Many people don’t start thinking about their health until they start developing problems in old age. But staying healthy when you’re old starts with habits formed when you’re young, and health problems can start early without preventive measures.
For instance, 19 percent of young adults between 24 and 32 already have high blood pressure, a study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found. Fewer than 3 percent of Americans across all age groups actually meet the qualifications for living a healthy lifestyle, according to a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Taking care of your health when you’re younger will help you stay healthy when you’re older. Here are some tips for every decade of your life to help you plan for a healthy lifestyle at all ages.
Laying a Healthy Foundation in Your 20s
Your 20s are crucial for establishing a foundation for a healthy lifestyle, as you become independent from the habits you learned under your parents and develop the habits you will pass on to your own children. One pillar of a healthy lifestyle in your 20s is a sound diet that includes all the major food groups and is low in unhealthy items such as trans fats, bad cholesterol, and excess sodium. The USDA publishes guidelines to help you follow a healthy diet on its ChooseMyPlate.gov website.
Another foundation for a healthy lifestyle in your 20s is good exercise habits. Both aerobic activity and strength conditioning are important for exercise. The CDC recommends that adults should regularly engage in cardiovascular activity for at least 10 minutes at a time for a total of at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity, or an equivalent combination. Adults should also do strengthening activities involving all major muscle groups two or more days a week.
A third key to laying a foundation for a healthy lifestyle in your 20s is getting a good insurance plan. While most people tend to think about insurance later in life, it’s smart to sign up for an affordable health insurance plan early, before pre-existing conditions set in that can impact your insurance rates. As part of your insurance strategy, you should also get in the habit of going in for regular check-ups and routine medical screenings such as cholesterol checks.
Continuing Healthy Habits in Your 30s
The basics of diet, exercise and insurance remain essential throughout your life, but certain priorities take precedence through each decade. In your 30s, after becoming entrenched in the workforce, and possibly having children if you’re a woman, you run higher risks of health problems such as gaining weight. This makes it important to check with your doctor periodically about possible increased health risks and make any necessary adjustments to your diet and exercise programs.
The 30s are also a time when children become a growing part of the health care equation. Women in their 30s considering having children may wish to discuss their fertility health with their doctors. You’ll also want to review how your insurance plan covers your children.
Staying Fit in Your 40s
As you get into your 40s, it becomes more challenging to maintain the same levels of exercise intensity you did when you were younger, but it becomes even more important as weight gain and other health issues creep up on you. Women in their 40s are particular susceptible to weight gain as their body composition changes. To offset this, health experts recommend maintaining cardiovascular workouts at least three days a week plus increased weightlifting, as well as increased exercises targeting problem areas, such as Pilates for the midsection.
Health care screenings also assume increased importance in your 40s. The American Cancer Society recommends that women in their 40s should go in for annual mammograms and regular Pap and HPV tests, while men should be tested for colon and prostrate cancer, and both sexes should be tested for colon cancer.
Maintaining Health in Your 50s and Beyond
In your 50s and older, you may start to experience conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis that make it more challenging to exercise. You may wish to start pursuing low-impact forms of exercise that get around these issues, such as Tai Chi, Yoga, or water aerobics.
Men and women 50 and over should continue the same health care screenings they practiced in their 40s, with additional screenings for lung cancer and diabetes. In addition, be aware of possible heart attack signs, such as pain in the chest or jaw, as well as symptoms of diabetes, such as extreme hunger or thirst, frequent urge to urinate, fatigue and blurred vision. Above the age of 65, men and women should also begin receiving bone density studies and talk to their physicians about whether to receive pneumococcal, shingles and pneumonia vaccinations.
Maintaining good health is a lifelong endeavor with many challenges, but it is much easier when you have a long-term game plan. Following these guidelines will help you lay a foundation for staying healthy into old age so you can enjoy life longer.