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Lifestyle tips for people at 40

Lifestyle tips for people at 40

The phrase “Life Begins at 40” is often used to describe the middle age of one’s life. By 40, it is believed that under normal circumstances, many personal goals (marriage, bearing children, and dream job) of a person may have been fully or almost met.


The  number  of  older  persons  aged  40  years and  over  is  growing  in  all countries, and worldwide trends are likely to continue. In 2002, there was an estimated 605 million  older  persons  in  the  world, and out of this number,  nearly  400  million   were  living  in  low-income countries.  According to a World Health Organisation report, by 2025, the number of older persons worldwide is expected to reach more than 1.2 billion, with about 840 million of these in low-income countries 

The reason for this positive increment is due to the fact that mortality rates have declined in virtually all countries as a result of the progress made in preventing infectious diseases and promoting good health. Growing to the age of 40 is not just a time to make an individual feel better – taking good care of the body will keep one fit and active well into later life.

Factors influencing physical ageing

Ageing is the organic process of growing older and showing the effects of increasing age (Advanced English Dictionary). The factors that affect physical ageing are as follows:

* Genetics

* Environment

* Nutrition

* Lifestyle

Nutritional requirements with ageing

The overall nutritional requirements of the older adult does not change. However, caloric intake decreases because of the loss of non-fat component of the body while the need for nutrients remains relatively unchanged. This makes eating foods that are rich in nutrients even more important for older adults.

The inability of individuals to adequately meet their nutritional requirement at this age poses various risks as susceptibility to chronic illnesses is relatively more increased, especially for men.

Prostate cancer 

Prostate cancer is predominantly a disease of old age among men and is rare before 40-50 years. Excluding superficial skin cancers, prostate cancer is now the most common cancer in humans. Worldwide, over 660,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, accounting for 10 per cent of all new cancers in males. Prostate cancer is also the second most common cancer in Africa. In Ghana, according to Prof. Wiredu and colleagues, prostate cancer accounted for 17.35 per cent of all cancers identified and about 31.8 per cent of all cancers in males.

Nutritional tips for prostate cancer

Epidemiological studies have shown that the incidence of a clinically significant prostate cancer is significantly lower in countries where people eat a predominantly low fat, plant-based diet. The reduction of caloric and fat intake in dairy products (examples, milk, butter, cheese, cream), the increase in the intake of foods rich in lycopene such as guava, watermelon, tomatoes, pawpaw, red pepper, mango  and the maintenance of an adequate supply of vitamin D rich foods such as  cod liver oil, oily fishes, mushrooms, fortified cereals, milk,  soya products, yogurt and sun exposure, without an excessive intake of calcium, have been recognised as important constituents of a diet related to a reduced risk of prostate cancer. On the other hand, a research has shown that the excessive use of multivitamins (more than seven times per week) increases the risk of advanced and fatal prostate cancer and must be avoided.

Bone diseases

Bone diseases are conditions that result in the impairment of normal bone function and can make bones weak. After the age of 50, bones naturally weaken and this puts an individual at risk of certain diseases such as osteoporosis (a disease which makes bones fragile so they break easily). Additionally,  excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, use of glucocorticoid medications and natural processes such as hypogonadism ( low production of testosterone - the hormone that plays a key role in masculine growth and development) increase one’s risk of bone diseases. 

Nutritional tips for bone disease

The provision of an adequate diet is obviously necessary to maintain optimal bone density. It is well known that sufficient amounts of protein, energy, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamins D and K are necessary to achieve this. These can be obtained by eating a balanced diet, rich in calcium such as dark leafy greens, low fat milk and fish and vitamin D rich foods.

Heart Diseases

The lifetime risk of developing CVD at age 40  is 50 per cent for men and 33 per cent for women. Associated diseases such as diabetes have also been observed to be more pronounced among men at age 40 and above as compared to women.

Nutritional tips for heart disease

The consumption of a heart-healthy diet and a healthy life style will reduce the risks of heart disease to the barest minimum. Diets that are rich in whole grains and cereals such as maize, millet, sorghum, rice, vegetables such as bokoboko, ayoyo, bitter leaf, garden eggs, onions, tomatoes, and fruits (examples; mango, pineapple, orange, mango pawpaw) decrease the risk of heart diseases such as stroke and heart attacks, leading to an increased in life expectancy. 

Foods that increase the risk of formation of plaque (deposition of cholesterol on blood vessel walls) in the blood vessels should also be restricted or avoided. Some of these foods are koose, doughnuts, boflot, kebab, butter, fried plantain. These foods may also be high in fat and thereby increase risk of obesity which is a forerunner of many diseases.

The risks of developing hypertension is far more increased at age 40, especially among men who are more exposed to other risk factors than their female counterparts. Salt and its substitutes such as mono sodium glutamate (found in many of the artificial spices) further increase this risk. The addition of salt to food that has already been served should be avoided. One should opt for low salt choices when selecting foods. When cooking, try as much as possible to use natural options of spices and also encourage the main food preparer at home (wife, sister, mother, house help) to do so.

Overweight /Obesity

As we grow older, we need less food because our bodies use up less energy. There is the need to adjust the amount of food consumed according to how physically active a person is to reduce the risk of overweight and obesity. Men, in particular, need to avoid excess weight gain because they are most likely to carry the extra weight in the abdominal area. This is known as central obesity and is commonly referred to as an ‘apple shape’. Carrying excess weight in the stomach area increases the risk of developing heart diseases and diabetes. Being overweight also increases the risk of developing cancers and severe obesity can place great strain on your joints. If you are overweight, slimming down can protect against diabetes and heart diseases. 

Nutritional tips for obesity

A 5-year study of Hispanics and African-Americans reports that eating more fibre and exercising regularly are effective ways to reduce belly fat. Restrict intake of sweets, sugar sweetened drinks, high fatty foods and other refined carbohydrates. When these foods are consumed in excess, they are converted to adipose tissue for storage as fat, as well as increase blood sugar levels. Furthermore, the physical activity levels at 40 is much lower, hence the extra energy provided by these foods is not needed.

Healthy eating and lifestyle 

The following healthy eating and lifestyle tips are recommended in order to maintain optimum health. All the foods used to prepare meals have been put in the form of three food steps to make it easy to make healthy food choices. Follow the Healthy Eating Food Steps below to plan a healthy meal.

Step 1 (bottom of step) of the tool includes carbohydrate foods which provide energy such as plantain, rice, cassava, vegetables and fruits. These foods should form the bulk of our meals. Make 6 – 9 choices from this group daily. 

Step 2 includes foods which supply proteins and should be eaten in moderation (2 – 3 choices daily)

Step 3 includes foods which are mostly fat and oil sources and should be used in limited quantities (2 – 3 choices daily)

Eat regular meals

Try as much as possible and consume three main meals a day or two main meals with a healthy snack at four (4) to six (6) hours interval. Meals should consist of a varied diet. This will provide most of the required nutrient. Since appetite might be reduced at this age, the little food eaten at regular intervals should provide the nutrients required.

Drink enough water

Adequate water intake is needed for the body to function properly. Drinking about 6 – 8 glasses a day eliminates wastes from the body through urine and sweat. During the dry season, more water is needed to prevent dehydration. Water helps to distribute nutrients throughout the body. It also helps in digestion, temperature regulation and may provide minute quantities of minerals such as calcium and phosphorous.


Excessive alcohol intake can put one’s health at risk. Drinking four or more units a day may contribute to risk of overweight/obesity (especially around the abdominal area), high blood pressure, liver damage, mouth and throat cancers, depression and other long-term health problems. One to two units a day for those who drink is recommended, it is advisable NOT to start if you don’t drink. One unit of alcohol is half a pint of beer (1 small bamboo glass, 250ml), a single 25ml measure (tot) of spirits, and a small glass of wine.

Physical activity

Increase your physical activity levels by taking part in house chores with children, grandchildren or other family members. Exercise has numerous benefits such as blood circulation, alertness, improved immunity and slows the rate of ageing. Taking regular exercise also helps to control weight and brings about relaxation. All these benefits will make one feel and look better. It is important to engage in any form of moderate exercise on a daily basis or at least 3-4 times a week. A qualified physiotherapist or fitness instructor may be contacted for planned exercises.

Quit Smoking

Giving up smoking can lengthen a person’s days. People who smoke are twice as likely to die prematurely and 2 -3 times more likely to have a heart attack. They also put themselves at risk of lung cancer and harm those who breathe their smoke, including children. According to a 50-year British study, quitting smoking at age 30 could increase a person’s lifespan by an entire decade.

Cope with stress

The pain of stress is just as real as a broken leg. Ignoring it will not make it go away.  Some signs of stress are loss of appetite for food, feeling low, tiredness but also poor sleeping, short temper and flare-ups with others and reduced sex drive. Effective ways to manage or control stress include siting in a cool, quiet place and admiring nature, deep breathing, light strolls and taking a vacation. Doing this even for a few minutes a day can make a difference. It is also important to talk to family, friends, a doctor or a counsellor if the signs of stress do not go away or get worse.


An old French adage says 40 is the old age of youth;50 is the youth of old age, while Ghanaians jovially say “I am not 40, am only 28 with 12 years of experience”. Since this is an age at which most men would have achieved their potential and targets in life, it is imperative to guard health in order to live full and fruitful life. These few healthy eating and lifestyle guidelines will help achieve this goal.

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