Food, fitness & health: Live your healthiest life in your 40s

July 2023

The American writer Harold Coffin once quipped, "Middle age is that awkward time when Father Time catches up with Mother Nature!" 

If you're settled enough to maintain healthy routines, that's great. But if you're feeling stuck in a wellness rut, don't despair. Being adventurous in your eating habits and exercise regime could open up new and exciting experiences. 

With a lot going on in your 40s—career, family, social life, and hobbies— it may take more planning and creativity than before to make your health and wellness a priority. But in the long run, it will be well worth the effort. 

Ready to take some concrete steps to help you live a healthier life through your 40s and beyond? Read on!

Healthy eating tips to take you through your 40s

Have you ever heard the old wives’ tale that as you age, you start to gain weight? While it isn’t true for everyone, there is research to back up the fact that as you age the lipid turnover in fatty tissue decreases—lipid turnover refers to the rate at which the fat in fat cells is removed and stored. One study followed 54 men and women for 16 years and found that if a participant didn’t make a diet change during this time, they gained an average of 20% more weight.

Remember, there are many factors that influence weight gain and every person has different experiences with aging and weight gain.

So what can you do in your 40s to take control of this change? Try these 5 healthy eating tips:

  1. Control your calorie intake by turning to nutrient-dense foods like fresh fruits and vegetables whenever you can. Not only will it help you get all your needed nutrients, but it will also help reduce your risk of cancer. Fresh fruits and veggies are high in phytochemicals—plant compounds that help protect against cancer. 
  2. Eating oily fish—such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines—at least twice a week can reduce your chances of developing heart disease and slow down cognitive decline.
  3. Did you know most Canadians are eating double the amount of recommended salt per day? Keep your salt to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day—for a little perspective, 1 teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg. Eating too much salt increases your risk for high blood pressure, and consequently for heart attacks and strokes. Cut down on sodium-rich foods, like cured meats, chips, and salty snacks, and opt for potassium-rich fruits and veggies like bananas, broccoli, and avocado instead. 
  4. Shop smartly by learning to read nutritional labels, as salt and sugar are often hidden in everyday items like bread, sauces, and ready-made meals. Use labels to compare and choose between products, and be informed about what is actually in the food you’re eating. Use labels to learn what the suggested serving size is, how much (15% DV or more) or how little (5% DV or less) of a nutrient is in a food, and compare 2 products to make a healthy choice.
  5. If you drink alcohol, moderation is key. Health Canada suggests no more than 10 standard drinks per week for women, and 15 for men, and 2 per day for both men and women. Drinking over these limits can lead to an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain cancers.

Exercise offers the energy and confidence to cope with stress

When you’re in your 40s you may feel like you can’t get into an exercise routine if it hasn’t been part of your life. But here’s the thing, no matter when you start working out, regular exercise can help prevent cancer, obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. 

Canada’s 24-Hour Movement Guidelines recommend that adults in their 40s get 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activities. You can use the talk test as an intensity guide for your activity level

  • Moderate physical activity—you can carry on a conversation, but you can't sing.
  • Vigorous physical activity—you can't say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

Here are 4 tips to help you get the most out of your workouts. 

  • Muscle-strengthening activities should be done at least two times a week to help maintain and improve muscle mass and decrease your risk of osteoporosis. So grab some weights or use your own body weight as resistance and start training!
  • The risk of injury is always something to be aware of, so make sure you have good form—even if it takes you longer. Allow adequate recovery between sessions.
  • Need an emotional boost? Make time in your calendar for regular sessions. Endorphins get released during exercise which can help with feelings of depression, anxiety, and sadness.
  • Incorporate stretching into your workouts. This will help you maintain and improve your flexibility which helps to keep your joints and muscles healthy and strong. Think about adding in a yoga practice every once and a while to improve your balance as well.

Staying active can add years to your life. A combination of cardio, strength, and balance training can help maintain muscle tone and make everyday tasks easier. Plus, with regular exercise, you'll likely have more energy and confidence to cope better with the daily stresses of life. 

Keep an eye on your risk profile with preventive screenings

On top of your yearly check-up, there are a variety of screenings and vaccinations you should be undertaking during your 40s. Staying up to date on these screenings and visiting your doctor regularly is the best way to keep tabs on your health as you age. 

Here are all of the recommended screenings needed in your 40s. 

Recommended screening  Frequency Top health tip 
Dental check-up Every 6 months

Your 40s are a time to consider your family history and risk profile, in case there are any health screenings you should start earlier than usual.

Women in their 40s can talk to their doctors about when to start breast cancer screenings and how often to get a mammogram. 

Men at high risk (for example, those with relatives who had prostate cancer at an early age) can also start screening in their mid-40s.

Eye exam Once every 2-3 years 
Flu vaccination Once a year
Pap test (women only) This should also include a cervical cancer screening

Once every three years

Former First Lady of the US Eleanor Roosevelt once remarked, "Probably the happiest period in life most frequently is in middle age, when the eager passions of youth are cooled, and the infirmities of age not yet begun; as we see that the shadows, which are at morning and evening so large, almost entirely disappear at midday." 

With that inspiration in mind, get out there and enjoy all this decade has to offer by prioritising your health and well-being!

Looking for more information on preventative screenings? Speak to your doctor or visit the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care website to answer any questions you may have.

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