Four O.C. medical experts offer advice and suggest preventive measures for taking care of body, mind, and spirit in every decade. Here they focus on specifics for those in their 40s.
Diet and Gut Health
“When we hit our 40s, things start to be painful. We’re starting to feel the wear and tear that we’ve done on our bodies. A lot of people when they hit their 40s start saying to themselves this hurts, that hurts. It’s really important that we continue to focus on strengthening our bodies … and in order to be strong we have to feed ourselves well.
This is where we should be focusing on lean proteins, a plant-focused diet, and good fiber intake because that is the foodstuff for our microbiome, which is the natural bacteria that lives in our gut and feeds largely on fiber from plants. Feeding that microbiome is what allows us to send positive messages to the brain and the rest of the body about how to stay well. Our metabolism has started to slow down to some degree when we hit our 40s. Something to be mindful about is that the dietary composition is likely going to be different than what you needed when you were a teenager. Women need to be mindful that we need enough calcium and protein because we need to continue to build muscle mass—that’s what keeps us our healthiest. If you don’t eat protein, you’ll start to lose muscle mass over time, and you’ll start to notice that in your 40s.
At 45 is when it’s recommended that people who don’t have a family history and are asymptomatic should start their screening colonoscopy. It used to be 50 but it was dropped because we’re seeing an uptick in the number of colorectal cancers in people in their mid-40s and younger ages. Millennials have a higher risk of colorectal cancers than their preceding generation. It’s probably dietary, and then perhaps there are some things in the environment like the advent of cell phones and electromagnetic waves. We don’t really know, but there are things that have created that concern, that dropped the screening rate from 50 to 45. And that’s terrifying. Even this year, I’ve diagnosed and operated on several people in their 30s and early 40s with colorectal cancer. There are not always symptoms, but usually they present with a symptom when it’s gotten advanced enough because they’re not being screened and found when they’re asymptomatic. They come in when they’re symptomatic. When individuals have had blood in their stool, it doesn’t matter what age you have it, you need to see a physician. If you get the wrong answer from someone who tells you that you don’t need a colonoscopy or you’re fine or it’s just hemorrhoids, escalate and be your own best advocate. Colorectal cancer is occurring in such a higher frequency than it ever has, and you’d hate to be led to think everything was fine only to find out later that your concerns were valid. If you’re not satisfied with an answer and evaluation, seek a second opinion.”
“Patients might see more pigmentation in their 40s and want to address that. I often see people at this age who probably didn’t grow up wearing sunscreen; it just wasn’t done back then as often as it is now. Depending on the patient and their skincare needs, I’ll look at adding in a serum with vitamin C in the morning and a retinoid product at night, which can improve the skin’s texture and reduce fine lines. There are a lot of options these days to reduce melasma; that is, condition that causes a dark patch of brown spots on the skin, usually the face.
For the most moisture retention, I recommend using a good moisturizing cleanser and possibly a hyalurionic acid serum, followed by a good moisturizing cream.”
Dr. Azin Meshkinpour, dermatologist at Saddleback Dermatology Laser + Cosmetic Center in Lake Forest
“Your 40s tend to be the time when you’re involved in your family and career. If those things are all working for you, and resolved successfully, great. But any one of those things can work against you. Being in poor health can isolate you. If you haven’t resolved your reason for being or your career, that can inhibit your ability to navigate. Make an effort to socialize. When we went to school, it was given to us. Every day we are forced with people in the same situation as we are. Being friendly and not afraid of failure is really important. Be open and willing to pursue a conversation. In the old days, you might talk to someone while you’re standing in line. We don’t even do that now. Instead, we’re all reading our phones. You’re missing opportunities to talk to people. Don’t be afraid to put down the phone, turn it off. You’ll learn something.”
Dr. Jody Rawles, psychiatry & human behavior professor at UCI School of Medicine