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Tags: Health Lifestage guide to Health

“What you used to do to might stop working in your 40s. You might need look at portion sizes, reducing your discretionary intake, and increasing fibre intake to keep you feeling fuller for longer.”—Olivia Carinci, Health Coaching Team Lead, HealthierMe™, Remedy Healthcare

Key points

  • You may find your weight increases at this stage of your life. For women, rapid hormonal changes can make this weight gain more marked.

  • There can be an increased risk of chronic disease in your 40s—including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and hypertension—as well as a greater chance of injuries.

  • However, with a healthy lifestyle and early detection and management of any health issues, your 40s can be a decade relatively free of health hassles.

No matter how well we take care of ourselves, we can’t avoid the changes that inevitably come as we age. And our 40s—when we officially reach “middle age”—can be a time when we increasingly notice those age-related changes. So, what happens to our health in our 40s?

In this article, our experts look at what we can expect, from the middle-age spread to chronic disease. And while that might sound a bit doom and gloom, there’s nothing to fear. Your 40s present the perfect opportunity to get on top of your health ahead of your 50s and 60s.

The middle-age spread

“Typically, in the 40s we tend to see an increase in fat mass for both men and women, particularly around the abdominal area,” says Olivia Carinci, Health Coaching Team Lead at HealthierMe™, a program run by Australian Unity partner Remedy Healthcare.

For women, this belly fat can be more marked due to perimenopause and the rapid change to hormones, particularly oestrogen, that occur as a result. Olivia, who has a background as a dietitian, advises that it might be a prime time for all of us to start being mindful of our overall energy intake and choosing to be a little more active.

“What you used to do might stop working in your 40s. You might need look at portion sizes, reducing your discretionary intake, and increasing fibre intake from food like fresh fruit and veggies to keep you feeling fuller for longer.”

Nutrition matters

Olivia says that, surprisingly, the nutrients that are most important for aging—like fibre, calcium, vitamin D, folate, iron, zinc and water—tend to be the areas where people in their 40s actually aren't doing that well, nutritionally speaking.

The problem isn’t education around healthy eating, she says, “it's being able to put that theory into practice. People struggle with this because if they’re busy or stressed with work or family commitments, eating well can fall by the wayside”.

And while you may not see an immediate impact from poor nutrition in your 40s, chronic diseases may be just around the corner—making it a good decade to embark on a healthy eating routine.

Olivia recommends asking yourself these questions to see if you’re meeting your nutritional needs every day:

  • Are you getting a regular intake of fresh fruit and veggies?
  • Are you including lean protein sources?
  • Are you eating some form of dairy, including a probiotic type?
  • Are you consuming high-quality grains?
  • Are you limiting your discretionary intake and your sugar and alcohol intake?

Olivia’s tip? Embrace a Mediterranean-style diet, which is naturally low in sugar and processed foods, and has all the good things to help you fight the middle-age spread.

Feeling like things are catching up with you

Depending on your genetics, lifestyle and other factors, you may start to feel like your health isn’t what it once was in your 40s. For many of us, we start to witness an increased risk of chronic disease , including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and hypertension. There can also be a decrease in fitness and muscle strength.

Radeyan Sazzad, Manager—Health Management at Australian Unity, says it’s a good decade for people to “start being aware of what potentially could happen in the future. You can have screening tests and do plenty in your 40s to try to either mitigate health issues or manage risks moving forward”.

Once you hit 40, both men and women should check for cardiovascular risk and diabetes, says Radeyan. He also advises women get screened for certain cancers, like cervical and breast cancer, and undergo an osteoporosis screen.

It’s not all downhill

While aging is inevitable, there’s plenty to be optimistic about, says Radeyan. “I think the 40s can be a stable time in your life, where you can actually feel the best you ever have.”

It comes down to leading a healthy lifestyle in the first place. “Our bodies are more resilient—and stronger—than people think. In elite sport, for example, we're seeing more athletes competing at the highest levels while in their 40s.”

While the reality might be different for most of us, screening for issues, thinking carefully about what we are putting into our bodies and recognising that we may need to make a few lifestyle changes should help us enjoy our 40s—and reap the benefits into our 50s and 60s.



Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.