The Over-40 Guide to Living Longer (And Better!)

Making health a priority is easier -- and more fun -- than you might think. Eat more chocolate. Attend more concerts. Take more vacations. If you're past 40, it's not too late -- it's prime time to slip key habits into your life. Here's a to-do list for a healthier, happier you!
What You Can Do Today
smiling woman in tank top outdoors

Take charge of your health -- today. Here's how:

Add some weight. If you've never hefted a hand weight, start today. Most of the loss of strength that we label aging is actually the result of disuse, notes Lawrence Golding, Ph.D., director of the exercise physiology laboratory at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. To stay strong (and maintain bones), schedule training daily, alternating muscle groups.

Eat more, gain less. Start supper by eating a big, Mediterranean-inspired salad. You'll take in fewer calories overall than if you skipped the starter, says David L. Katz, M.D., of Yale University School of Medicine. Mix a variety of greens with a rainbow of vegetables (red grape tomatoes, carrots, yellow bell peppers), top it with a little olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and you'll be well on your way to meeting the USDA's recommended daily intake of fruits and veggies, now up to nine servings.

Build your bones. You may like milk, but it takes five glasses to hit the 1,500 mg daily calcium target for post-menopausal women (1,200 mg for premenopausal women). Most of us miss the mark. In fact, a report says that in the near future, half of all Americans over 50 will be at risk for fractures. Eating foods rich in calcium is a good start, but you may want to take a 1,000 mg calcium supplement, says Elizabeth Dupuis, M.D., of Boston University School of Medicine. Other options: Chew on Tums or Viactiv calcium squares, or make that latte a double (low-fat milk, not espresso). Don't forget nondairy sources such as spinach and arugula.

Check your posture. Program an hourly reminder on your computer or personal digital assistant to pull your abs in and your shoulders back. Slumping can cause muscle tension, fatigue, and even pain.

Be active. Schedule moderate-intensity aerobic workouts, such as walking or a step class, that last at least one minute for each birthday you've celebrated. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends at least 30 minutes a day for general health, but for weight loss or even maintenance, more time is necessary. Make a half-hour your starting line, not limit. Working up to 60 or 90 minutes lets you incorporate flexibility and strength training into your routine, says Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, Ph.D., head of kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Continued on page 2:  What You Can Do This Week