe and effectively tailored to meet personal health needs. Furthermore, this approach helps prevent potential interactions between supplements and prescribed medications, ensuring that your path to better health is both informed and secure.

That being said, here are some general vitamins for your consideration, most of which I take to this day.

Vitamin D – Essential for bone health, immune function, and inflammation reduction. It’s particularly important as the body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight decreases with age.

Calcium – Important for maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis, especially crucial for women post-menopause.

Magnesium – Plays a role in over 300 enzyme reactions, including regulation of blood pressure, and is important for heart health.

Vitamin B12 – Necessary for proper red blood cell formation, brain function, and DNA synthesis. Absorption can decrease with age, making supplementation necessary for some.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Important for heart health and cognitive function. These can be taken as fish oil supplements if dietary intake isn’t sufficient.

Vitamin C – Supports the immune system, is an antioxidant, and is important for skin health through collagen synthesis.

Probiotics – Although not a vitamin or mineral, probiotics support digestive health, which can be compromised with age.

Vitamin K – Essential for blood clotting and bone health. Vitamin K2 is particularly important for directing calcium deposition into bones and away from arteries.

Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) – Important for cell growth and metabolism, and can help to prevent memory loss with aging.

Iron – Necessary for creating red blood cells, but supplementation recommendations can vary based on individual health needs and dietary intake.

Zinc – Supports immune function, wound healing, and DNA synthesis. Zinc requirements can increase with age.

There are some gender-specific recommendations to consider as well.

For Men: Look into vitamins D and B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and magnesium. Men should generally be cautious with iron supplementation unless diagnosed with a deficiency.

For Women: You may want to consider calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium to support bone health, especially post-menopause. Iron may also be important due to the risk of anemia from menstrual blood loss (before menopause) or dietary insufficiency.

Remember, it’s a good idea to discuss all of this with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplements, especially when interacting with medications.

Don’t Forget To Move Your Body

Working your body is an important part of being healthy over 40

After 40, there is a decrease in muscle mass and bone density and an increase in the likelihood of developing chronic conditions. Along with good sleep and a healthy diet, exercise can combat many of these age-related issues. 

It boosts cardiovascular health, strengthens muscles, enhances flexibility, and improves mental health by reducing stress and anxiety. Moreover, regular physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of falling, and increase longevity.

To accomplish this, you don’t necessarily have to do anything extreme or intense. 

The key is consistency and finding the right balance of different types of exercise that you enjoy and can sustain over the long term. Incorporating a mix of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility work can provide comprehensive benefits.

Here is a simple 3-day workout schedule tailored to focus on these elements:

Day 1: Cardio + Core Strength

Warm-up: 

5-10 minutes of light stretching or a brisk walk.

Cardio: 

30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise such as cycling, brisk walking, or swimming.

Core Strength: 

15 minutes of core exercises, including planks (1-3 sets of 20-30 seconds), bicycle crunches (2-3 sets of 15 repetitions per side), and leg raises (2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions).

Day 2: Strength Training

Warm-up: 

5-10 minutes of dynamic stretches or light jogging.

Strength Training: 

Focus on major muscle groups with exercises like:

Note: 

Use weights you can comfortably perform with, but not so light that it feels effortless. You want some resistance. 

Squats (2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions)

Push-ups (if needed, modified or against a wall, 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions)

Dumbbell rows (2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions per arm)

Overhead dumbbell press (2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions)

Cool-down: 5-10 minutes of stretching, focusing on the muscles worked.

Day 3: Flexibility and Balance

Yoga or Pilates: 

Engage in a 45-minute session focusing on flexibility, balance, and core strength. This can help improve joint health and reduce the risk of injuries.

Remember to adjust the intensity and duration according to your fitness level, and consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have existing health conditions. This schedule can be a sustainable way to improve your health and fitness at any age.

One last thought…

If the above feels overwhelming, then just start by doing light stretches in the morning and walking for 30 minutes every day. 

You’d be surprised what that will do.

Don’t Worry About Being Perfect

No need to be perfect

In embracing a healthier lifestyle after 40, the first step is making a definitive decision to change and committing to it steadfastly. It is not merely about fleeting attempts, but rather about sticking to a plan even when progress seems slow. 

Every small step you take is a part of a transformative journey that promises long-term benefits.

Proper sleep is a cornerstone of good health, often underrated yet vital. Leveraging Feng Shui to enhance your sleeping environment can substantially improve the quality of your rest. 

A nutritious diet acts as fuel for the body, providing it with the necessary resources to fight off diseases, maintain energy levels, and recover more swiftly. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods as described can have profound effects.

Regular exercise, too, is very important. It strengthens the heart, muscles, and bones, boosts mood and energy levels, and can dramatically enhance quality of life. Whether it’s a gentle yoga session or a brisk walk, what matters most is consistent activity.

There is, however, a little something to keep in mind.

Perfection is not the goal here; improvement is. 

Even if you manage to adopt just 10% of these healthful practices, you will see significant changes in your life.

Perhaps you’ll find joy in the foods that nourish you or the endorphin rush after a workout, maybe in the tranquility of a well-arranged living space, or the rejuvenation after a good night’s sleep.

This can be a fun and rewarding adventure where the results can literally be life-changing. 

Give it a shot and see how you feel. I’m confident you’ll like it.

Until the next time, cheers.

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