Your 20s might have been lots of fun, but chances are they were also confusing. In your 30s, life is finally starting to make sense. Your career path is clearer, your friend circle is closer, and you may have found your life partner or at least you know the kind of person you’re looking for. However, just as your life is coming together, it might feel like your body is starting to fall apart. Hangovers are an all-day affair, instead of being easily conquered by a hearty brunch. Painting your apartment can mean days of aches and pains. Most of these changes are a normal part of aging, but paying attention to the changes in three key areas can help you ease some of the pain now and prevent more serious problems later.
So, what exactly is happening in your body in your 30s?
Your bones, muscles, and joints
As young adults, bones and muscles are being strengthened. Even in our 20s, bone density is still increasing, as is the building up of muscle. By the time we get into our 30s, though, all that begins to reverse itself. At 35, bone loss starts and muscles, while continuing their natural process of being broken down, are not being built back up. And the joints, where the bones come together, become stiffer. The cartilage that used to cushion them decreases. All of these changes can slow down your golden years, making walking painful and the possibility of breaking a bone more likely.
What can I do?
Exercise! Both muscle and bone “are living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger” according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Weight-bearing exercises such a walking, jogging, and hiking can all increase muscle and bone mass and lead to greater joint flexibility. Especially post-menopause, loss in bone mass can lead women to lose inches of height in the decades following. You see how older women often stoop? Start exercising now to keep shrinking in check. Also, talk to your doctor about adding calcium and vitamin D into your diet, both of which help keep bones strong.
Once we hit 35, it’s likely we’ve got a few grey hairs. Pigments produced by cells in the hair follicle give us our hair color, but those cells produce less and less pigment as we age, turning our hair grey. And though we might associate men with aging-related hair loss, according to the North American Hair Research Society, half of all women experience some thinning of their hair by age 50. Female hair loss tends to be all over the scalp rather than in the pattern men find. While the hair on your head is thinning, hairs are also probably sprouting places you didn’t have them before, like your chin.
What can I do?
To combat thinning hair, try minoxidil (or the brand name Rogaine) or the drug spironolactone, which can help with acne and has also been shown to help slow hair loss. Occasional chin hair or a slight increase in facial hair is normal, but if there is a marked increase in hair growth, talk to your doctor. You could have a thyroid issue or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
As we age, our breasts lose fat and tissue. With a decrease of estrogen, the breast tissue shrinks, making our breasts smaller and causing changes in shape. The area surrounding the nipple, or the areola, will also get smaller even to the point of disappearing for some women. The connective tissue that once held our breasts up loses its pliancy, causing breasts to droop. This will start to occur in the mid-30s and by 40 the changes can become evident.
What can I do?
Your body is going to change, there’s no getting around it. Generally being fit and active is helpful, but even that won’t completely stop your breasts from sagging. No matter what age you are, be aware of any changes in your breasts. Lumps, especially post-menopause are not uncommon — but every lump or bump should be checked out to ensure that it doesn’t signal something more serious, like breast cancer.
Don’t worry over the natural changes of your body, instead find ways to support a healthy aging process. If an ache lasts longer than you think it should, go to a doctor and get regular checkups so you both know what’s normal and what’s not. Aging is not the enemy, neglecting our health is.