In your 20s, an all-nighter, weekly fast-food dinners, and a long run after weeks of no exercise were not only possible, but often came without negative consequences. Unfortunately, things change a bit once you reach your 30s and 40s.
"The 30s and 40s are when the metabolism slows and normal wear and tear start showing their signs," says Dr. Amber Ortega, a board-certified family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy. "Being able to understand what's a normal part of aging and what is abnormal is a little more of a gray zone than it was in the 20s. This is when it is most important to take active charge of your own health."
To do this, Dr. Ortega recommends that you begin to more seriously focus on healthy living. This includes maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise, as well as being up to date on the recommended vaccines and health screenings.
"Preventive care is key," she says. "The goal in your 30s and 40s is to maximize your current health so you don't get sick later in life, or if you do get sick, you'll be able to recognize that sooner and receive appropriate care."Medications and vaccinations
- If you are a woman, talk to your primary care provider about birth control and whether you might want to change the method used in your 20s. Your choice of birth control method may depend on whether you plan to have a child or not. Some types of birth control can work up to 10 years.
- Don't forget to receive your annual flu vaccine and ask your doctor about getting a Tdap — tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis — shot every 10 years.
- After age 30, the frequency of a woman's cervical cancer screening with routine pap smears may decrease, which is OK as long as screenings are up to date as recommended by your doctor.
- The 40s are when women should start asking about mammogram screenings for breast cancer. Have a discussion with your doctor about your own risk based on different factors in your life, which could determine your screening interval or start date.
- If you are overweight or obese, you will want to discuss getting screened for diabetes once you reach age 45.
- Start seeing an ophthalmologist after age 45 to have your eyes examined on a regular basis.
- Regardless of your gender or age, HIV and other sexually transmitted infection (STI) screenings should be performed as needed throughout your adult life, depending on your own risk level.
- Regular screening for depression is recommended for all adults — talk to your doctor if you have been feeling sad or hopeless; if your work or relationships have been negatively affected; or if you have lost interest in the things you once enjoyed.
- Ask your doctor about ways to ensure you maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure. Both issues have the potential to become serious chronic issues, but can be managed through diet, exercise and medication, as needed.
- Continue to be honest in discussions about your lifestyle choices with your doctor — this includes your diet, physical activity and sleep, as well as nicotine, alcohol and drug use.
- Healthy relationships with family and friends remain important to your overall physical and mental health.
"As in each stage of life, it is important to receive regular care and communicate openly with your doctor about any concerns you may have," Dr. Ortega says. "When you play an active, rather than passive, role in your health and wellness journey, you build the foundation for a long, full and healthy life."
This article is the second in a series featuring Dr. Amber Ortega and the health issues that arise and questions you should ask your doctor in each chapter of your life. The first article featured ways to take charge of your health in your 20s and future articles will focus on health and wellness in your 50s, 60s and beyond.