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How to look after your health through the decades, according to experts

By Liz Connor
Living well is important at any age, but experts say our health priorities can change as we get older.

While the principles of exercising regularly, eating well and managing stress will always be relevant, there may also be specific things you can do – at each milestone decade – to make sure you’re harnessing your full healthy potential.

So, what are they? We asked health experts to share their tips for happy, healthy aging, and looking after yourself at different stages of life…

In your 20s you should… support your bones and set good habits
Our bones carry on developing into our late-20s, so it’s important we continue to get plenty of calcium and vitamin D during these years, says Dr Naveen Puri, a lead physician at Bupa Health Clinics.

As well as taking eating a good diet and taking supplements where necessary, he adds that resistance-based exercise, like weight training, can help strengthen bones.

Your early adult life is also a great time to avoid too many unhealthy lifestyle choices. “When we’re young, we might not notice the impact of drinking too much or smoking, but now is the ideal time to minimise these habits,” says Puri.

In your 30s you should… eat well and protect your mental health
As you move into your 30s, you might start noticing some subtle body changes as your metabolism slows down.

“This is perfectly normal, but does mean it becomes more important to eat well,” says Dr Puri.

At this time of life, many people may find themselves in more stressful situations, with greater demands on their time.

“There are many methods to help manage stress, and it’s about finding what works for you,” says Puri. “Relaxation therapies – like meditation, yoga or mindfulness – may be helpful, and it’s also important to know where to turn if pressures are mounting.”

In your 40s you should… maintain a good diet
It’s believed that almost one in 20 people in the UK are living with diabetes. While type 1 diabetes can occur at any age and is not linked with weight or lifestyle, generally speaking, type 2 is more likely to develop in over-40s, and this form of diabetes is often associated with factors like weight and diet.

Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle may help prevent type 2 diabetes, as well as being important if you are diagnosed.

“Maintaining a good, balanced diet and exercising regularly is key to managing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In some cases, you can reverse type 2 diabetes with the right diet and exercise,” says LloydsPharmacy pharmacist Anshu Kaura.

In your 50s you should… check your breasts and prostate regularly
Giles Davies, lead surgeon and director of breast surgery at Cromwell Hospital, says it’s really important for women to check for the signs of breast cancer in their 50s.

“Women should check their breasts from a young age – ideally in their late-teens or 20s – but it becomes even more important as you get older,” he notes. “Around 80% of breast cancers happen in women over 50, so it’s important you attend your screenings.

Men should also get regular prostate checks. Professor Hashim Ahmed, consultant urological surgeon at Cromwell Hospital, says: “Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer amongst men in the UK and mainly affects those over age 50.”

In your 60s you should… look after your joints
Joint pain is very common as we get older, and it’s often caused by osteoarthritis, or wear and tear. Lifestyle measures may help prevent these problems worsening, as well as helping ease flare-ups.

Kaura adds: “For those experiencing heightened joint pain in winter, a cod liver oil supplement may help.Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids helps support the body’s anti-inflammatory response, which can in turn help to prevent joint conditions such as arthritis from deteriorating.”

“There has even been research that cod liver oil can help reduce the number painkillers those with arthritis take.”

In your 70s and beyond you should… keep active
Experts say even people in their 70s should look to undertake some form of exercise every day, but it doesn’t need to be anything as intense as marathon running.

Lin Seeley, wellbeing co-ordinator at Bupa Sandhills Court care home, says: “Light activity, such as a brisk walk or a bike ride, will still provide good benefits, and people should try to clock up about two-and-a-half hours of this a week.”

“Some great exercises for this can include gentle weightlifting or aerobics. Yoga and Pilates are also great options and can easily be adapted to suit anyone’s ability.”

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