The 30s: Keeping Your Health In the Balance

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You’re not the 20-something you used to be.

In your 30s, you’re in a season of change. Perhaps you’re taking on greater responsibility at work, raising a family, struggling to keep it all in balance. And trying to find time to take care of your health.

Add to this the physical changes that come with this decade of life. For one, metabolism — the rate your body burns calories — starts to slow in your 30s. That opens the door to weight gain.

That can be true particularly if you hadn’t been watching what you eat and staying physically active in your 20s, says Sara Wilson-Rector, APRN-CNP, FNP-C.

Here’s what Wilson-Rector recommends for maintaining good health in your 30s:

  1. Schedule an annual physical. “In general, you’re looking at, ‘long-term, how do I keep myself healthy and start making healthy habits?’ Look at getting your yearly physical to watch things like your blood pressure, cholesterol, your weight.” This annual meet-up also provides an opportunity to talk with your primary care provider about nutrition and exercise.

  2. Make a depression screening part of your annual physical. “Mental health is a huge piece of overall health. I tell my patients you can’t think you’re going to be healthy if you don’t have good mental health.” Depression and anxiety “add more stress to the whole cardiovascular system, because your body is in a fight or flight state all the time.”

    Wilson adds that males, from late teens to early 30s, are at the highest risk of suicide. “Talking about your mental health is very important for men and women.”

  3. Choose a primary care provider you’re comfortable with. “It’s important to feel comfortable with your health care provider. Make sure you have a place where you’re comfortable going in and discussing some of those intimate personal things.”

    And Wilson-Rector recommends, “It’s a good idea when you’re planning to come to the office to create a list of, we usually say, your top three concerns that you may have a worry about or not understand — things like weight, stress, a healthy diet.”

  4. Don’t skip screenings. You’ll need more health screenings as you age, but there are a couple of important ones for 30-somethings. For women, the Pap smear and/or HPV test to check for cervical cancer. For men, a testicular exam to check for testicular cancer.

    The American Cancer Society recommends that women in their 30s should be screened with an HPV test alone every five years. If HPV testing alone is not available, women can have a combined Pap/HPV test every five years or a Pap test every three years.

    Testicular cancer is relatively rare and highly treatable, but about half of all cases are found ages 20 to 34.

  5. Stay physically active. “The recommendation is 150 minutes of exercise a week — a combination of weight training and cardio. Each holds different purposes for your health. Weight training is good for maintaining bone health to prevent osteoporosis in the future. Cardiovascular exercise is great for your heart and lungs.”

    If you haven’t been physically active, Wilson-Rector advises, “Start slow. Don’t go for that 150 minutes right off the bat. If that’s two or three days a week, that’s better than nothing. If financially plausible, get a trainer for some guidance on how to exercise safely. Try different things. Find the thing that you like to do, or can stand to do, so you can stick with it.”

  6. Eat well, drink well. “Avoid high sugar content, fatty foods, eating out too frequently, and exercise portion control.” When choosing carbohydrates, go with complex carbs, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains. They help maintain a healthy weight and prevent type 2 diabetes and heart disease. “And make sure you’re getting protein with every meal.”

    Water intake (about 64 ounces a day) is also an important part of good nutrition. “Water promotes good gut health and helps you avoid issues like constipation or poor regularity. It’s also good for your mental health. Being dehydrated puts a lot of strain on your heart, on your kidneys, everything.”

  7. Find your release valve. Stress can cause all kinds of issues, increasing your blood pressure, and you can’t sleep as well if you’re stressed or worried about something.” Stress also leads to poor health choices, like drinking too much alcohol or eating junk food.

    “Having an outlet to let off some of that steam will help you have a better overall health outlook.” This could be exercise, a hobby, or getting together with people you enjoy being with.

  8. Just quit. Smoking, that is. “The earlier you quit, the better for your health.” Wilson-Rector also encourages you to limit alcohol intake. For women, no more than four drinks a week, and men, no more than five drinks a week.

  9. Rest well. “Try to get eight hours of sleep a night pretty consistently. Your body needs time to rest and rejuvenate so you can get up and do well the next day.” Wilson-Rector recommends setting a regular sleep schedule. “It’s just like with babies. Kids do better if they’re on a schedule, and so do adults.”

  10. Get your family involved. “It’s much easier to maintain a healthy diet, a good exercise regimen, and mental health if you are talking to people that you’re close with. It’s good to do things together to support one another, whether that be exercise, or whether that means trying new foods, trying new recipes. Be open to talking with each other about how you’re feeling, how you’re doing.”

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