The Most Common Health Problems In Your 40s
If you're in your 40s, you know that staying healthy is a bit like playing Whack-a-Mole: You treat one wart and then your back acts up. You get over your stress-cold but then get a stye in your eye. You go to the doctor for a rash and leave with a cancer scare.
You feel young inside but your body is falling apart.
And yet there's hope. It's easier to identify potential warning signs so you can set yourself up for a healthy decade. Here are a few health problems that are more likely to show up when you're in your 40s.
No, this isn't just a thing that happens to "old people." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 54.4 million U.S. adults have some form of arthritis, the inflammation or degeneration of joints in your body. You're more susceptible to arthritis and osteoarthritis as you age. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and occurs when your joints age and don't function as well due to wear and tear.
When you turn 40, your chances of developing these conditions increase because your bone mass and density begin to wane. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, "People lose bone mass or density as they age, especially women after menopause. The bones lose calcium and other minerals."
When you lose this density, your joints can begin to experience:
The Rx: You can delay the onset of arthritis by maintaining a healthy weight. Try to avoid joint injuries and see your doctor if your joints look swollen or red. If you're a smoker, the CDC recommends you quit as soon as possible since it increases your risk of developing arthritis.
Everyone worries about The Big C. But the Big D should be a concern, too. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body doesn't produce insulin and is more prevalent in children. Type 2 is the most common and occurs when the body doesn't use insulin properly. In most cases, you're born with Type 1 diabetes but you can develop Type 2 diabetes due to a poor diet or other risk factors.
According to the CDC, Type 2 diabetes is more likely to occur in adults who are 45 or older. Statistics from the center concluded that about 1.5 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2015 and more than half of these cases were patients ages 45 to 64. After a diagnosis, you may be able to control blood sugar levels by eating healthy but if not, you'll be prescribed insulin or other medications to manage your condition.
The Rx: Most Type 2 diabetes diagnoses are due to poor diet, obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, physical inactivity, or high cholesterol. Keep these risk factors in check by eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and quitting smoking.
Tendonitis occurs when there's pain, swelling, or joint grinding in a tendon when you move it. This condition is more likely to occur when a tendon has been overused, which is why it's mostly associated with adults over 40. Athletes or active people are more likely to get diagnosed with tendonitis, especially if they focus on one sport and one movement over several years. Common types you may be familiar with are jumper's knee, trigger finger, or tennis elbow.
In addition to overuse, injury, or strain put on tendons, "Tendonitis may also be related to a disease such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or infection," according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Since diabetes and arthritis are more common for people in their 40s, it may contribute to the prevalence of tendonitis in this age group as well.
The Rx: To protect your tendons, the National Institutes of Health suggests you warm up and stretch before any physical activity. It's also important to engage in regular physical activity but not overdo it or push yourself to the point of pain. If you do feel pain or swelling in your tendons, see a doctor right away for treatment.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can lead to serious medical events, like a heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, or stroke. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, you have high blood pressure when your systolic reading is 140 or higher or your diastolic reading is 90 or higher. However, some doctors may attest that lower readings are considered hypertension as well.
While an unhealthy lifestyle or added stress can contribute to high blood pressure, a simple increase in age can also tick up your likelihood of developing this condition. In fact, it's common for older adults to have a higher systolic reading and lower diastolic reading, which is concerning. "This problem is called isolated systolic hypertension, which is due to age-related stiffening of the major arteries. It is the most common form of high blood pressure in older people and can lead to serious health problems," according to the National Institute of Aging.
The Rx: In a Johns Hopkins study of 975 older people with hypertension, it was found that taking steps to a healthier lifestyle allowed 40% of participants to stop taking blood pressure medications. By eating healthy, exercising regularly, reducing your stress, cutting back on alcohol, and quitting smoking, you may be able to prevent hypertension in your 40s.
The inability to obtain or maintain an erection, aka impotence, is more likely to occur in the later stages of life. According to Dr. S. Adam Ramin, MD from Urology Cancer Specialists, "Many men in their 40s may start noticing a drop off in their ability to get and maintain an erection."
This can be attributed to other common health problems you can experience in your 40s, such as obesity or hypertension. These conditions can result in a reduced blood flow to the penis, making it harder to perform.
The Rx: There are prescription drugs to help with occasional impotence, such as Viagra. However, to take the steps necessary to combat erectile dysfunction in the first place, maintain a healthy diet and exercise schedule to combat the other conditions that can cause it.
Living with high cholesterol increases your chances of heart disease and other serious medical conditions. If you develop bad habits or you're simply the unlucky culprit of bad genetics, as you age, it's more likely you'll suffer from high cholesterol.
That's concerning because the longer you have high cholesterol, the more likely you are to develop a chronic or serious medical condition. According to Duke Clinical Research Institute, "Even slightly high cholesterol levels in otherwise healthy adults between the ages of 35 and 55 can have long-term impacts on their heart health, with every decade of high cholesterol increasing their chances of heart disease by 39%."
The Rx: A healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise, can help keep your cholesterol down. Keep an eye on your levels regularly and consult your doctor for medication to keep your cholesterol in check if needed.
Higher Body Mass Index (BMI)
As we age, it's harder to lose weight and keep it off, especially if you're a woman over 40. Pre-menopausal hormones can change your body's composition and make it feel impossible to shed weight. According to the Mayo Clinic, it's not hormones alone that cause this increase in weight. "The weight gain is usually related to aging, as well as lifestyle and genetic factors."
Your body also loses muscle as you age while your fat increases. Without as much muscle, your body doesn't burn as many calories when you're active. Weight gain isn't just about how your high school jeans fit. When you have a consistently high Body Mass Index (BMI), you're more susceptible to breathing problems, Type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, and blood vessel diseases.
The Rx: Even if you're a healthy eater and avid exerciser, you may have to step it up when you hit 40. You're working against these changes in your body, so dedication to a healthy diet and regular exercise will become even more important to combat dangerous excess weight.
Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density and mass, which causes you to easily break and fracture bones. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 54 million Americans have low bone density or osteoporosis and the disease causes about two million broken bones each year.
When you age, bone density loss becomes more prominent. The foundation confirms, "After you reach peak bone mass, the balance between bone formation and bone loss might start to change. You may start to slowly lose more bone than you form. In midlife, bone loss usually speeds up in both men and women."
The Rx: While you may feel that there's nothing you can do to prevent osteoporosis as you age, your lifestyle can slow down the effects of bone density loss. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, and ensure you're getting enough Vitamin D and calcium. Avoid smoking and keep your alcohol intake to a minimum and you'll be on the right track.
Age spots, liver spots, sunspots. Whatever you call them, these irregularly shaped brown spots that suddenly appear on your skin as you age may drive you crazy. You're more likely to see these sun spots in your 40s and beyond since they're a reaction to exposure to UV rays. As you spend more time living—and in the sun—they'll begin to multiply.
Age spots are a reaction to a clumping of melanin in your skin in certain areas. According to the Cleveland Clinic, "Older women are more susceptible to age spots—and sun damage—because they have reduced amounts of melanin in the skin."
The Rx: While sun spots themselves usually aren't cancerous or dangerous, they're a sign that you're getting a lot of UV exposure, which can be unhealthy. Wear sunscreen whenever you're planning to go outside and see a dermatologist regularly to ensure your sun spots aren't cancerous or concerning.
Back pain is more common in your 40s and it's simply due to wear and tear. You've been sitting, standing, crouching, walking, and running for 40 years now and your back is starting to feel it. Something as simple as sleeping in a different position can bring on back pain when you're in your 40s.
Back pain is normal when you get older and according to Dr. Alexis S. Tingan, MD from Penn Medicine, "Some estimates say that upwards of 85% of people will experience some sort of back or neck pain." Persistent back pain can lead to other medical conditions that are more serious or may be a sign that you've already developed these conditions, including arthritis or spinal stenosis.
The Rx: While occasional back pain may be inevitable as you age, maintaining a healthy weight can prevent serious pain and injury. It's also important to exercise regularly and see a doctor if you're experiencing consistent back pain.
Excess sun exposure and genetics are the two main culprits for developing skin cancer. As you age, your skin has been exposed to harmful UV rays from the sun for a longer period of time so it's more prone to develop skin cancer cells. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. and about one in five Americans will develop some type of skin cancer in their lifetime.
The Rx: Use sunscreen regularly and schedule regular checkups with a dermatologist. According to Dr. Michelle Henry from Laser and Skin Surgery of New York, you should get to know your moles. "Our concern about new moles is increased after the age of 40 as there is a higher risk for melanoma." If your moles grow and change or you develop new ones, it's time to see a dermatologist.
A deterioration of your vision, called macular degeneration, is more common when you turn 40. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, about 80% of macular degeneration sufferers have dry macular degeneration. This means that parts of the macula grow thinner and tiny clumps of protein begin to develop, causing you to slowly lose your central vision. It can be harder to see fine details or read.
Age and genetics increase your chances of developing macular degeneration. You're also more likely to develop this condition if you have hypertension, smoke cigarettes, are overweight, have heart disease, or have high cholesterol.
The Rx: While you can't stop the aging process or your genetics, you can live a healthy lifestyle to try and delay the potential onset of macular degeneration. Maintain a healthy weight and don't smoke. If you notice changes in your vision, see your eye doctor for prescription eyeglasses so you're not straining your vision.
Overactive Bladder or Incontinence
As you get older, you may find yourself making more frequent pit stops. Your bladder muscles thicken when you age, which can reduce capacity in the organ. According to Dr. Adam Ramin, MD, "As we age, the nerves that help the bladder might not work as well." The muscles that control urination also weaken over time, making it harder to control when your urine is released. Incontinence is more common in women who've experienced childbirth because the muscles weaken even faster.
The Rx: Women can perform Kegel exercises regularly to strengthen pelvic muscles that control urination. If you find yourself going to the bathroom too many times in one day or dealing with incontinence, see a doctor for treatment. A cream, medication, implant, or surgery may be able to help relieve the symptoms of this embarrassing problem.
Another annoying potential side effect of hitting the big 4-0 is hearing loss, which is another health problem attributed to wear and tear or overuse. In most cases, you'll experience hearing loss in your 40s due to years of exposure to loud noises.
Sharon Sandridge, Ph.D. from the Cleveland Clinic claims that excessive sound is usually the culprit for hearing loss in your 30s and 40s because these loud sounds break the microorganisms in your ear that assist you in hearing. She says, "Those microorganisms are responsible for dropping off neurotransmitters that allow our ears to function swiftly and properly. If they aren't working, the ear doesn't function the way it's supposed to."
The Rx: Exposure to noises measured at 85 decibels for eight hours or more is threatening to your hearing. When you're exposed to loud noises measuring more than 100 decibels for 15 minutes or longer, you can do permanent damage to your hearing. Use hearing protection at concerts, sporting events, or other loud activities. Keep your personal devices at low volume, especially headphones and ear buds. If you notice a loss in hearing, see an audiologist so you can get on a treatment plan to potentially prevent further damage.
Peptic ulcers are sores that develop in the lining of the stomach and duodenum, or the first part of the small intestine. According to Harvard Health, ulcers affect about 4 million people in the U.S. each year and, "Duodenal ulcers usually appear between ages 30 and 50 and are more common in men than women."
Peptic ulcers can be caused by drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen, alcohol, coffee, or smoking. They can cause extreme discomfort that includes nausea, vomiting, or a loss of appetite. If not treated, ulcers can get progressively deeper and eventually penetrate the wall of the stomach or intestine, leading to a medical emergency.
The Rx: In some cases, ulcers are genetic and can be brought on by age. However, if you live a healthy lifestyle and avoid overuse of painkillers and alcohol, you may be able to prevent the onset of peptic ulcers. If you're prone to ulcers, limit your coffee and quit smoking immediately.
Hot Flashes or Irritability
Women in their 40s may be too young to go through menopause yet, but perimenopausal symptoms can begin to rear their ugly heads. Hot flashes, irritability, and irregular or heavy periods are just some of the ways menopause can begin to introduce itself in your 40s.
According to Harvard Health, "The physical changes of perimenopause are rooted in hormonal alterations, particularly variations in the level of circulating estrogen." In addition to these perimenopausal symptoms, women in their 40s have also reported vaginal dryness, poor sleep patterns, and uterine bleeding problems.
The Rx: Perimenopausal symptoms are attributed to hormonal irregularities. If you're experiencing these symptoms, check in with your doctor. You may need medication to help you transition easily into menopause over the next several years.
Your susceptibility to developing cardiovascular disease in your 40s is directly related to how you lived in your 20s and 30s. If you followed an unhealthy lifestyle during these years and developed high cholesterol or hypertension, you're more likely to be at risk for cardiovascular disease once you hit the big 4-0.
But it's not too late. Now that you're in your 40s, it's important to live a healthy lifestyle so you can potentially avoid the onset of cardiovascular disease in the coming years. According to a study conducted by the American Heart Association, "Cardiovascular disease risk factors that were present (or not) in that early 40s age group were "highly predictive" of what kind of health one had at ages 65, 75 and 85."
The Rx: Other chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes are directly related to cardiovascular disease. Take care of your health to prevent these conditions from creeping into your 40s. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and annual appointments with your doctor to check your numbers can help you steer clear of cardiovascular disease.
Kidney stones are small pebble-like materials that form in your kidneys due to high levels of certain minerals in your body, mostly calcium oxalate. They can range in size from microscopic specks to pebbles over an inch in diameter, and are incredibly painful. According to the National Institutes of Health, you can develop kidney stones at any age but you're more susceptible to these agonizing health ailments when you're middle-aged, from 40 to 60.
Some people are more prone to kidney stones than others, but most of the time, they form due to dehydration. In your middle aged years, you're more likely to be dehydrated, which can increase your chances of developing these painful mineral buildups in your kidneys.
The Rx: Stay hydrated! It can be hard to drink enough fluids, but if you know you're at risk for kidney stones, it's important to focus on your fluid intake. When it's warm outside or you're engaging in physical activity, you're more likely to become dehydrated so pay attention to how much you drink during these periods.
In your 40s, you may have more financial and familial obligations than you did in your 20s or 30s. Your physical appearance can start to change and show age or you may be responsible for taking care of your elderly parents or other family members. If you don't feel like you have it all together or you compare yourself to others with higher-paying jobs or bigger houses, it can lead to depression.
According to a study conducted by the CDC from 2009 to 2012, "Depression was more prevalent among women and persons aged 40 to 59." Depression can affect your ability to concentrate, connect with friends and family, and make decisions. If left untreated, it can also have negative effects on your physical wellbeing and health.
The Rx: If you feel depressed, reach out to a counselor or therapist. Talking it out can help you adjust to life in your 40s. If you have severe depression, the therapist may also be able to recommend medication to get you back on track.
You probably assume that if you're allergic to a certain food, you'd find out about it when you were a child. But that isn't necessarily always the case. You can develop allergies at any time and allergists are seeing an increase in the number of adult onset allergies. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common foods that cause allergies in adults include:
- Tree nuts, such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, or pecans.
- Shellfish, including lobster and shrimp.
The side effects you experience are dependent on your body's reaction to the food. The symptoms you may feel include digestive problems, swelling of the lips or throat, hives, or trouble breathing. In some cases, an allergic reaction can cause anaphylaxis and must be treated immediately.
The Rx: If you suspect you've developed a food allergy, it's time to make an appointment with an allergist. Even if the side effects you experienced after eating a certain food weren't severe, your allergic reaction could be worse next time. It's best to confirm your allergies so you know which foods you now need to avoid.
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, "Reproductive potential decreases as women get older, and fertility can be expected to end 5 to 10 years before menopause." When you begin to enter perimenopausal age, the number of eggs you have begins to decline, making it harder to conceive.
You'll know your eggs are declining when you begin to have increasingly infrequent periods, which means your body is skipping the ovulation period. This usually begins to happen in your late 30s and early 40s. When you haven't had a period for one full year, you've officially reached menopause and no longer have the ability to conceive.
The Rx: If you fear you've already entered the perimenopausal stage, talk to your doctor about the latest assisted reproductive technologies. Egg donation or preimplantation genetic screening may help you to conceive. You could also look into alternative options, such as adoption or becoming a foster parent.
As you age, the vitamins you provide your body are even more important than when you were younger. Vitamin deficiencies can make you more susceptible to diseases and conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, which you're already more likely to get once you turn 40.
According to research conducted by the CDC, the most common vitamin deficiencies in the U.S. include the following:
- Vitamin B6.
- Vitamin D.
- Vitamin C.
If you're consistently deficient in one or more vitamins, you could experience side effects that include brittle bones and nails, a weakened immune system, hair loss, or dizziness.
The Rx: Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. If you feel sluggish or think you may be experiencing a vitamin deficiency, consult your doctor. A health professional can identify any deficiencies you have and recommend supplements or specific foods to get you balanced again.
There are several risk factors when it comes to cancer, including genetics and lifestyle. One important risk factor is your age. As you get older, your chance for a cancer diagnosis increases. According to the National Cancer Institute, the median age of a cancer diagnosis is 66. Therefore, half of all cancer diagnoses occur before this age while half occur after.
About 5.2% of all new cancers are diagnosed in patients who are 35 to 44 years old and 14.1% of new cases are diagnosed when patients are 55 to 64 years old. While cancer can occur in any person at any age, it's important to be more cautious about it once you hit 40.
The Rx: In your 40s, make it a priority to stay on top of all regular cancer screenings, such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and prostate cancer screenings. Live a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet and regular exercise. If you suspect anything is amiss with your body, see a doctor right away. The sooner the diagnosis and treatment for cancer, the more likely you are to get better.
Asthma is another medical condition you may assume is only diagnosed during your childhood years. According to the Cleveland Clinic, adult-onset asthma is common but since it's associated with many different types of symptoms, it can be hard to diagnose. Adult-onset asthma includes persistent symptoms, such as:
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pressure or tightness.
- A dry cough.
If you had childhood asthma, you have a higher chance of experiencing a relapse in your 30s or 40s than if you never experienced asthma before.
The Rx: Being overweight or obese increases your chances of developing asthma. Eat healthy and exercise to maintain a healthy weight. If you think you may have experienced the symptoms of asthma, tell your doctor. A prescription for an inhaler or oral medication can help you combat this medical condition and continue living an active lifestyle.
Your chances of experiencing a stroke increase with age. According to a study published in Neurotherapeutics, approximately seven million adults will experience a stroke. "Among adults ages 35 to 44, the incidence of stroke is 30 to 120 of 100,000 per year."
A stroke occurs when there's a sudden interruption to the blood supply that goes to the brain. Depending on the severity of the stroke and how quickly you seek treatment, it can cause brain damage, paralysis, or death.
The Rx: A stroke is a cardiovascular event, so the best way to prevent one is to stay heart healthy. Eat a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and be active. It's important to stay on top of other potential medical conditions that occur in your 40s, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Managing these conditions can also lower your likelihood of experiencing a stroke.
Aging can make you more susceptible to a number of health problems so hitting the big 4-0 can be intimidating. However, if you take care of yourself and remain aware of these common medical conditions, your 40s really can feel like your 20s! And to live your happiest and healthiest life, don't miss these 101 Unhealthiest Habits on the Planet.