From enjoying an art exhibit to taking an evening to volunteer, taking care of yourself after 40 can be fun. Here are good-for-you things to try this month:
Be a culture vulture. For the ticket to a longer life, head to a museum, art gallery, or concert. In a nine-year study of more than 12,000 people, those who took frequent cultural outings lived longer than those who rarely patronized the arts. Why? Cultural pursuits may produce hormones that boost immune function, finds study author Lars Olov Bygren, M.D., Ph.D., of Umea University in Sweden.
Take stock. Don't wait for January to make resolutions. "At the start of each month, look back on what you've been doing and see what needs improving," Elizabeth Dupuis, M.D., says. For example, if your gym bag rarely makes it to the gym, perhaps you need to adjust your plans--get a weekly tennis game going or join a walking group.
Ink yourself in. When is the last time you had a real day off--a whole day? At least once a month, schedule a block of time that's just for you. Consider that appointment unbreakable. "Women are quick to give up their personal time, while men will protect that racquetball night with the guys no matter what," says Pamela Peeke, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland.
Check on your checkups. Women, you probably make an annual pilgrimage to the gynecologist and schedule a yearly mammogram, but do you neglect other important health checks, such as blood pressure, thyroid function, eyesight, and dental health? Also, everyone needs to add screenings for cholesterol (start at 45), diabetes (especially if you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure), and colorectal cancer (start at 50). Don't plan all your tests for January (good intentions fill waiting rooms) or December (to deplete your health spending account). Make one each month so you can complete the list by year-end.
Volunteer. Every month, do at least one charitable act, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen or taking part in a 10K for breast-cancer awareness and fund-raising. Not only does helping others feel good, people who volunteer live longer than those who don't.
Continued on page 4: What You Can Do This Year