Your 40s are a good time to focus on health – now and for the future
By Gilberto Marquez, MD
Once we reach adulthood, we start to become aware of the normal aging process. Subtle and not so subtle changes creep into our lives in our early to mid-40s. Our energy levels are no longer boundless, a sprain takes longer to heal, and we have to be more careful about what we eat – even when we lead active lifestyles.
The following are important aspects of health in early middle age.
Aches, pains and strains – Patients in their 40s feel new aches and pains, especially after strenuous activity. They don’t recover as quickly from a minor injury or workout. In most cases, these experiences are normal. The body is starting to slow down and it takes longer to recover.
The best thing is to be patient, rest and apply ice to a sore spot. If an injury does not improve after one or two days, visit your doctor or an urgent care location.
Energy and stamina – People may notice they are not as vigorous as they once were. If a lack of energy starts to interfere with daily life, seek medical advice. You may need a physical exam and blood tests. You could have an ailment that can be easily treated.
Muscle tone and weight – Starting a family and building a career often take a front seat in the 30s. By age 40, fitness and nutrition may be relegated to the back seat, and people feel compelled to get back in shape.
Build or rebuild an exercise program slowly, even if you previously worked out regularly. Your body has changed. Don’t risk injury by loading up the weight machine or running too far or too fast right away. Consult with an athletic trainer or a physical therapist if you have a concern about placing stress on an area of the body.
Eat nutritious foods and avoid unhealthy foods. You can’t indulge in dessert every night, but you don’t need to start a trendy diet. Diets fail. Losing weight and keeping it off requires a lifestyle change – the sooner the better. Talk to your doctor, a nutritionist or a medically based weight management specialist about the right way to make lasting changes.
Vision – Changes in vision are a fact of life as people age. Like other parts of the body, the lenses of the eye aren’t as flexible as they used to be. If you notice a change in your vision, visit an eye doctor. While it may seem easy to pick up a pair of reading glasses, you may overlook an underlying medical problem.
Urinary and digestive health – Men in their 40s usually notice the need to urinate more, and sometimes in the middle of the night. This is also the aging process at work. Changes in the frequency of urination or hesitancy with urination call for a visit to the doctor.
Changes in digestive health can also occur at this age. You may experience discomfort after eating rich or spicy foods. It’s important to contact your physician if you experience pain in your abdomen or chest or changes in your digestive system that last for three or four days or longer.
Behavioral health and sleep – Life’s responsibilities, and even awareness of the aging process itself, can contribute to stress, sleep problems and cognitive issues such as forgetfulness. Too much multi-tasking and screen time, information overload, and concerns about personal health, parents and promotions can lead to a cycle of hurry and worry. For women, hormonal changes can start to affect sleep and emotional health in the mid to late 40s.
Just because issues like these are common, doesn’t mean you have to live with them. Share your concerns and experiences with your physician. Discuss solutions that can positively impact quality of life for you and your loved ones. Being proactive now can significantly affect your health and your personal and professional life going forward.
Family history – Everyone should ask family members for specifics about health issues in the family, including heart, cancer, blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, cholesterol, behavioral health, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. Make a note of the individuals who had certain diseases and where they fit in your family tree. Tell your doctor about any chronic conditions or serious illnesses that parents, grandparents or siblings have experienced.
Screenings and prevention – Once people reach 40, it’s time to get serious about preventing health issues in later life. A healthy lifestyle helps prevent high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Yearly physical exams and bloodwork that screen for common and underlying health issues are a must.
Ask your doctor about the screenings you need based on your age, sex, health, medical history and family history. Then make sure to get the recommended tests. Review the results in your electronic medical record, and discuss them at your next doctor’s visit.
Knowledge is power and prevention is the best medicine. Learn about your health, maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow your doctor’s recommendations. You will be much more likely to live a longer, healthier and happier life.
Gilberto Marquez, MD, is an internal medicine physician at the ProHealth Medical Group clinic at S69 W15636 Janesville Road in Muskego. The clinic can be reached at 262-928-7000. Dr. Marquez is fluent in English and Spanish. To view a video about his approach to medicine, visit ProHealthCare.org/Doctor