Last week I decided to behave like a grown up, so I went to my GP for a proper, old school check-up.
It was about more than simply having my blood pressure and cholesterol checked. It was about getting real and finding out exactly what lies ahead for me health wise. I am, after all, on the Super Highway to 50. And while in my head I’m still 24 years old and obsessing over Bailey Salinger on Party of Five, the harsh reality is that I’m 42 and ¾.
Suddenly I’m in the “mammograms are recommended” age group.
Suddenly I’m having to dye my hair waaaaaaaaaay more often than I ever did before.
Suddenly I have friends talking to me about hot flashes and being perimenopausal.
Suddenly, jumping on trampolines/sneezing/doing a cardio class at the gym can end BADLY.
(Look, let’s call a spade a spade. There’s less wheeeeee! And more wee).
Welcome to middle age. Fasten your seatbelt, it’s going to be a bumpy flight.
Just as an FYI, this post is sponsored by PeriCoach. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100 per cent authentic and written in their own words.
But my GP (who has the looks of Hilary Clinton and the bluntness of, well, Hilary Clinton) ever so politely told me to GET A GRIP. Ageing is a privilege. And my job? To be proactive, to take the lead in looking after my own health and to make fabulous decisions for my body so that I’m around for another 42 years (at a minimum).
So with that in mind, here are 6 things you might not have realised happen to your body when you get older – and some positive things you can do to help take care of yourself. After all, you’re the only you there is. Better look after her.
1. Pick up some weights.
Your bones get thinner and weaker as you age, putting you at risk of fractures and also of more serious conditions like osteoporosis. Meanwhile, your muscles tend to become less flexible. That’s why doctors are forever banging on about getting enough calcium in your diet and the importance of doing weight-bearing exercises as you get older. You can slow the process down and keep your bones strong just by taking a vitamin tablet (talk to your doctor, obviously) and climbing stairs, going for walks, jogging or playing a sport like tennis. Not to make you feel bad or anything, but Queensland woman Vivien Vieritz is 92 and still practices and teaches yoga. Just sayin’.
2. Train your brain.
I won’t lie. As you get older it does seem to get harder to remember stuff. Well, not the theme song to The Brady Bunch or the names of Julia Robert’s children (Hazel, Phinn and Henry) or that time your brother-in-law gave you bathroom scales for Christmas (WHAT THE HELL, MARK?) but other stuff like your three million banking/computer passwords. (The positive side to a failing memory is the possibility you’ll permanently forget things like, oh I don’t know, the time Meatloaf sang the National Anthem at the 2011 AFL Grand Final, Geoffrey Edelstein’s wardrobe, Vegemite 2.0). I digress. So what do you do about your failing memory? Staying fit and eating a good diet helps. Boring but true. As does keeping your brain active. Do the daily crossword puzzle. Go back to study something or research a topic at home. Download some of those free brain-training apps. Do it now, before you forget.
3. Screen time.
Once you’re 40 it’s all about ‘screen time’ but not of the iPad variety. (See what I did there?). Every two years (unless you’re advised otherwise) you should be having a pap smear and a mammogram as you try to proactively hunt down any signs of cervical cancer or breast cancer. These screening processes are a bit like throwing some bait into the water to see if anything bites. If something unfavourable comes up, you want to be onto it immediately. Knowledge is power.
4. Pelvic floor.
Let’s cut to the chase on this one. Grown women should not have to put up with weeing their pants accidentally when they cough, sneeze, laugh or, you know, jump on a trampoline with the kids. As you age, urinary incontinence (so losing bladder control) becomes an issue for women – it’s particularly related to pregnancy and menopause. So what do you do about it? Three words: Pelvic Floor Exercises. Get into the habit of tightening your pelvic floor muscles, holding them for 5-10 seconds and then letting go. Do it 10 times in a row at least three times a day! (I added an exclamation mark to make it sound super fun! Work with me here, people). Be proactive on this one and you can make friends with the trampoline again. #trampolining4eva
5. Understand your own stress triggers.
Stop stressing! No seriously. STOP. STRESSING. Here’s the thing, while some stress is normal and can even be beneficial, chronic stress can contribute to physical illness like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and chronic fatigue. Let me remind you again that heart disease is the biggest killer of Australian women. Yeah. THAT. So what to do about stress? Identify the sources of stress in your life and see if you can CHANGE THEM. If you can’t change the situation, think about how you’re responding to feeling stressed. Eating junk, smoking, drinking, getting angry and excessively sleeping aren’t exactly what you’re shooting for. You’re not in Vegas. Instead start to build into your day even five minutes of chatting to a friend on the phone, going for a walk, meditating, exercising or yoga, playing with a pet, having a bath, reading good book … it can all lower your stress levels.
6. More strawberries and blueberries, less processed junk.
You know all those crazy diets you keep reading about? Forget ‘em. Food isn’t meant to be complicated. There aren’t “rules”. This isn’t Fight Club. But part of being a grown up is eating like one. Living off Cheezels or cereal or two minute noodles isn’t going to cut it. Plus you owe your body more than that … look what it’s done for you. So try to fill your (moderately sized) plate with more fruit and veg and whole grains and lean protein. And cut back on the heavily processed fast food. Good food choices have a positive impact on your health and can steer you away from diet-related illnesses. Nobody’s asking you to drink kale milkshakes, I promise.
What are some things you do to take care of yourself?
Check out these celebrities who just keep getting better with age:
This debilitating condition is mostly caused by trauma to the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. Around 4 million Australian women suffer from incontinence and it is estimated that by 2030, more that 5 million women in Australia alone will be affected.
Designed and developed in Australia, PeriCoach comprises a discreet sensor device, web portal and smartphone app. It works by evaluating activity in pelvic floor muscles and this information is immediately transmitted via Bluetooth to a smartphone. From there it can be uploaded and accessed by via a cloud based portal and shared with a healthcare professional, such as a women’s health physiotherapist, who can analyse and make recommendations to achieve the best results.
More information can be found at: www.pericoach.com