It’s your fabulous 40s and if you’ve been minding your health, your body could be feeling pretty fabulous too. Aging is a dirty word, but it shouldn’t be. We all get older, but the challenge is to adapt to how our bodies are changing. With a doctor as a partner and a focus on maintaining or increasing healthful habits, your body can still do a stellar downward-facing dog. Your 40s are the gateway to your later years, so what’s going on in your body now? Stay in tune with the changes in a few key areas.
Focus on eyes, teeth, and ears
Jokes about aging often include glasses, dentures, and hearing aids — and there’s a reason for that. It does become more difficult for your eyes to focus as you get older because of weaker eye muscles. Glare may also bother your eyes more. Your gums may begin to recede in your 40s, while also becoming more susceptible to infection and disease. Hearing your friends in a crowded restaurant will get tougher and higher frequencies will go mute for you.
What can I do?
Get thee to a doctor. Have your eyes checked and get glasses if needed. Likewise, when was the last time you had a hearing test? Your dentist should also be on your regular six-month check up list. Day to day, make it easier on your body. Don’t stare at your computer screen all day; instead remember the 20-20-20 rule from the American Optometric Association — take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. Floss and brush every day. Cut back on using in-ear headphones, which have shown to lead to early hearing loss.
In our 40s, our hearts begin to get bigger, but that isn’t really a good thing. The heart enlarges slightly as we age because individual heart muscle cells get bigger. Older hearts also beat at a slower pace and during exercise the heart rate of an older person does not increase as much. Arteries harden, making it more difficult for the arteries to relax while the heart’s pumping. This can result in higher blood pressure and less effective distribution of blood in the body, eventually leading to a greater risk of heart attack.
What can I do?
Exercise and eat well. The increased likelihood of fatty deposits around the heart as you age means an even greater need to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible now. Exercise at any age can be helpful, but it’s even better the earlier you get started.
Pregnancies after 35 used to be called geriatric pregnancies. Now doctors call it “advanced maternal age” pregnancy. Still, female fertility, in both quality and number of eggs, does begin to decline. The lining of the womb is often thinner making it a more difficult place for sperm to live and, ultimately, for a fertilized egg to make its home. However, some of the fertility talk has been overstated. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a woman who is 25 has a 25% chance of conceiving during any menstrual cycle. By 40, a woman has a 5% chance of conceiving during her menstrual cycle. A significant drop, but this generally means it just might take more cycles before an older mother becomes pregnant. Older mother are also at higher risk for a baby with Down’s Syndrome, that risk is 0.8% for babies born to 40-year-old mothers. By age 45, this risk increases to 3.5%. Women who get pregnant over 40 are also at a higher risk for miscarriage.
What can I do?
Being a healthy as possible is key to delivering a healthy baby at any age. Talk to your doctor about your current health. Tests can determine your current fertility rate and with guidance you can explore what options are possible.
Don’t be afraid of getting older. Instead, make choices now that you can feel good about today and all the many tomorrows you have to come.