Whatever stage of life you are in, you can make changes that can have a positive impact on your health. Let’s take a look at how you can help maximize your health at any age:
- Twenties: Develop healthy habits early to lay a good foundation for the rest of your life. Make a habit out of regular visits to a health care practitioner (at least once a year). Try to develop a lifelong habit of exercise; skip the soda and extra sugars; and increase your vegetable intake. If you don’t already, now is the time to start taking a multivitamin. Taking a multivitamin regularly will help to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need.
- Thirties: Learning to balance the demands of family and self can be a challenge at this age. Work to connect meaningfully with others, as those connections will help support you throughout your life. Bone and muscle loss (incredibly) start now, so making sure you are exercising and getting enough calcium is essential. Learn how to sit less and move more, and establish exercise as a way of life.
- Forties: If you haven’t made regular doctor visits a priority, now is the time to start this habit. It is a good idea to know your common health numbers (cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure). Metabolism tends to slow in this decade, so learning how to maintain a good muscle mass (a large part of metabolism) and a healthy weight will serve you in future years. Stretching, yoga, and meditation can be good practices to incorporate into your health regimen. Add fish oil to your routine (if you haven’t already)—it is good for your heart and your brain, especially as we age.
- Fifties: The two biggest health concerns for this age group are bone mass and heart health. Bone mass is a concern because women can lose as much as half their bone mass in the 5 to 10 years after menopause.[i] Heart health is a major concern for everyone but can impact women’s health disproportionately. Make sure you have a good bone health routine (including sufficient calcium and regular exercise) in place. Soy is another good protein that helps to support heart and bone health.
- Sixties and beyond: Retirement presents a challenge for some, so you may want to prepare for the transition by reaching out to family, friends, and other social groups (many people report less social interaction with retirement). Exercise not only helps us physically but can serve as an emotional outlet as well. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days.
While each stage of life is different, it is important to remember that many health challenges are lifelong challenges. This is true of heart health (still the top health concern for women), bone health, mental health, blood sugar control, and weight management.
Staying healthy can be a challenge at any age, but you can greatly reduce the risks of many common conditions by practicing the following healthy eating habits throughout your life.
Healthy eating tips for every age
Always have a meal plan: Junk food and fast food are popular for one reason: they are fast and easy. But you can take that approach with healthy foods, too. Protein shakes are a fast and easy way to get enough nutrition quickly (and you can take them with you). Lunch and dinner are just as easy if you plan ahead. Make the most of your dinners over the weekend and freeze them. Try using healthy leftovers for your lunch.
Choose your snacks well before you need them: Most snacks derail us because they are empty calories with little nutritional value. Choose healthy snacks and bring them to your work or school, and skip the vending machines. There are healthy snack bars that support your health, or you can snack on veggies.
Don’t be boring: Nothing will steer you away from a healthy eating plan faster than plain chicken and a limp salad. Your solution to boring food is flavor. Jazz up simple veggies with spices, garlic, olive oil, lemon zest, ginger, or even balsamic vinegar. Remember to steam veggies lightly so they don’t lose their natural flavor.
Eat a rainbow: It turns out that many of the compounds in plants that give them color are beneficial to our health. While these compounds are not household names, you may have heard of some of them: carotenes, anthocyanins, lycopene, astaxanthin, and others. Choose veggies in a variety of colors to make sure you are getting these health-supporting compounds.
Know the nutrients women need: Women require more iron and calcium than men. Vitamins D and B (especially folate) and essential fatty acids are also important for women’s health. Women tend to need fewer calories than men, so nutrient-dense (low-calorie and high-nutrition) foods are important. Supplements can help you cover your nutritional bases.
Cut the junk: Although it may seem as if nutritional advice changes with the wind, this is often driven by the need for a great headline and not by nutritional science. A good diet is high in vegetables and low in processed foods. Cut the junk by avoiding trans fats, processed foods, too much sugar and fried foods.
Be careful with alcohol: Drinking too much can derail your health in a number of ways. First, alcohol supplies empty calories. Second, you tend to consume additional calories when you drink.
Healthy food habits don’t have to be difficult. As you start to incorporate these habits into your life, you’ll find that you look and feel better—and your friends of all ages will be thinking you make healthy living look all too easy.