When men develop healthy and sustainable lifestyle habits and routines in their 20s and 30s, it makes turning the big Four-0 less of a daunting scenario. Many of us fear the prospect of aging—which may be why we eat, sleep, and live like we’ll be young forever. Hint: We won’t, but we can extend our health and youthfulness with some thoughtful measures.
Help make 40 the new 30 by tuning into these mental, physical, and emotional health tips.
You forget, you don’t feel like it, you’re too tired, or you’ll “do it tomorrow,” but unless you make a habit of regular exercise in the here and now, it’ll be harder and harder as you age to get (and stay) on the wagon. By the time you’re in yours 40s, you will have to work much harder to achieve the same results, so it’s important to have personal accountability. Sure, it’ll take an hour out of your day, but it could add years to your life.
Not only will exercise help you become more metabolically healthy—supporting your blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight, all of which can help to prevent heart attack and stroke, among other diseases—exercise (both cardio and strength training) also boosts testosterone, according to one study in Endocrine Connections. And good thing, too, because T is the main sex hormone in men, regulating mood, muscle, sex drive, and hair. “Exercise [specifically strength training] will slow down muscle loss by increasing human growth hormone and testosterone,” says stem cell expert Dr. Purita of the Institute of Regenerative Medicine: Leaders in Stem Cell Therapy.
By your 40s, your T-levels decrease by one to two percent each year, resulting in mood swings, lack of mental clarity, loss of muscle, inability to lose weight, and limited sex drive. So before you really start to lose your T, get into the gym and start working on your body—inside and out.
The old adage about friends being the best medicine might actually have some truth to it. The older men get, the less time they have to see friends or make new ones. Whether it is work, family, geographical distance, or just growing apart, many men start to lose their friendships. Humans are social beings—so you’ll do well to keep the important people in your life around, while looking to build new friendships when and where you can.
According to a review of studies in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, people who have a support network and a group of friends—as opposed to people who are mostly isolated from others or who do not have a support network—tend to get more psychologically and physically ill. Having friendships may even keep us from dying early, say the studies.
However, an article in Psychology Today suggests that men have a hard time making new friends—possibly due to their focus on striving for wealth and success. The idea is to balance your time working so that you can focus on maintaining and nurturing relationships.
Give up your vices
We all hear it all the time—but alcohol and tobacco are no good. Even smoking one to four cigarettes per day can increase your risk of heart and lung diseases, according to Tobacco Control.
And drinking—while fun, legal, and socially encouraged—can be a problem too. According to the CDC, men are more likely than women to drink excessively—with 23 percent of men binge drinking (that’s eight drinks in a night) five times a month. Not only can this cause weight gain, it can lead to diseases like cancer, and disrupt your sexual and reproductive health.
“Diminish your alcohol intake, because it decreases the body stem cell output, which decreases the body’s ability to repair itself,” says Dr. Purita. “Men also need to quit smoking because it damages the cells’ DNA…which leads to cancer down the road and decreases sperm count.”
Eat healthy, starting now
According to the Mayo Clinic, maintaining an unhealthy diet can lead to all sorts of diseases over the course of your lifetime, including a shortened life. That includes people who look thin but are actually metabolically unhealthy.
The goal? Ensure that your diet is sustainable and includes clean food, plenty of fruits and vegetables, good fats, and proteins. Here’s what a day of clean eating looks like so that you can incorporate it, bit by bit, into your diet.
If you have a hard time eating healthy, start by making small changes, one after the other—for example, first cut back on processed foods, then add more veggies to your routine, then begin decreasing the amount of sugar you’re eating.
Get to bed
Staying up late to binge-watch Netflix or waking up extra early to prep for a big presentation are common habits for many people, but unless you’re dealing with a personal or a work emergency, bedtime should be sacred and routine.
You might take pride in going to work on less than five hours of sleep (and you might be able to pull that off in your late twenties and early thirties), but by forty you will really feel the consequences of the lack of shut-eye. And if you chronically don’t get enough sleep, the long-term results can be detrimental—including potential for cardiovascular disease, reduced immune response, diabetes, and obesity.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you want to get around seven hours of sleep per night—but no more than nine or 10, which can have reverse effects.
Develop methods of self-care
Purita believes that all men should develop a self-care routine to help them combat stress. That’s because stress doesn’t just cause hair loss and weight gain—it can take years off your life. According to the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, stress can harm the immune system, increase blood pressure, cause anxiety and depression, and even open up the potential for chronic disease. But it can be hard to de-stress if you don’t know how or haven’t been encouraged to do so most of your life.
The good news: You have plenty of options. For starters, try meditating daily (according to the journal Ayu, this can decrease blood pressure, maintain mood health, and increase cognitive health) or keeping a journal. Others may find nature to be an outlet for stress.
Regardless of the method, finding healthy ways to release stress early on will help you function better in the long run.
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