Another year, and another set of New Year’s resolutions that many of us are bound to discard like the Christmas wrapping we tore from this year’s presents.
Whether it’s drinking less or exercising more, there is no doubt that New Year’s resolutions are easy to make, but not so easy to stick to in the long-term.
And yet healthy habits are the foundation of disease prevention and a long life.
In a bid to give you a helping hand, we have compiled a list of achievable habits for each decade that are not (too) hard to adhere to. They are more like subtle lifestyle tweaks than grand resolutions, which gives us all a better chance of making long-term changes.
MedAdvisor spoke with practising dietician, exercise physiologist and CEO of Be Fit Food, Kate Save, about what you should be doing in each decade.
In your 20s: Start wearing sunscreen
Most young people are not aware of the importance of wearing sunscreen in their 20s, but it can mean the difference between developing skin cancer or not.
According to the Cancer Council, melanoma is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed in Australia, which, along with New Zealand, has the world's highest incidence rate for melanoma.
And if that alone is not reason enough to slip, slop, slap, then here is a thought: a decade of skin protection can make you appear younger.
“The sun absolutely ages you,” Kate says.
“Every time I compliment someone on their skin, they always tell me it’s because they stayed out of the sun.”
In your 30s: Starting eating healthy foods
As Kate points put, the 30s is a time when most people start families or are working full-tilt in their careers and this can impact nutrition.
“If you’re looking after small children, you often don’t think about what you’re eating,” Kate says.
“There are some mums who are so busy they’re eating the leftover of their children’s food.”
In other cases, stressed-out office workers are turning to Uber Eats rather than their own pantry.
There is nothing wrong with the odd unhealthy meal, Kate notes, just make sure you think about feeding your body properly.
“If you do have a weekend where you eat junk food, try and at least reach into the fridge and eat a carrot,” she says.
“Add nutrients wherever you can.”
In your 40s: Cut down on the alcohol
The 40s is an equally busy time of life, and, often, people have more discretionary income to spend.
Which means nicer food, nicer holidays, and, yep, nicer wine.
“Too much alcohol results in fatty liver,” Kate says.
“It also causes abdominal fat and loss of lean muscle, which turns to inflammation in the body, which leads to disease later in life.”
Kate recommends enjoying a glass of wine now and then, but making sure you have at least two alcohol-free nights a week.
In your 50s: Move it!
The 50s are the time when the dreaded ‘middle-aged spread’ occurs, which, according to Kate, is often a sign of insulin resistance.
“Insulin resistance is actually very common, especially among people in their 50s, and it means that they put on weight more easily,” Kate says.
“Insulin resistance is also a precursor to diabetes so should be taken seriously.”
So how do you overcome insulin resistance and the accompanying weight gain?
“You need to move and exercise,” Kate says. “It’s that simple.”
In your 60s: Watch your cholesterol and blood pressure
Two recent studies to come out of the University of Melbourne recently have unearthed what makes some people more likely to develop dementia than others.
Researchers studies women’s brain volume and found that women with higher vascular (high cholesterol and high blood pressure) risk at 55, had fewer brain cells, or grey matter, at 65.
“That means you need to look after your cholesterol and blood pressure in order to keep your brain healthy and ward off dementia,” Kate says.
“This also means lots of Sudoku, crossword puzzles and activities that stimulate the brain.”
In your 70s: Stay social
Sadly, the decade that marks the 70s can sometimes be accompanied by feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Perhaps a spouse or close friend has died, or you feel estranged from people you used to see more regularly.
“Mental illness is a big problem in the 70s age bracket and that often stems from social isolation and loneliness,” Kate says.
“My recommendation is for people to keep engaged with their community and friends, and to stay as connected to networks as possible.”
Which is great wisdom for people of all ages. As Kate notes, one piece of advice alone won’t work wonders, but a range of healthy and productive habits, performed day in and day out, will give us all the best chance of a long and healthy life.
We hope you have a wonderful 2019.
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This story was written by Johanna Leggatt. Johanna is an Australian journalist with more than 15 years’ experience in both print and online. She has worked across a wide range of subject areas, including health, property, finance, interiors, and arts.