Ready to prove that age is just a number? Enter midlife feeling your best with our wellbeing checklist
Whether your teetering on the edge of 40, or striding into your late 50s, being as healthy as you can during your ‘middle years’ is a priority for us all. “Whichever way the seesaw is tipping, you need to be on the lookout for any subtle changes in your body,” says Dr Chakrabarti (your-doctor.co.uk). There are many ways we can prevent health issues in later life and by exercising regularly and eating well, we’re putting our bodies in the best stead to tackle anything. The big takeaway? Mental wellbeing is as important as physical. And the great news is, it’s never too late to make healthy midlife swaps. Here’s everything you need to be your healthiest (and happiest), yet.
Sharp as a whip
Are you the reigning champion at Christmas Cluedo? Then it’s important that you stay ‘on the ball’, as it were, by looking after your brain. “‘Use it or lose it’ is a common phrase used when referring to your brain health,” says Dr Luke Powles, clinical director of Bupa Health Clinics (bupa.co.uk) “As you get older, it’s important to exercise your brain as well as your body. This type of stimulation can improve your memory and have a real impact on reducing the risk of dementia. Swap sitting in front of the TV for activities such as reading, learning new skills, or playing board games. These are all great ways to keep your brain mentally engaged.” Not only is it important that you exercise your mind, but you should nourish it as well. “We should be eating healthily regardless of our age, and this means maintaining a diet that contains fruits, vegetables, grains, fats and protein,” says explains Dr Chakrabarti. “There’s a lot of media attention focused on veganism at the moment and many people have reported increased energy levels and mental clarity following a plant-based diet.”
Keeping your heart in great condition should be a top priority at this age, as Dr Chakrabarti explains. As you get older, book in to have regular health checks to ensure your heart is in top health. “The more weight we carry, the higher our cholesterol can be, which can lead to bad heart health,” says Dr Powles. “A balanced diet that’s rich in fibre, omega-3, B vitamins, calcium and vitamin D, will help you improve the good levels of cholesterol in your body. Physical activity also reduces your risk of high blood pressure which can lead to heart disease. Also, try to nip smoking in the bud. It damages the lining of your arteries and increases the risk of heart disease. Visit your local smoking cessation service, often based in pharmacies and some GP surgeries. A coronary health check looks for indications of high blood pressure and cholesterol.”
Sleep like a log
As you approach middle-age you’re probably past the point of having to accommodate a toddler into your evening routine, but getting a peaceful night’s sleep is still often easier said than done. “Women are more likely to report sleep problems due to hormone levels that peak and dip,” explains Dr Chakrabarti. “To improve your sleep quality, turn off the electronics one or two hours before bed and settle down to allow your body to rest and regenerate, ready for the next day. Keeping the room temperature low in your bedroom should keep you more comfortable and can improve sleep patterns.” Struggling to get the golden seven hours? Don’t panic. Our varying circadian rhythms mean that some of us need more rest than others. But if you’re regularly feeling fatigued, then follow the advice above to try and improve your sleep.
More smiling, less worrying
The best thing about getting older? Giving less of a hoot. And having that attitude to life is only a good thing, as the experts explain. “Stress is another contributor to heart disease, as it increases blood pressure which can lead to a heart attack or a stroke,” says Dr Powles. “It’s important to manage your stress levels effectively, be aware of your triggers and find techniques to relieve symptoms. Fresh air and light exercise can help clear the mind and relax you by increasing your serotonin levels which will make you feel happier.” It’s all too tempting to reach for a glass of wine at the end of a long, busy day, but there are better ways you can de-stress. Rather than giving the tipple up, find a replacement. Swap your glass of red for meditation and mindfulness, which are invaluable for allowing us to unwind and switch off from work.
5-minute health swaps
1. Breakout the 70 percent
“Dark chocolate is a rich source of plant chemicals called polyphenols which have prebiotic properties,”says nutritionist Lily Soutter (lilysoutternutrition.com). “When our friendly gut bacteria break down these polyphenols, they produce metabolites which are thought to support gut health. Try dipping some gut-friendly strawberries into dark chocolate for a healthier twist.”
2. Make a pact to take the stairs
“We gain fat as we age and our bone mineral density decreases,” says Dr Chakrabarti. “Using the stairs instead of a lift will help strengthen your leg muscles and muscle percentage is important at this age.”
3. Switch to wholegrains
“Fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread, oats and barley are excellent sources of fibre that move through the gut quickly, helping us stay ‘regular’,” says Rajkeeran Kundhi, associate registered nutritionist at AXA PPP healthcare.
4. Have a dose of vitamin D
“Vitamin D is made by our skin in the presence of sunlight,” says Jo Travers (loveyourgut.com). “Vitamin D plays a role in regulating inflammation in the gut and deficiency has been shown to adversely affect the gut microbiome, so supplementation may be useful.”
5. Add in antioxidants
“Good moisturisers infused with antioxidants (such as CoQ10 or vitamins A, C, and E) protect your skin from the sun, pollution and stress,” says Dr Chakrabarti.