The 5 Ages of Peak Health: All the Guidance You Need to Look Your Best... Whatever Your Age

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The best ways
of looking after yourself differ drastically through the decades.
Here a GP, a dietician and a personal trainer give you all the guidance
you need… whatever your age.


Serious illness
is relatively rare in this decade so it should be spent laying the
foundations for excellent lifelong health, diet and exercise habits.
It is also important to be aware of key diseases that specifically
affect young adults.

GP Dr Ellie
says: There are some diseases that are more prevalent
in this age group than any other, so personal health awareness is

As you become
sexually active, the risk of developing cervical cancer increases,
so a smear test every three years from the age of 25 is essential.

cancer is a young man’s disease and most prevalent in those aged
20 to 40. Men should check themselves monthly for lumps.

Also, don’t
get sunburned – sun over-exposure early in life is one of the biggest
risk factors in developing malignant melanoma, the most aggressive
kind of skin cancer, later on. Take photos of any moles to keep
a record if they are changing over time.

Catherine Collins
says: The body absorbs older bone and
generates new bone material to keep our skeleton strong. However,
bone density reaches its peak in this decade, after which tissue
is not replaced as fast as it is broken down. So diet in your 20s
is key in optimising lifetime bone health.

Maximise Vitamin
D (essential for calcium absorption) levels while the sun shines,
with no more than a few minutes of skin exposure to the midday rays.

Top up with
a daily 25mcg Vitamin D but avoid combination supplements containing
Vitamin A at 1,500mcg or more – this prevents calcium cementing
to bone. Choose calcium-rich, low-fat foods such as skimmed or fortified
soya milk, low-fat yogurts and tofu to seal a healthy future for
your bones.

TRAINER Gillian Reeves says
: Do between three and five moderate
cardiovascular sessions of at least 30 minutes each week, and up
to three sessions of strength-based exercise using weights or body
weight against gravity to work the muscles.

In your 20s
your joints can cope quite easily with just about anything you throw
at them. Jogging is ideal – the heel impact of this activity aids
formation of new healthy bone in the leg.


This is the
decade when you should start planning your future health, and knowing
your family history is important. It is a good time to speak to
your parents about conditions that may have affected relatives.

THE GP says:
If there is a family history of serious illness, speak to your GP
about NHS screening available to those at high risk – for example,
genes for bowel cancer and risk of osteoporosis can be detected
in this decade.

Quit smoking
now. Studies have shown that if you give up in your early 30s, by
the time you are in your 50s your risk of cancer and cardiovascular
disease will be the same as a non-smoker.

As you start
your own family, priorities change – so men and women need to keep
an eye on weight, which is implicated in health problems later in

It is much
easier to lose weight now rather than trying later in life when
health problems may have started, and metabolism has slowed down.

: Studies suggest that the amount of energy our bodies burn
while resting is dropping at the age of 30, and it drops by a further
seven per cent with every subsequent decade – so if you carry on
eating like you did in your 20s, you may start putting on weight.

Watch out for
snacking – make one snack fruit, and another a small handful of
nuts or low-fat yogurt as their protein can blunt the appetite.

If you are
a woman planning a pregnancy, take a folic acid supplement from
now until three months pregnant to reduce the risk of the baby having
spina bifida.

: Group exercise such as spinning or circuit training
will give you the benefits of cardiovascular training and strength

In the 30s,
aerobic capacity can drop by six per cent if you don’t do anything – so keep attending the classes. Plan time in your diary to attend
a class to make sure you make the time for exercise.

The class environment
will also give you the chance to socialise without having to stay
up all evening in the pub – as some of you used to in your 20s.


on your heart health and reducing long-term risk of having a heart
attack or a stroke. If you are overweight and have a poor diet,
you will start to see high cholesterol readings and high blood pressure.
Those with a family history may develop full-blown heart disease,
experiencing symptoms such as angina.

But by changing
your lifestyle now, you can turn things around and stave off problems
in decades to come.

THE GP says:
Don’t become complacent about weight, nonchalantly blaming extra
pounds on middle-age spread.You should be more strict about having
a healthy BMI and low waist measurement than you were in your 20s,
as this is the decade they start to cause illness.

Ask your GP
for a fasting cholesterol test, and find out what your blood pressure
is. If the results are of concern, early treatment can dramatically
reduce cardiovascular risks. Women need to continue using contraception
until a year after the menopause, which usually happens towards
the end of this decade, as you will still be fertile. Appropriate
choices might be the mini-pill or a coil, as these don’t raise oestrogen
levels, which can increase risk of blood clots.

: Try to have two alcohol-free days weekly, and drink less
than 21 units a week for men and 14 for women. The occasional small
glass of wine may decrease heart-disease risk, but more is associated
with an increased risk of breast cancer and liver disease.

Menopause and
its hormone changes lead to increased body weight, especially an
expanding waistline. Keep your BMI below 27. Downsize your portions
and reduce carbohydrates such as rice, potato and pasta by a third.

: If you have spent the past decade slumped over
a desk, pilates – an exercise system based on strength and flexibility
that uses body weight as resistance – will help realign posture.
In this decade, lean muscle mass decreases and body fat increases.

Women gain
weight around the torso, back of arms and back. As well as feeling
better, studies suggest that the risk of breast cancer reduces by
up to 47 per cent and osteoporosis by 45 per cent if you continue
to exercise.

the rest of the article

3, 2011

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