At this time of life many people take their good health for granted and healthy eating and exercise are often put on the back burner.
But as we grow older, good nutrition and regular exercise become even more important. A diet rich in antioxidants will help protect against problems like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cataracts and certain types of cancer.
After the age of 40, the metabolic rate (the speed at which the body burns calories) drops, but the drop is very modest and the real reason many people in this age bracket start to suffer from middle-aged spread is due to a change in hormone levels and poor dietary choices, combined with a lack of exercise.
Excess weight, particularly around the ‘middle’ is a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes and osteoarthritis and the longer you wait before you tackle the problem the harder it becomes - nip any weight gain in the bud now before it becomes a serious problem.
One in four women in their 40s have low iron stores. Keeping your body well supplied with iron provides vitality, helps your immune system function at its best and gives your mind an edge.
Keep alcohol intake to guideline amounts - no more than 14 units per week. Drinking responsibly affords you all the health benefits we read about such as reducing heart disease, however, it’s a good idea to have one or two alcohol free days during the week and to spread your weekly allowance out evenly throughout the week.
In your 50s
Watch your fat levels...
Health problems, such as raised cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are more common in this age group. A low-fat, low-GI diet which includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, is the best way to prevent and treat these problems.
As women enter the menopause, they are affected in different ways. Consequences such as a decline in libido, osteoporosis and heart disease are all linked to the decline in oestrogen levels that accompany this stage of your life. These hormone changes accelerate the loss of calcium from bone, which increases the risk of osteoporosis or brittle bones. To counteract this, it’s important to eat at least three servings of low-fat, calcium-rich foods each day.
There seems to be an absence of menopausal symptoms, in countries in the Far East where diets are naturally rich in phytoestrogens - plant compounds that mimic the effects of oestrogen.
Genetics and environmental factors play a huge part in how our bodies react to certain foods, so as yet we can’t say whether a diet rich in phytoestrogenic foods is beneficial to women, although they may be worth a try if you are really struggling. Foods that contain phytoestrogens include soy, flaxseeds, chickpeas, beans and peas.
Smoking and being inactive can severely harm your bones, and it’s particularly important on the exercise side to include some weight bearing exercise such as brisk walking, yoga, jogging or aerobics.
Aim for a combination of weight-bearing exercise and aerobic activity to help keep bones and joints strong. Toning and muscle development can increase metabolic rate, as increased muscle mass helps to keep our weight constant.
Continue to drink 6-8 glasses of water or herbal teas every day and watch caffeine consumption. Caffeine can interfere with the amount of calcium we absorb.
If you don’t eat at least one serving of oil-rich fish each week, you should also think about taking an Omega-3 supplement.