Staying healthy is especially important once you reach your 40s. Doctors recommend several actions to help prevent problems that, in your 40s, can become more common.
Any screening tests you should have will depend on your health. Talk to your doctor about exactly what you need, but most healthy people in their 40s should get health checks at regular intervals. So:
Every 2 years
Every 3 years
Every 5 years
At regular intervals
Healthy lifestyle recommendations
Some risk factors can contribute to certain diseases in your 40s, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and cancer. To help you stay healthy:
You can get support to quit smoking from your doctor, who may also give you medicine, or you can try a service such as Quit Now or Quitline.
Are you at risk?
It is important to have a balanced diet and to stay within a healthy weight range.
You should enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods every day, including fruit and vegetables, grains, lean meats, poultry and fish, as well as milk, yoghurt and cheese. Limit foods containing saturated fat, added salt and sugar, and alcohol.
Drink 2 standard drinks or less per day, and no more than 4 alcoholic drinks on any one occasion.
If you have a condition that can get worse with alcohol, your doctor may advise you not to drink. You should also not drink alcohol if you are pregnant.
Be physically active
Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most – preferably all – days of the week. (Moderate-intensity physical activity is an activity that is energetic and raises your heart rate but doesn’t make you too breathless, such as fast walking.)
Any physical activity in your 40s is better than none.
Staying healthy/preventative activities
The following health problems are more common in people aged 40 or over, especially if you have other risk factors. However, there are also some things you can do to help prevent these conditions from developing:
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes heart disease, stroke and blood vessel diseases.
Once you reach age 45, you should have an assessment of CVD risk every 2 years. If you already have risk factors this should be done at 40. Your doctor may ask you questions and test your blood pressure and cholesterol as well as checking for other health conditions.
You can help prevent CVD by following the healthy lifestyle recommendations above, as well as by reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol.
High blood pressure
You should have a blood pressure test every 2 years, or every 6 to 12 months if you have a moderate risk of CVD, or every 6 to 12 weeks if your risk is high.
Apart from the above diet and exercise recommendations, other ways to prevent high blood pressure include:
- maintaining a waist measurement of less than 94cm for men and less than 80cm for women
- limiting salt to 5mg per day, or 4mg if you have high blood pressure — this tool will help you check the amount of salt in processed food
Cholesterol and lipids
From age 45, you should have your cholesterol and lipids checked every 5 years with a blood test, or every 1 to 2 years if you have a higher risk of CVD. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised to have tests from age 35 years.
You can help maintain a healthy cholesterol level with exercise and a healthy diet.
Type 2 diabetes
In your 40s you should be tested every 3 years to see if you have type 2 diabetes, or every 12 months if you are at increased risk. Your doctor will organise a blood test to check your glucose level.
The above exercise, diet and weight recommendations can help prevent type 2 diabetes.
If you are at risk of a stroke, your doctor should assess you every 12 months.
The assessment may involve a series of questions and tests for CVD risk factors, including atrial fibrillation. Medicines may be available for these conditions if you have them.
Kidney disease should be assessed every 1 to 2 years if you are at high risk. Risk factors can be similar to CVD or could involve an injury to your kidney.
Your doctor may ask you a series of questions as well as checking your blood pressure and doing a urine test. You may need to take some medicine to lower your blood pressure if it is high.
Once you reach age 40, your doctor may check your skin even if you have an appointment for another reason. If you are at high risk for skin cancer, you should have a complete skin check every 6 to 12 months.
Ensure that you ‘slip, slop, slap, seek and slide’ to protect your skin from future sun damage.
To test for cervical cancer women should have a cervical screening test 2 years after their last Pap test. After that, if your result is normal you will only need to have the cervical screening test every 5 years.
This test has replaced the previous Pap test and is more accurate. However, it feels the same as a Pap test.
Colorectal (bowel or colon) cancer
From age 40, if you have a higher risk of bowel cancer, you’re advised to do a test every 2 years using a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT). You can get a FOBT kit from your doctor or pharmacy and take a sample of your faeces (poo), yourself.
Depending on your results your doctor may recommend that you have a colonoscopy.
Osteoporosis and fracture
Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals and become more brittle, putting them at risk of fractures.
If you are a postmenopausal woman over 45, your doctor may ask you some screening questions every 3 years to assess your risk.
To help prevent osteoporosis in your 40s, ensure you have 1,000mg calcium per day, as well as following the healthy diet and exercise recommendations above. Getting enough vitamin D, without risk of skin cancer, is also advised.
Tooth decay and gum disease
You can help prevent this by:
- brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
- spitting out the toothpaste, not rinsing
- using dental floss
- limiting foods and drinks high in acid and sugar
- visiting a dentist every 12 months or more, if required