Health / Expert Advice

9 of the Biggest Health Mistakes Women Make Before 40

It turns out that the key to longevity is caring for your health.

When you’re young and healthy, it can be easy to neglect certain areas of your health. But, experts agree that good health habits and lifestyle choices should start at a young age. Ideally, before your 30s and especially before your 40s. Your younger years are a perfect time to prepare for possible future ailments, injuries, and conditions that may be more difficult to address when you’re older. According to health experts, here are some of the most common wellness areas that women neglect before the age of forty.

Not Planning Your Future Fertility

Having a family might not be your only goal in life—and there’s no reason it should be. But if you’re considering having a family, you should start thinking about it by your early 30s before your fertility begins to decline. “If you are single and you’re not even thinking about future fertility, it may be time to have a conversation about egg freezing,” says Sherry Ross, M.D., OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “OB-GYNs are at the forefront when it comes to educating and enlightening our patients [about] their biologic clock[s].” Don’t be afraid to initiate this conversation with your health care provider, if he or she doesn’t. You’re your biggest advocate when it comes to your own health.

Slacking on Your Exercise Routine

When your work and social life become busy and overwhelming, cutting out your workouts seems like the easiest way to let your schedule breathe. But experts say it’s actually one of the most important things to keep in your daily planner. “Regular exercise can reduce every major chronic disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and certain cancers,” says Dr. Ross. “A minimum of three to five times a week is excellent for overall good health, [and] reducing your risk of [both] cardiovascular death and breast cancer.”

That’s not to say that you have to sign up for intense classes like HIIT training or boot camps. Even walking regularly can go a long way to reduce blood pressure and increase your heart health. “Keeping track of your steps makes you more accountable and successful with your exercise resolution,” adds Dr. Ross.

Eating Poorly

Even those once-in-a-while occasions of binging on salty, saturated fat-laden foods can add up. Experts agree that a well-balanced, primarily plant-based diet, that contains little red meat and high-fat dairy is the key to good health. But, that doesn’t mean that you should cut out fat altogether. The Mediterranean diet is a perfect model to follow in avoiding the two most common causes of death in women (heart disease and breast cancer) and promoting healthy living. “Consuming ‘good’ fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), which are found in nuts, avocados, and fatty fish—like salmon—promotes healthy aging and reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer,” says Dr. Ross. “By controlling your diet, you will reduce your risk of obesity which affects 27 percent of people in the U.S.” Ross warns, “Being overweight and obese increases your risk of heart disease and breast cancer.”

Not Getting Enough Shut-Eye

When you’re young, you might be able to run on just a few hours of sleep. But this sleep deprivation, as well as all the “catching up” on lost sleep during the weekends that you did during your younger years, will eventually catch up to you. “Women who toss and turn at night, or stay up later, may have higher levels than men of C-reactive protein and other signs linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes,” says Sally Warren, naturopathic doctor and a practitioner at Metro Integrative Pharmacy in New York City. “Get into a healthy routine. Skip the late-night social media or [the] binge-watching, and get some beauty sleep—it works!”

Partying Way Too Hard

There’s nothing wrong with having a good time. If you’re knocking back a dozen or so drinks a week, though, you might want to consider how it may be impacting your health. “We know [that] drinking alcohol increases your risk of heart disease, liver disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and colorectal cancer,” says Dr. Ross. “Now, we can add breast cancer to the negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption.” In fact, research published in the Current Breast Cancer Reports journal found that having two or more drinks a day can increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer by as much as 41 percent. This is also true of moderate alcohol intake that consists of one alcoholic drink a day, says Dr. Ross. “If you drink moderate amounts of alcohol, it’s recommended to take 600 mcg of folate to counteract the effects [that] moderate alcohol consumption has on breast cancer,” she adds.

Not Drinking Enough H2O

One drink you should be knocking back on the regular is water. But, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that many Americans aren’t getting their fair share. “Ladies, your body needs a good supply of water to stay hydrated,” says Dr. Warren. “ If your organs can shut down because of a lack of water, imagine the damage [that] you are doing to your skin through dehydration—not to mention premature aging!” She recommends drinking at least one to two liters per day, and ideally consuming two full glasses before each meal.

Smoking

Believe it or not, smoking is still a serious problem in America despite the drastically negative physical and emotional effects it can have on the body. “From heart disease, high blood pressure, and lung cancer, smoking is a habit worth kicking,” says Dr. Ross. “Quitting may be the single best thing you can do to avoid a variety of medical illness and increase your life expectancy.” In fact, lung cancer, caused by smoking, is the leading “preventable” cause of cancer! Get ahead of your health and quit smoking, ASAP.

Yo-Yo Dieting

With so many diets out there claiming to help you lose pounds easily instantly, it’s tempting to try a few. But, experts warn against any style of dieting that involves withholding certain food groups from your diet. “Starving and binge-style eating , then bouncing back to your regular eating habits, or worse, playing ‘catch-up’, is going to wreak havoc on your metabolism and cause your body to gain more weight than you lost during the starvation diet,” says Dr. Warren. In other words , focus on balance, not restriction and eat all food—including your favorite comfort foods—in moderation.

Poor Stress Management

Today’s woman has a lot on her plate! Women are working more than ever, enjoying social lives, and caring for their families. But overworking can lead anyone to face irregular sleep and cause a buildup of distress that can impact every organ in the body. “Just taking a few minutes to close your eyes and/or meditate can make a great difference,” says Dr. Warren. “Make sure you are refilling your tank with goodness, self-love, ritual, and care.”

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