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13 August 2003

Your body - 40s

Maybe life does begin at forty. Looking after yourself during these years is essential though, as serious health problems, such as heart problems, often start in the forties.

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When the big four-oh comes around you’ll be expected to throw a big party and to grin at all the jokes about it's being all downhill from here, about having a midlife crisis and about trading in the wife for a younger model and the Camry for a Harley. Ho hum.

The forties are perhaps the best time of your life. You probably have kids and a circle of friends to share the good times. Hopefully you’re gainfully employed and can afford to savour the fruits of your labours occasionally – a holiday somewhere pleasant, a night out with your partner.

This is great, except for one small problem. Your age means you’re moving into the lair of one of South Africa’s most feared and ruthless killers – heart disease. And nothing, but nothing is better at causing heart disease than smoking. If you still haven’t been able to quit, focus on doing that. It’s the single most important step you can take. Here's some advice on how you can do this. Need help to stop smoking?.

Other factors that can trigger a heart attack are:

  • Hypertension, or blood pressure that’s consistently elevated. It’s dangerous because it multiplies your chances on a heart attack and is often undetected;
  • Stress, which is not always a bad thing, but which puts strain on the heart if sustained;
  • Cholesterol, that waxy, fatty stuff that clogs your arteries. Examine your intake of saturated fats. Maybe it’s time to trade your deep fat fryer in on a wok;
  • Lack of exercise. Find creative ways to fit at least three 45-minute workouts into your week. If the pounding music at the gym doesn’t grab you, try jogging with the dog, cycling, basketball and walking. All these activities can be done with family members. Combine your much-needed exercise routine with your chores. Swap your electric mower for a manual push model. Strength training is important now: if you don’t do any resistance training you’ll lose around ten percent of your muscle mass between the ages of 25 and 50. From then on, until your 80th year, you’ll lose another 35 percent;
  • There are other factors which influence the likelihood of a heart attack, such as whether you have diabetes. You might also simply inherit high levels of cholesterol.
Other risks facing men of your age include diabetes and stroke.

Smart things you can do include:

  • Staying trim. By now many of your peers will have sprouted beer bellies. You needn’t feel any urge to conform. Ideally, your trouser size shouldn’t be more than size 36 (102 inches). Any larger than that and your run a heightened risk of heart disease;
  • Stretch: After your morning shower, spend a few minutes doing some stretches. Better still, learn some nifty yoga moves. You’ll be more supple than most of your peers and probably more calm driving to work. You’ll also be less likely to suffer the lower back pain that affects around 75 percent of all adults. Simply leaning backwards can help. Elementary, but true;
  • Take calcium: One study found that calcium appears to increase the rate at which fat is converted to energy;
  • Take a break: You should still work out as intensely as ever, but now your body takes longer to recuperate, so work each body part only once a week.
  • When the big four-oh comes around you’ll be expected to throw a big party and to grin at all the jokes about it's being all downhill from here, about having a midlife crisis and about trading in the wife for a younger model and the Camry for a Harley. Ho hum. It’s perhaps the best time of your life. You probably have kids and a circle of friends to share the good times. Hopefully you’re gainfully employed and can afford to savour the fruits of your labours occasionally – a holiday somewhere pleasant, a night out with your partner. This is great, except for one small problem. Your age means you’re moving into the lair of one of South Africa’s most feared and ruthless killers – heart disease. And nothing, but nothing is better at causing heart disease than smoking. If you still haven’t been able to quit, focus on doing that. It’s the single most important step you can take. Here's some advice on how you can do this. Need help to stop smoking?.

    Other factors that can trigger a heart attack are:

    • Hypertension, or blood pressure that’s consistently elevated. It’s dangerous because it multiplies your chances on a heart attack and is often undetected;
    • Stress, which is not always a bad thing, but which puts strain on the heart if sustained;
    • Cholesterol, that waxy, fatty stuff that clogs your arteries. Examine your intake of saturated fats. Maybe it’s time to trade your deep fat fryer in on a wok;
    • Lack of exercise. Find creative ways to fit at least three 45-minute workouts into your week. If the pounding music at the gym doesn’t grab you, try jogging with the dog, cycling, basketball and walking. All these activities can be done with family members. Combine your much-needed exercise routine with your chores. Swap your electric mower for a manual push model. Strength training is important now: if you don’t do any resistance training you’ll lose around ten percent of your muscle mass between the ages of 25 and 50. From then on, until your 80th year, you’ll lose another 35 percent;
    • There are other factors which influence the likelihood of a heart attack, such as whether you have diabetes. You might also simply inherit high levels of cholesterol.
    Other risks facing men of your age include diabetes and stroke.

    Smart things you can do include:

    • Staying trim. By now many of your peers will have sprouted beer bellies. You needn’t feel any urge to conform. Ideally, your trouser size shouldn’t be more than size 36 (102 inches). Any larger than that and your run a heightened risk of heart disease;
    • Stretch: After your morning shower, spend a few minutes doing some stretches. Better still, learn some nifty yoga moves. You’ll be more supple than most of your peers and probably more calm driving to work. You’ll also be less likely to suffer the lower back pain that affects around 75 percent of all adults. Simply leaning backwards can help. Elementary, but true;
    • Take calcium: One study found that calcium appears to increase the rate at which fat is converted to energy;
    • Take a break: You should still work out as intensely as ever, but now your body takes longer to recuperate, so work each body part only once a week.
    •  
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