The basics of healthy living are timeless. But depending on your age, there are specific steps you can take to stay well. Read on for health-boosting moves you can make during each decade:
In Your 20s:
- Get enough iron. Women who menstruate lose iron each month. As a result, they have higher needs than older women. Needs may be even greater if you have heavy periods. Aim for 18 mg per day from foods like meat, seafood, nuts, beans, and/or fortified grain products.
- Include bone-building foods. The amount of bone tissue in the skeleton can keep growing until the late 20s. Eating foods now that are rich in calcium, like dairy products and leafy green vegetables, can help keep your bones stronger for longer. Vitamin D is also important; talk to your doctor about taking a supplement.
- Mix up your fitness routine. Cardio is great for heart health. Weight training also builds muscle. What’s more, it helps build bone density to prevent osteoporosis later on. Making time for both will help strengthen your whole body.
- Build your kitchen skills. If you’re cooking for yourself for the first time, it can be easy to fall back on takeout and frozen dinners. The better-for-you (and more affordable) choice is to learn to cook for yourself. Enlist a food-savvy friend or relative, search YouTube videos, or check out our recipes list for some inspiration.
- Know your family medical history. If you are able, interview close relatives — especially parents and siblings — about their health. Save the information someplace you won’t lose it. You never know when it will come in handy in the future.
- Make time for mental health. The ups and downs of life can be a lot for anybody. Take advantage of mental health resources that might be available to you, from therapists to online programs.
- Prioritize sleep. Shortchanging your snooze time doesn’t do you any good in the long run. Be sure your room is set up in a way that encourages healthy sleep.
In Your 30s:
- Maintain mental well-being. Whether you’re on your own or juggling family, career, and more, it can be challenging to maintain good mental health. If you haven’t taken advantage of mental health resources in the past, now is a great time to get started.
- Sleep easy. Changes to sleep patterns that can make slumber restless may begin in your 30s. Good sleep hygiene is key to getting the most out of your hours in bed.
- Know your folic acid needs. Women of reproductive age should get 400 micrograms of folic acid each day from a supplement or enriched cereals. This is in addition to eating foods rich in folate, like beans and leafy green veggies.
- Seek out preconception counseling. If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant in the next year, talk to your doctor. He or she will help you make changes that will set you up for a healthy pregnancy.
- Our 30s tend to be a busy time, and it can be easy to put off exercise when you feel like other tasks are more urgent. Learn some strategies to make time for exercise even on your busy days.
In Your 40s:
- Get your checkups. It’s important to see a doctor every year for your well-woman visit. You may also need to plan for annual visits with a dermatologist, eye doctor, and more. Talk to your primary care doctor about your wellness routine.
- Increase your strength training routine. Perimenopause begins in the mid-to-late 40s for most women. Hormonal changes can bring on weight gain, especially around the middle of the body. Adding weight-bearing exercises to your routine can help you maintain or even up your energy needs, which will help with weight management.
- Talk about a baseline mammogram. Breast cancer screening is key to catching the disease early, when it is easiest to treat. Have a conversation with your doctor about when it will make sense for you to get regular screenings.
- Refresh your meal routines. Maybe you have a family of picky eaters, or have just gotten into a habit of eating the same tried-and-true meals each week. Since variety is an important part of a balanced diet, it’s good to switch things up. Try some new healthy meal guides to jump-start fresh ideas that will delight your senses and nourish your body.
- Adapt your healthy sleep and mental health habits. Both areas need to be nurtured throughout your life.
In Your 50s:
- Know your heart disease risk. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Eating a balanced diet, staying active, and managing diabetes can help lower your risk.
- Schedule a colonoscopy. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends most people begin regular screenings for colon cancer at age 50. Talk to your doctor about getting a colonoscopy.
- Get your shingles shot. Getting vaccinated against shingles is the only way to prevent the disease and its complications. The CDC recommends that adults age 50 and older get the shingles vaccine.
- Be aware of the signs of osteoporosis. If you have experienced a stress fracture or broken bone, ask your doctor about a bone density test. You may be at higher risk because of genetics or your diet.
- Keep your back strong. We hold so much tension in our lower backs. Over time, this can cause problems. Try this simple exercise routine.
- Continue to adjust to your always-changing sleep and mental health needs.
In Your 60s:
- Keep up connections. Loneliness and social isolation can put you at risk for dementia and other serious health issues. Nearly one-fourth of adults age 65 and older are socially isolated. If you haven’t already, now is a great time to start volunteer work, get involved in a religious organization, or join a book club.
- Know your bones. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women age 65 and older get screened for osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about what you need to know.
- Check your balance. Balance disorders are a top reason why people are more prone to falls as they age. If you have any symptoms like dizziness, ringing in the ears, or a sense of motion even when you’re standing still, talk to your doctor about being screened for balance problems.
- Keep up on your eye health. Vision changes can occur throughout your life. But after 60, some vision issues can create permanent damage if not corrected. The earlier your doctor detects and treats these problems, the less likely they are to cause harm.
- Snack smarter. Your body needs less energy than it used to. Make sure you’re choosing snacks with produce and protein to feel full longer.
- Continue to make health and sleep needs a top priority. Having trouble falling asleep? Try this 5-minute sleep meditation.
70s and Beyond:
- Play mind games. Keeping your brain active is one of the best ways to stave off dementia. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, board games, and reading are all linked with better brain health in older adults.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals. You may not feel as hungry as you did when you were younger. If that’s the case, try eating five small meals a day rather than three bigger ones. This can help ensure you get the energy you need to keep your body strong.
- Look for convenient foods. If your eyes or chopping stamina aren’t what they used to be, prepping a big meal can feel overwhelming. But there are plenty of ways to make healthy food an easy choice. Pre-cut veggies, frozen produce, and low-sodium canned beans are all quick and ready-to-go options that can help you eat well.
- Keep your body active. Even just taking a daily walk can have some amazing health benefits.
- Remember that sleep and mental health needs evolve throughout our lives. Nurture your mental health, and take advantage of the support that is available to you. Waking throughout the night? Try these tips to stay asleep longer.
Whatever stage of life you’re in, you can take steps to improve your health — today and in the future.