I spend so much time taking care of everyone else, it’s easy to neglect my own health. Sound familiar? As a busy mom, wife, and business owner, I admit my yearly physical gets postponed (or never scheduled), exercise gets put off, sleep seems more and more elusive, and I lack the energy to do the things I love.
I know I’m not alone.
Unfortunately, the increase in stress, decreased physical activity, and hormonal changes that creep up once you hit your 40s and beyond affect your overall health. Here’s the good news: there are small changes you can make to protect your health now––and as you age.
Try making these 5 changes to get back into balance and love your life again.
1. GIVE UP 15 MINUTES (WAIT, WHAT?!)
Yep, give away 15 minutes of your day. You know you need to make time for you, but part of the reason we don’t find the time is because we are trying to “decide” what to do with that time.
Here’s what I want you to do today: Set a timer for 15-20 minutes. In that time, don’t “get something done” – simply find an activity that is purely selfish and only about your own self-care. You can start a new book, go on a walk, or a deep breathing meditation. If you repeat these 15-20 minutes every single day, your “me time” will start to become just the gift you need.
2. SWAP CARDIO FOR WEIGHTS
We know about the dreaded “middle age spread,” but let’s talk about why that happens: Starting at age 40, we begin to lose muscle mass (about 1% per year) – and then in our early 50s, we see hormonal changes. Maintaining as much muscle as possible headed into middle age can help to maintain a healthy weight, keep blood pressure low, and strengthen your heart. That means swapping out cardio for weights sometimes.
TIP: Schedule exercise into your day just like you would any other appointment. This way you can’t use the “no time” excuse, because you’ve already reserved that block.
3. RETHINK NUTRITION
Eating healthy can’t always be about weight control anymore – now it’s about nutrients, the ones that makes you feel energized, keep your immune system up and maintain a strong body. Here are the supplements everyone should consider taking:
CALCIUM WITH VITAMIN D
Bone density and strength begins to decline in your 40s and beyond, which increases your risk for osteoporosis. Calcium can also promote better sleep, normalize blood pressure and is also important for a healthy heart. Adults need 1,000 mg of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D per day. Most people do not get the amount they need from their diet which is why I recommend a supplement like Cal-EZ. I personally prefer Cal-EZ because it’s an all natural, tasteless single serving powder that can be mixed with anything. It’s also clinically proven to absorb more effectively than the big horse pill vitamin tablets – and it’s cheaper (cha-ching). If you’re interested in trying it for the first time, you can get 50% off your first box and free shipping.
Omega-3 fatty acids are heart health superstars! They help to lower triglycerides, support blood circulation, and improve blood pressure. If you don’t get enough fish in your diet, taking 1-2 grams of omega 3 per day is a great way to protect your heart.
I recommend probiotics to almost anyone. Your gut health is directly related to your overall health. The amount and types of “good” bacteria present in your gut affects the strength of your immune system and your digestive wellness. Incorporating fermented foods daily and taking a probiotic will keep the bad bacteria at bay and make you feel energized.
4. TURN OFF SCREENS 45 MINS EARLIER
Do not underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Your quality and quantity of sleep has a direct impact on your health and your heart. One study examined the sleep habits of 3,000 adults over the age of 45, and found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night.
Turn off electronics well before bedtime. This will help you have an easier time getting to sleep – and you won’t accidentally stay up too late watching TV or scrolling through Facebook. Get to bed, girl!
5. ESTABLISH YOUR BASELINE
Although you may not have any problems now, it’s important to get baseline data on important heart disease risk factors.
Monitoring your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar level by getting these numbers checked regularly is an important part of health care. Even a yearly weight check is important. A five pound weight gain each year will start to add up and may get harder and harder to lose as you age. Where you’re putting on extra weight is important, too. Fat accumulating around the belly can affect your heart health. Know where you started so you know the range you need to stay in.
Danielle Omar is an integrative nutritionist helping people gain confidence in their nutrition choices. She has contributed to outlets including Shape, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Washington Post, just to name a few. Danielle was named top nutritionist by Washingtonian Magazine, and works with clients all over the country. Her bi-annual online wellness program Nourish is a repeat hit. Follow her on Twitter @2eatwellRD.
What will you try to incorporate into your daily routine this month? Share with us in the comments.