Maximising your wellbeing in midlife and beyond

Our 40s, according to Dr Muir Gray, author of Midlife: Look Younger, Live Longer, Feel Better, can be the most challenging decade for lots of people – the “sandwich generation” juggling parenting, ageing parents and careers.

When we turn 40, according to research, is when we start to put weight on more easily, find hangovers harder to get over and recovery time from injuries slows down. “This is when we begin to listen to our bodies and avoid the things we know to be bad for us,” says Dr Agus, a leading cancer specialist.

So does what you do in your 40s and beyond help you avoid developing illnesses in the later decades of your life? Most research would seem to suggest this is true, especially when it comes to diet. So to maximise your wellbeing, here are some ideas to add to your diet checklist in your 40s and beyond:

Drink full fat milk

Particularly after exercise, as this can help combat the reduction in muscle mass associated with getting older, especially once you’re in your 50s. It also contains calcium, which is essential for bone health.

Avoid short cuts

Supplements are not only expensive but they can have detrimental effects on your health, warns Dr Agus. Calcium supplements, for example, can increase prostate cancer risk in men. “It’s simple – eat real food to stay healthier,” he says.

Resist the urge to snack

Research suggests that those who graze are at greater risk of diabetes. “We weren’t made to eat all the time, and if we do our bodies become resistant to insulin,” Dr Agus says. Avoid eating in front of the television, use smaller plates and put all biscuits and cakes out of sight, says Dr Gray. “Eat slowly, putting your knife and fork down between every mouthful.”

Avoid the magpie effect

Say no to shiny packets. Artificial ingredients from sweeteners to the chemical preservatives in most processed foods accelerate ageing and lead to inflammation and cell death, according to nutritionist Dr Josh Axe ( David Marshall, a personal trainer and author of fitness guide Bodydoctor, suggests eating food that requires plenty of chewing with no E-numbers. “If it can be added, it should be avoided,” he says.

Take probiotics

Inflammation caused by the microbial activity in our gut can cause ageing, particularly of the skin, says Liz Earle, author of The Good Gut Guide. “The healthy bacteria and lactoferrin found in plain live yoghurt can dramatically improve our levels of skin-friendly flora, which in turn leads to smoother, clearer skin, especially for those prone to adult-onset acne or rosacea”.

Drink coffee and tea

While too much caffeine is dehydrating and increases inflammation, there is nothing wrong with coffee in moderation – caffeine is thought to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and it can also enhance physical performance; personal trainer Marshall suggests a cup before exercise. Meanwhile teas such as rooibos, black, green and white teas, and oolong teas contain antioxidants thought to combat the ageing process.

Eat like they do in the Med

Swap red meat for organic white meat, butter for olive oil and go easy on carbs, says Dr Gray, who also recommends purple foods, which contain polyphenols associated with a longer life, and pulses and lentils. Dr Axe suggests we add turmeric to our diets, which is thought to fight inflammation, arthritis, depression and pain, while Earle recommends almonds and sunflower seeds for their skin-plumping properties.

It’s not fat that makes you fat…

… it’s sugar, according to Marshall. Sugar also promotes a process called glycation, which damages cells and causes wrinkles. “This doesn’t just mean avoiding sugary muffins and chocolate bars but also simple carbohydrates such as white rice and potatoes, which are also sugars,” he says.

Limit the booze….

You don’t have to give up booze entirely, says Dr Gray, but it is sensible to have alcohol-free days as you age. His rule is one day a week in your 40s, two in your 50s and so on. “I’m in my 70s and I feel much better if I have four days without alchohol,” he says.

…and don’t get drunk

Not just because the hangover is worse, but because alcohol leads to a bad night’s sleep. “It’s a question of working out how much you can drink and still sleep through the night and then never drinking more than that,” says Dr Agus.

Source: For the full article ‘The midlife health checklist: how to maximise your wellbeing in your 40s and beyond’ visit