Stay Healthy at Any Age
Some health tips—like getting a flu shot and seeing your doctor every year—are ageless. But beyond the other basics like exercising and eating right, there are age-appropriate steps you can take to safeguard your health, whether you’re in your 20s, your 80s, or anywhere in between.
Here’s what you should know about staying well, no matter your age.
In Your 20s
You’ll experience countless changes in your body, life, and relationships in your 20s. Research shows that staying healthy during this decade is associated with a lower risk for heart disease in your 40s. That means having a healthy body weight, consuming alcohol in moderation, not smoking, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet. In this period of life, prevention is key.
- Meet new people. In your 20s, having lots of social interactions can positively benefit your well-being later in life, research
- Take your vitamins. Women of childbearing age should consume at least 400 micrograms of the B vitamin folic acid, even if they aren’t planning on becoming pregnant. Folic acid helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine and can be consumed in food or supplements.
- Get screened for cervical cancer. Women age 21 to 29 should get a Pap test every three years to check for abnormalities and possible cancer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Start thinking about your future health. From getting enough calcium and vitamin D to build strong bones for life to forming healthy life habits, what you do in your 20s can set the tone for your future.
In Your 30s and 40s
You’re probably juggling more than you were in your 20s. But don’t let that stop you from making health a priority.
- Manage stress. Having lots of stress in your life can increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity and depression, skin problems, and menstrual problems. Staying active, seeking support, practicing mind-body exercises, eating well, and getting plenty of sleep can all positively impact your stress.
- Nurture your friendships. The same research that found quantity of friends was important in your 20s revealed that in your 30s, the quality of your friendships can predict future well-being.
- Keep up with annual checkups. From age 30 to 65 women should get screened for cervical cancer with a Pap test every three years, or every five years if you get both a Pap test and an HPV test, the HHS recommends Talking with your doctor about family planning at this age can help you stay in control of when or if you have children. Annual checkups are important for both sexes.
In Your 50s
At half a century, you’ve reached a life milestone—and everyone’s least favorite screening milestone.
- Get screened for colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that men and women who are at an average risk for developing colorectal cancer get screened starting at age 50. Colonoscopies are the most effective way to catch colorectal cancer, but you can also talk to your doctor about other options.
In Your 60s and 70s
The golden years are a time of transition. Beyond regular doctor’s visits and staying active and social, there are a couple things you can do.
- Research shows that older adults who volunteer have better overall health, fewer functional limitations, and reductions in symptoms of depression. Bonus: Being altruistic may even help you live longer, according to the study findings.
- Check your bones. As you get older, your bones begin to weaken. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women start having their bone density tested at age 65. Men can get osteoporosis, too, but it is less common and there are not universal recommendations for men.
In Your 80s
Octogenarians have the distinct pleasure of being some of the wisest folks in the world. By now, you probably know more about living a full life than most. But there are some things to consider.
- Focus on balance. Falls are common in this age group. Staying active, creating a safe environment that can help you avoid falls, using mobility aids, and wearing proper shoes are a few of the steps you can take to avoid falls.
- Accept support. Social support is important at every age. If you feel like you need some extra help from friends, family, or professionals, don’t be afraid to ask.
About Kristen Domonell
Kristen Domonell, MS, RYT, is a freelance health writer and content strategist based in Seattle. Her work has appeared in publications including: WomensHealthMag.com, Vice.com, Prevention.com, MensHealth.com, DailyBurn.com, Self magazine, University Business magazine, The Huffington Post, CNN.com, The Daily Beast, and more.