Women: 5 Health Habits to Start Before You Turn 40

You have only one body to take with you through your entire life. That body is resilient; a bone break at age 10 will probably heal and not affect you in later years. But in some cases, neglect or errors you make with your health will come back to haunt you. Dr. Kara Vormittag, a specialist in sports medicine at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, encourages women to take care of their bodies as early as possible in five specific ways to pave the way to a long life:

  1. Get enough nutrients. When you restrict caloric intake at a young age, your body takes calcium and other nutrients from your bones and elsewhere, possibly causing osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis. Your period is a good indicator; a monthly flow tends to show that your body is balanced and getting the nutrition it needs. If you’re on the pill, this check doesn’t work as well because hormonal contraception “forces” periods.
  2. Work your lower core. According to Vormittag, pelvic floor dysfunction is highly unreported in young women and can be caused by constipation, genetics, bad toilet habits, pregnancy or other factors. Working your lower core can help you avoid hip pain, urination issues and sexual pain and dysfunction. Always let your doctor know if you’re having these problems.
  3. Get an annual physical. Keep up with your tests and screenings as frequently as they’re recommended for your age. The older you get, the more important it is to monitor signs your body is sending you.
  4. Set a realistic schedule. Women are notorious for over-scheduling in order to juggle career, family, friends, exercise and the rest. Your own health is often last on the list or off it altogether.
  5. Focus on four pillars of health. Nutrition and exercise are the two wellness pillars everyone embraces, but sleep and stress management are equally critical, especially for heart health. “It is important for women to keep all four wellness pillars in mind to live a healthy life,” Vormittag says.

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