Guest post submitted by The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Life changes with every decade — from starting a career and family in your 20s and 30s to work-life balance, and saving for retirement in your 40s, 50s and 60s.
And, as life changes so does your body.
Just as you set personal and work-related milestones, you also should set health goals for every stage of life. And, we’ve created a plan to help guide you along the way.
“Practicing these healthy behaviors is important for all women, regardless of age,” says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “So take note of all of these tips — even the ones directed toward women older or younger than you.”
Avoid exposure to HPV. The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is most common among young women in their late teens and early 20s. High-risk strains of HPV are present in more than 99% of cervical cancer cases.
Your best bet to reduce the risk of HPV infection is to:
- Limit your number of sexual partners
- Consistently practice protected sex
- Get the HPV vaccine if you’re younger than age 26
Say ‘no’ to tanning salons. Tanning bed use significantly ups your odds of getting melanoma.
Other ways to limit sun exposure is to:
- Avoid direct exposure to the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Routinely use sunscreen when you’re outdoors
Lift some weights. Most women begin to lose muscle mass after age 30. Strength training can prevent muscle loss, build bone density and increase the rate at which your body burns calories, to keep you at a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight can help you avoid diseases like cancer.
Take time to unwind. Juggling all the responsibilities of being a mom, wife, caretaker and employee often brings increased stress. Chronic stress affects almost every system in our bodies and wreaks havoc on their functioning, making it harder to fight off diseases like cancer. Curb stress by doing breathing exercises and other relaxation-type activities.
Maintain a healthy weight. As we get older, our metabolism decreases. This is especially true for women after age 40, who may have a hard time maintaining the weight they had in their 20s and 30s. Making healthy food choices and staying active every day can help jumpstart your metabolism so you can keep off unwanted pounds.
Limit your use of hormone therapy. Taking hormones can increase your chances of developing uterine cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, blood clots and stroke. Ask your doctor if hormone therapy is the best choice for you.
Your 60s and older
Stay socially active. Almost 10 million Americans older than age 65 live alone, says the U.S. Census Bureau. For many, living alone can lead to loneliness and depression, which can harm a person’s overall health.
If you are retired and lack social interaction, find volunteer opportunities in your community and get involved. It’ll keep you active, engaged and sociable. Even better: it gives you a chance to help others.
Get annual check-ups
Making your health a top priority is important at every age. Whether you’re in your 20s, 40s or 60s, yearly check-ups are a must. With the help of your doctor, you can create a personalized health plan to help you stay healthy for many years to come.
Download our Screening Exams by Age checklist to take to your next doctor’s visit.
This article originally appeared on MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Focused on Health e-newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. To subscribe to future issues, click here.
We would love to hear from you. What tips do you have for staying healthy?
American Institute for Cancer Research
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Doctor-Patient Relationship: How Patients Can Help Enhance Communication
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Terrific and important suggestions for maintaining health. Thank you.
My tip for staying healthy is about play. Finding ways to genuinely and freely play seems good for body, mind, heart and soul.
I play with my grandchildren, laughing, rolling about rollicking games as well as serious coloring and cutting games at the art table and fun adventures in the world. I have a terrier. Terriers need to play. Their joyous spirit thrives on play so he’s always ready for a cheerful romp. I take time outs from my work to walk him, play ball with him, brush him and/or take him to the park.
I take an improvisation class once a week where we do theater games, i.e. play with some wonderful people.
I believe play creates health and makes life fun. It certainly contributes to my happiness and my ability to be happy.
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Los Angeles psychotherapist
author: Healing Your Hungry Heart, 08/11, Conari Press