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Memo to 30-Somethings: 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Turn 40

No one warns you about 40. Instead, you learn as you go from appointment to appointment, or notice little changes day to day that let you know that your life (well, really your body) has changed, and not necessarily for the better. So this your warning, your memo.
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Maybe I wasn't paying attention. Or maybe I didn't get the memo. I thought I was ready to turn 40, but I definitely was not prepared for the onslaught of bad news that comes your way when you turn 40. I suspect many others are just living their lives as well, naively thinking 40 will be like every other birthday--a year older whether you admitted it or not. But 40 is different, 40 shatters the illusion of eternal youth. You have to face it--you aren't 25 anymore. Because there's the inconvenient truth, you don't feel 25 anymore.

And yet, no one warns you--not your friends, family, or your doctors--and your doctors should be the first ones to do so. Instead, you learn as you go from appointment to appointment, or notice little changes day to day that let you know that your life (well, really your body) has changed, and not necessarily for the better. So this your warning, your memo.

Take heed.

  1. Fad Diets: Don't work. Every day we get inundated with promises of the perfect body if you go on this new diet, take this vitamin, eat this exotic fruit, drink this new cold-pressed juice or protein shake, or give up this or that. Guess what? It has been scientifically proven none of them work. You want the perfect body (and by perfect we mean an average BMI for your weight) eat cleanly and in moderation... just like your mother always told you.

  • For Younger Looking Skin: Drink water and invest. We can't emphasis the importance of water enough--water is the only real detox available and not only will it clean you up inside, but on the outside as well. The next step is to make an appointment with a dermatologist or good aesthetician, and the sooner the better. Have your skin evaluated, listen, and invest in the best skincare products for your skin type. Knowing your skin type and choosing the right products does, and will, make a difference as you age. The commercials are right--the secret to looking young, even at 40+--is younger looking skin.
  • Ch-ch-changes: Step away from the sugar and simple carbs! That's right, your metabolism hits a wall the minute you turn 40 (literally). So, say goodbye to that late night jumbo slice because exercise alone won't win this war. At least 75 percent of weight loss and control is tied to your diet, especially as you get older. Count on it taking twice the time to lose half the weight you used to be able to lose in a week.
  • Your Sleep Number: 8, 9, or 10. Also cross off the list of superhuman superpowers of being young, the ability to walk into work on two hours of sleep. And forget about going out partying Monday through Sunday past 40. When experts say you need 8 hours of shut eye a night, they aren't joking--recovering from an all-nighter will now suck away days not just hours of your ever shortening life.
  • A Pain in the Joint: Creaks, pops, and crunches, oh my! You are now that person who clutches their low back first thing when getting out of bed. Your joints are the first part of your body to go at 40, and it isn't pleasant. Counter joint aches and pain by keeping your joints healthy by eating right (and doing lots of yoga), as well as daily morning stretches to wake up your entire body. The most important joint to protect? Your spine. There is nothing worse than back pain so strengthen your core to help keep your back strong.
  • For Your Eyes Only: Do you play trombone? This past winter, my eye doctor casually asked if I was having any trouble reading up close. I admitted that sometimes (in dark rooms, of course) I play trombone with restaurant menus, some bills, and an occasion book. I never had any trouble in the past, but as I was informed, when you turn 40, you need to pick up a pair of those cute magnifying glasses and (sigh) a pocket flashlight to read the not so fine print. (We're going with the leopard print.)
  • It's a Matter of Youth: Or not. Hopefully you've been saving your HSA pennies, because it's all downhill from here. No one tells you in advance about the flurry of tests that start at 40, so here's what you can look forward to and when (note: this list is far from being comprehensive and should not supplant your doctor's recommendations). Women: Starting at 40, yearly mammograms, cholesterol test every 5 years, regular blood pressure tests, annual physicals, eye and skin checkups; at 44, annual diabetes screening; at 50, osteoporosis and colonoscopy screenings, plus all the requisite shots.
  • Get Well Soon: Those are the cards you'll be receiving as even the common flu will sideline you now for at least a week, so be sure to get the shot every year. Pulling a muscle or breaking a bone will set you back months not weeks, plus physical therapy, and the injury will now stay with you for the rest of your life (think that relative that relates the story over and over of how he broke his shoulder playing football with the nephews and his golf swing has never been the same since). So drink your milk (and go to yoga) to keep your bones strong as you age.
  • Exercise: So long, farewell to washboard abs and muscle tone! Running that 5K used to be cake. Just staying in shape now, with a slow metabolism and the effects of age, takes effort. Find yourself a cute, young personal trainer to make it easier as you need to add in weight training (if you haven't already) to burn fat, as well as a regular cardio regimen. But remember, you can't exercise yourself to good health any longer after 40 (see #3).
  • Memories: Originally this post was entitled 9 Things... because I had forgotten about memory. Get off of Facebook and Instagram and break out the New York Times crossword puzzle, learn to play an instrument, or grab a book of Sudoko. Your mind needs exercise just as much as your body does and Candy Crush isn't going to cut it past 40. And this generation is in even bigger trouble--because of the rise in mobile devices and apps, recent studies have found our attention span (meaning homo sapiens) is less than a goldfish (not even 8 seconds). Suddenly forgetting your keys becomes a joke because now you can't remember what you did two days ago. At first you'll think it is early Alzheimer's or dementia, until you talk to your friends and discover they are going through the same thing. Isn't aging lovely.
  • Is all of this depressing? Yes. But if you still feel young in heart, mind, and soul, then you are still young, even if your body says otherwise. And although there isn't a way to stop Mother Nature, I plan to tackle her, wrestle her to the ground, and tie her up for as long as possible.

    I hope you'll join me.