By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Preventive health measures can help us maintain good health. As Ben Franklin stated, “A stitch in time saves nine.”
While we can’t do anything to change the genetics we were born with, we can mitigate health risks by preventing some health issues decade by decade.
In your 20s
The healthful habits established in your teens and 20s offer a lifetime of benefits. You greatly reduce risk of obesity, metabolic disorders, nutrient deficiencies, heart disease, cancer and more by eating right and staying active.
It’s also important to drink only in moderation and abstain from tobacco use. Tobacco damages every cell of the body and represents a factor in numerous disease processes.
Young women also need to get plenty of calcium to enjoy strong bones later in life.
Taking care of your teeth — flossing daily, brushing after meals, avoiding sugary and starchy snacks and visiting your dentist regularly — correlates with heart health, mounting evidence shows. Take care of any dental issues promptly.
Prepare for a healthy pregnancy.
“In general, it’s about proper nutrition: be sure you’re getting enough nutrients during pregnancy and breastfeeding to keep your own body healthy,” said Jennifer Lombardo, owner of Buffalo Doula Services, LLC, and a certified labor doula, breastfeeding educator, and postpartum doula.
“The baby is going to take whatever nutrients it can from your body so it’s easy for the mom to be depleted,” Lombardo added. “Still take the prenatal vitamins after the baby is born for the nutrients you need to bounce back and keep your body healthy.”
Along with babies come sleepless nights, so moms should accept help and prioritize rest. Lombardo suggested reaching out to a doula long before delivery to have extra help lined up.
Discuss your health with your provider before you conceive and contraception if you want to space your children or once your family is complete.
In your 30s
In the 30s, many women become extremely busy with family, household and employment responsibilities, which can make it difficult to keep weight off.
Warren Paschetto, certified personal trainer and owner of Warren Paschetto Fitness in Williamsville, encourages women to ramp up their fitness routine and strength training, as well as keeping closer track of calories to manage weight.
He likes the app MyFitnessPal.
“You don’t need the ‘pro’ version,” he said. “You answer the questions, and it gives you the number of calories you need in a day. Log in everything you eat throughout the day. It’s OK to have an ice cream, but as you use the app, you realize you have to keep it in balance.”
Paschetto posts healthful recipes on his website, https://warrenpaschetto.com/recipes.
It’s also vital to begin performing self breast exams monthly if you’re not already. Report any suspicious lumps, bumps, discharge or discoloration to your provider.
In your 40s
The 40s can be a stressful decade with children who are middle school-aged or teens with crazy schedules. Unwind in healthful ways, such as connecting with friends and family and joining in relaxing hobbies not with substances.
Physical activity provides stress relief and help in weight control.
“Involve yourself in healthy activities,” said Rhonda McGuire, director of marketing, Niagara Climbing Center, North Tonawanda. “Find something you like to do.”
She added that patrons of the center range from people who want a break from the typical gym environment to families working out together to serious rock climber training.
Also in this decade, ask your care provider about when you should begin mammograms.
In your 50s
In your 50s, caring for elderly parents while still working can make maintaining fitness more challenging, but it’s still vital for good health. Get help with elderly parents as needed.
Keep track of your own health by knowing the signs of heart attack, stroke and aneurism. At this point, your risk goes up, particularly if you haven’t managed your weight and watched your diet. Take “minor” illnesses seriously. It will take longer to recover from the flu. Don’t push yourself when you’re sick.
Have an annual physical if you aren’t already. Your provider can keep closer tabs on your vital numbers like blood pressure, cholesterol and weight. Discuss any menopausal symptoms; you have more options than hormone replacement therapy.
Get a baseline vision and hearing exam so you can benchmark any future vision or hearing loss.
In your 60s
When you reach your 60s, work on functional fitness — movements that keep you strong for doing daily activities.
“Practice body squats,” Paschetto said. “Stand up and sit down. Start with five reps and build up to 10 reps. Then maybe do a few sets. That will build up leg strength.”
He said that as people age, increasing time sitting can lead to less strength and balance. The “body squat” is further enhanced by working balance into it. Paschettto said to put the hips back and not let the knees come over the toes while performing the movement.
Obtain a bone density scan. Even if your bones are fine, it’s good to have a benchmark so you can tell if you’re losing bone later.
Ask your doctor about colonoscopy and any other exams and screenings based upon your family health history. Speak up if you experience “embarrassing” issues like incontinence, low libido, or vaginal dryness. You won’t embarrass your care provider.
You may also consider seeing a geriatrician, as their medical expertise can address the multi-faceted medical issues often accompanying older age. Ask about vaccinations, like pneumonia.
In your 70s and beyond
In your 70s and beyond, it’s all about staying active.
“Yoga moves help you move your core, which is important,” said McGuire at Niagara Climbing Center in North Tonawanda.
“It helps you be stable and flexible,” she added. “A strong core and good flexibility helps to prevent injury. The core helps with balance.”
It’s also important to stay involved. Becoming isolated can hurt your health, since you move less and aren’t as mentally engaged when alone. Volunteers, join clubs and stay social.
If arthritis bothers you, ask your doctor what you can do. Many find that walking and swimming help their symptoms.
If some chores become too much, ask for help.
Stay positive. By focusing on what you still have and fostering an outlook of gratitude, it’s easier to look forward instead of ruminating over the past.