Eleven (11) Bad Habits You Can No Longer Get Away With In Your 40s

There are so many wonderful things about turning 40: finally comfortable with who you are; having the maturity you wish you had in your 20s – but realizing you wouldn’t be there without making mistakes in the past; and so, so much more.

It’s also a great time to reevaluate our bad habits and make some serious changes.

In fact, our health is something that doesn’t always improve over time. You can’t get away with as little sleep or exercise as you used to, you need to consciously eat better, and be aware of the health complications that come with aging.

11 Bad Habits to Quit in Your 40s

Below are some bad habits and accompanying lifestyle changes you need to make in your 40s (or even before then) to ensure your overall health and wellness for the best years of your life!

1. Letting Sugar Cravings Win

You might have been able to get away with eating a pint of ice cream or a pitcher of sweet tea in your twenties, but our metabolism slows down as we age. Consuming too much sugar can lead to insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition in which the body cannot properly process carbohydrates.
Blood glucose levels remain unhealthily high, and over time this can turn into Type 2 diabetes- which is most commonly diagnosed after the age of 40 (1).

Aim to reduce processed sugar in your diet. If you have a craving for sweets, reach for whole fruits and/or dark chocolate. Fruit (not fruit juice) contains fiber, which slows the absorption of the natural sugars so your blood glucose levels don’t spike. Dark chocolate is surprisingly good for you (in moderation) and has much less sugar than milk/white chocolate. If your cravings won’t quit, make your own desserts for a healthier alternative.

2. Avoiding Mammograms

According to the National Cancer Institute, the risk of getting breast cancer in your thirties is around 1 in 227. By the time you reach your forties, the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer is approximately 1 in 68. If you have a family history of breast cancer, your risks are even higher (2).

That’s why women are advised to begin getting annual mammograms once they turn 40. Women with family history of breast cancer are advised to start mammograms earlier. This method of diagnosis, however, has its risks.
Regardless of your age, perform a breast self-exam once a month. That’s because at least 40% of breast cancers are found by women who identified changes in their breast tissue on their own (3). Get to know your breasts! This way you’ll be more likely to catch a problem early.

3. Skipping Strength Training

Resistance training (also known as weight or strength training) is an extremely important part of physical fitness and wellness.

Don’t worry, we’re not saying you need to give up cardio, although you should run less as you age. The fact of the matter is that everyone – and women in particular – begin to lose muscle mass in their 30s (4).
Reduced muscle mass translates to reduced metabolic rates, meaning you’ll burn fewer calories throughout the day.
In addition to rebuilding muscle mass, strength training is an effective way to reduce your risk or even reverse the onset of osteoporosis (5).

Aim for 2-5 weight training sessions weekly, and don’t be afraid of lifting heavier weights.

4. Not Getting Enough Sleep

If you haven’t stopped regularly burning the midnight oil, it’s really time to reconsider your sleep habits. Chronic lack of sleep is considered getting less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep every night (6).
Over time, lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, impaired cognitive function, increase the likelihood of personal injury, and much more.  It also increases your risk of degenerative neurological diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (7).

5. Staying in a Mental Funk

There’s a difference between being in a bit of a funk and having depression. By definition, feeling depressed, exhausted, uninterested in normal activities, sad, anxious, and/or irritable for more than two weeks are all classic symptoms of depression (8).
Given the continual hormonal changes and life changes that women typically experience in their 40s, this is actually the age at which you are most likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression (8).
Unfortunately, only around one-third of people suffering from depression will seek help (9). Know that you are not alone, and there are steps you can take to help you feel better – both holistic and conventional.

6. Skipping Your Annual Gynecological Exam
We get it: no one likes pap smears.

The good news is that if you’ve never had an abnormal pap smear, you can usually go up to 3-5 years between exams (9).
However, if you have had an abnormal result or have a family history of gynecological problems, you’ll want to go in yearly.
Catching and treating any abnormalities early is well worth the inconvenience of the exam, as it gives you a chance to treat your body naturally before it gets too serious.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you’ve experienced any changes or unusual symptoms. Reproductive health is important, even during and after menopause (10).

7. Not Using Sunscreen
Tanned skin may be fashionable, but skin cancer is never cool. Regardless of your age, you should be applying sunscreen of some sort every morning -reapplying throughout the day if necessary (approximately every two hours when outside).
Skin cancer has a nasty habit of sneaking up on sun-lovers, so make sure to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms (11). If nothing else, you can prevent sun damage to your face, which makes your skin wrinkle and age faster (12).

8. Avoiding Your Dentist

Aside from the fact that your dental health is directly related to overall wellness, taking proper care of your chompers will help keep you from losing them altogether.
Also, gum disease, which occurs if you don’t take care of your oral health,  is linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even rheumatoid arthritis (13).
Another little-known fact: fillings aren’t designed to last forever. Resin fillings last up to 10 years, silver as long as 20 years. This means that any filings you got as a teenager and in your 20s are likely not able to prevent further tooth decay.
Brush your teeth at least twice a day with remineralizing toothpaste, avoid acidic foods, and be aware of any changes that could point to bigger problems.

9. Forgetting Eye Exams

If you wear glasses or contacts, you’re probably used to seeing the optometrist regularly. But, even if you have perfect vision or haven’t needed an updated prescription in a while, you still need to get checked out.
Detecting vision changes and eye problems early will be critical to preserving your eyesight as you age. The odds of developing macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and retinopathy all increase after the age of 40 (14). Luckily, the earlier these conditions are caught and diagnosed, the more treatable they are.

10. Ignoring Vitamin Intake

As long as you eat a healthy, whole food diet, you shouldn’t need vitamin supplementation in your 20s and 30s. However, hormonal changes before, during, and after menopause can lead to a rapid loss of bone density (15).
Make sure you’re getting enough calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin D to prevent (or even reverse) osteopenia and osteoporosis. And – as mentioned above – keep up on your strength training!

11. Taking Care of Yourself Last

Arguably the most important item on this list: if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you certainly can’t help anyone else! In your 40s you can no longer put your mental and physical health on the back burner without serious consequences down the road (16).
In fact, you may already be suffering some of those consequences. It’s ok – it’s never too late to take control!

Schedule your annual exams, make time to exercise, eat right, and treat yourself
Take a mental health day every so often and don’t forget to take care of yourself. With a bit of determination, you can overcome your bad habits.
It may seem daunting at first, but the more effort you put into self-care, the easier it will become. Best of all, it has short- and long-term benefits.