Everyone ages differently. Genetics, diet, lifestyle, and outlook can all affect how quickly a person gets older, and how healthy they remain as they age. Some changes, however, are fairly common as a person enters their 40s. 40 is an excellent age at which to take stock of your health and prepare for the changes that come with getting older.
Eyes are delicate structures, and their shape and the muscles that support them change over time. Between the ages of 40 and 60, many people discover they have a harder time focusing. Reading may become difficult or cause headaches. This is especially true for people who read frequently or have a family history of eye problems. Needing reading glasses is typical in your 40s.
Medical guidelines recommend that people over 45 get regular tests for many common health concerns, including colonoscopy, blood sugar checks, prostate exams, and mammograms, and those with a family history of cancer or diabetes may have to start getting tested earlier.
This may all seem like a lot of fuss over nothing, but regular screening is one of the best ways to find, treat, and prevent dangerous illnesses.
People tend to shrink as they grow older. It's a small difference, only about a half-inch every ten years, but throughout a person's 40s, their muscles, bones, and joints will begin changing in such a way that they are likely to end the decade shorter than they were when it began.
The average age of a person's last period is 51, but it can happen as early as 45. The years leading up to menopause, also called perimenopause, are likely to happen during the 40s.
Heavier or lighter periods, night sweats, hot flashes, and sleep disruptions are common during this time. Perimenopause happens because the body is producing less estrogen; these symptoms typically end within a year of the final menstrual cycle.
By the 40s, the risk of erectile dysfunction increases to about 40%. Low testosterone and changes in the vascular system can make erections less frequent and easier to lose. At the same time, perimenopause can cause vaginal dryness. This can make sexual intercourse less comfortable and pleasurable.
Hormone therapies and medications may be able to help with sexual dysfunction. It can also be beneficial to use lubricant and take more time during sex.
Heart disease is one of the top causes of death in young people and the forties are a prime time for heart issues to start. Luckily, the 40s are also a time in which proper diet and exercise can prevent future disease.
It helps to be aware of the warning signs of a heart attack — fatigue, shortness of breath, pain in the chest, shoulder, or abdomen — but it's more important to develop healthy habits. Exercise, proper nutrition, sleep, and stress reduction can vastly improve heart health.
Joint and bone problems tend to begin in the 40s. People with a family history of osteoarthritis may see symptoms in their mid-to-late 40s. Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia may begin even earlier.
All of these conditions can cause pain and stiffness in the joints, make it harder to move, and increase the risk of injury. A doctor may be able to help with some of these issues and suggest lifestyle adjustments.
Changes in hormone levels and the way the body absorbs sugar may cause brain fog in a person's late 40s. You may find you get distracted more easily or forget silly things. A bit of memory loss is typical around this age and is not a cause for concern unless it significantly disrupts regular activities.
People's sleep patterns tend to change in their 40s. They may wake up more frequently in the night, get up earlier in the morning, and sleep more lightly. Sleep apnea, a condition which disrupts sleep and causes excessive snoring, can become a problem during this time of life as well.
While some sleep changes are normal, if you start experiencing serious insomnia or frequent sleep disruption, see a doctor.
Studies indicate that happiness and wellbeing tend to rise in the later decades of life. Unfortunately, a person's 40s generally marks the dip before that uptick in happiness. Between raising children, maintaining relationships, pursuing careers, and any other number of life events, it's easy to become stressed or overwhelmed.
Mental health is important. One of the best things a person can do in their 40s is develop strong and fulfilling relationships. Whether this is with your children, friends, partners, or relatives, close social ties are a huge predictor of future health.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.