Preventative healthcare is incredibly important, as many diseases and conditions can be caught early with the right tests and healthcare team. While you might associate preventative care with the elderly, tests are vital for disease screenings at all ages of adulthood. These include mammograms, colonoscopies, pap smears, annual wellness exams, and more. Preventative care, however, also includes what you’re eating, how you’re moving, and the habits you’re avoiding. Importantly, these differ from decade to decade, so take care to ensure you’re making a plan for yourself (with your doctor’s approval) as you age. Not sure where to start? Here’s your holistic health care guide through the years.
Preventative Healthcare In Your 20s
Most women and men in their 20s are still riding a faster metabolism, meaning that many take advantage of it by consuming calorie-ridden drinks, desserts, and fast food. Beyond having potentially negative effects on an internal level, these choices can become habits that are ultimately harder to kick as you approach your 30s. Think of your 20s as the time to prep: how do you want to eat? How do you wish to feel? With school, new careers, new relationships, dating, marriage, and new independence can come a reliance of fast food and a lack of exercise. Instead, think about incorporating more fruits and vegetables, more at-home meals, and getting blood tests somewhat regularly to check for optimal levels of vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, iron, and calcium—this way you know where you’re starting. At the gym, aim to build muscle and work your cardiovascular system, less for looks and more for setting up your body with a strong foundation for decades to come. Outdoors, try joining a hiking, biking, or even trail running club.
For mental health, find an outlet, whether that’s reading, journaling, painting, or simply chatting with friends. While it might be tempting to cut out on sleep in order to max out time spent with friends, aim to get between 7-9 hours a night.
Preventative Healthcare In Your 30s
Every decade our basal metabolism drops, as this article explains, meaning that what you ate in your 20s won’t work as well in your 30s—that is, if you ate poorly. It’s not too late to turn things around, however. Center meals around plants, aiming to get in foods like vegetables, beans, cold water fish, healthful fats, and fiber-rich starches. Continue supporting your bones by consuming calcium-rich foods like sesame seeds, sardines, cheese, and even bone broth. If vegan, remember to supplement with any vitamins you might be missing in your diet.
If you struggle with motivation to stay active, join a hiking, biking, or even walking group. Fitness classes that focus on strength-building or circuit workouts are beneficial for building strong bones, while yoga classes can keep you flexible and relaxed. Look to maximize sleep by syncing your sleep patterns with the circadian rhythm.
Preventative Healthcare In Your 40s
The 40s can be the make-or-break decade: once your health has started to decline, it’s harder to get back on track—but that doesn’t make it impossible. As metabolism slows, continue to keep the digestive track in line by including plenty of fermented foods, high-quality proteins, and heart-healthy foods. Focus on consuming a wide array of vegetables, like bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and plenty of leafy greens. In our 40s, most of us are better off financially than we were in our 30s, making it easier to buy organic foods, start a garden, or take a few cooking classes.
Tired of going to exercise classes? Find an activity you love and get outside. Outdoor activity can be a great stress relief, as well.
Preventative Healthcare In Your 50s
It might feel like everyone around you is slowing down, but don’t stop now. This is the decade to continue regular exercise. Continue to strength train 1-2 times a week and aim for plenty of cardiovascular exercise in the form of swimming, walking, hiking, or biking. If free time is on the horizon, plan a vacation where you’re active, whether that’s walking through European cities or hiking the National Parks in the United States.
Many people start having sleep issues in this decade, whether from menopause or other hormonal issues. Address this early on with your primary care doctor to find solutions that work for you. Try limiting screen time in the evening, meditating, aromatherapy, or reading before bed to help sleep come easier.
Preventative Healthcare In Your 60s & Beyond
Take care to eat well, enjoying food with friends and family. Focus on lean proteins, healthy fats, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and portion sizes appropriate to your activity level. Include plenty of high-fiber foods to keep the digestive tract moving.
With more free time, you may be eager to do more, but ensure you give yourself optimal recovery and rest between training sessions or arduous hikes. If you feel arthritis, look for ways to manage your pain holistically, like through turmeric or an anti-inflammatory diet, but continue to find ways to keep active. Yoga can be helpful, even as you age and feel less flexible. Most yoga studios offer a wide range of classes that are suitable for your activity level—find one that you love and keep at it.
While aging is inevitable, eating well, moving often, and stressing less all go a long way in preventing—and in some cases decreasing—our risks for certain cancers and disorders. How do you stay active? Do you have tips for eating well? Share your ideas below!