Future-proof your midlife: (almost) 40 health and wellbeing tips for your 40s and beyond

Whether it’s having a health MOT and adapting your diet, practising self-love to helping your libido, here are some ideas for staying healthy into your 40s.

By Sam Wood

Science has given us a good understanding of what we can expect to happen to our bodies as we hit our 40s – but there are things we can do to help ensure midlife, and beyond, is happy and healthy. “It’s inevitable that we’ll age, yet how well and at what rate is a factor we have more control over than we may think,” says Dr Helen Hartley, associate medical director at Aviva Health. “There are things we can do now that could determine how well we live in five, 10 or 20 years’ time.” So here’s how you can help future-proof your midlife …

Look after your body

Stop smoking

The lungs, heart and circulation all begin to heal the minute you quit, and studies have shown a direct impact on life expectancy. Quit at age 60 and your life expectancy can increase by three years, quit at 40 and this figure could be closer to 10.

Book a health MOT

Many GPs will invite you for a check-up but if you don’t hear from yours, it’s worth booking one. “They’re free on the NHS for anyone aged 40 to 70 and can help detect early signs of stroke, dementia, diabetes, kidney and heart disease,” says Hartley. “This includes checking blood pressure, weight and cholesterol, and giving you health advice on reducing the risk of diseases and complications by making lifestyle changes.”

Dial down the shower

Cold water immersion has become popular recently, as it is believed to carry potential benefits to our cardiovascular and nervous systems through stressing them with a large temperature change. However, this carries risks to some people – for example those with heart disease or asthma – so anyone wanting to try this for themselves could start cautiously by turning down the water temperature for a few seconds at the end of their shower and monitoring the effects.

Get a bra fitting

Approximately 81% of women are wearing the wrong size bra and an ill-fitting one may lack support leading to the straining of ligaments, which can cause discomfort and poor posture. Many high street stores offer free fittings.

Have a prostate check

Screening isn’t usually recommended until the mid-50s, but men with a family history of prostate cancer should get checked sooner.

Clear out your handbag

The average woman’s handbag weighs the equivalent of about three bags of sugar – so be mindful of the stress on your neck, shoulders and posture. Clear-out or swap to a backpack that distributes weight evenly.

Turn down your headphones

“Prolonged exposure to noise can cause irreversible damage to your ear’s hair cells, so take regular breaks from headphones and turn them down a notch,” advises Hartley. Also, since untreated midlife hearing loss is increasingly acknowledged as a risk factor for later dementia, taking a free online hearing test could enable prompt use of a hearing aid, if needed, to reduce that risk.

Check your poop

A small amount of one-off bleeding is not usually anything serious but any blood in your actual poo should be checked with your GP, as it can sometimes be a sign of bowel disease, including bowel cancer.

Look after your mind

Illustration of man sitting cross-legged on rug and meditating surrounded by healthy food and drink

Rethink bedtime routines

If insomnia and night sweats start to affect your energy levels, scrub up on sleep hygiene. Go to bed at the same time, stay away from caffeine and screens close to bedtime and keep on top of a balanced diet and regular exercise. If you’re experiencing night sweats and you’re losing weight without trying, see your GP.

Make time for meditation

Twenty minutes a day can reduce stress and aid sleep, which can all contribute to a happier, healthier midlife. Try:

  • Sitting in a comfortable position, making sure your back is supported.
  • Set a timer and begin to focus on your breathing.
  • As your mind wanders, bring it back – concentrating on breathing in and out deeply.
  • Every time you lose focus, just begin again.
  • Once your time is up, open your eyes, take a few deep breaths and return to your day.

Practise the 5-4-3-2-1 technique

Our 40s can be full of anxiety, so arm yourself with some grounding tools. “If you feel jittery, techniques such as 5-4-3-2-1 bring us back to the present, focusing our attention on the now,” says Hartley. Give it a go, by identifying:

  • Five things you can see, and naming them.
  • Four things you can touch.
  • Three things you can hear.
  • Two things you can smell.
  • One thing you can taste.
  • Notice how you feel afterwards. Calmer?

Make your bedroom smartphone-free

Our phones can trigger a lot of responses on a physiological, psychological and emotional level, which is why creating “smartphone-free” zones is good for our mental health. “Charge it overnight in another room so it’s not the last or first thing you reach for,” says author and digital wellbeing coach Katie Brockhurst. “Invest in an alarm clock, if that is your excuse!”

Have a head massage

Rubbing the scalp may lower blood pressure, help with hormonal headaches and trigger the release of serotonin, so next time the hairdresser asks if you want one, say yes!


Smiling releases stress-busting hormones, so even faking one could make you feel happier.

Look after your soul

Say yes to dessert (in moderation)

“Eating dessert can have huge emotional and mental health benefits as they are associated with happiness, self-care and nice times,” says nutritionist Helen Bell. “Additionally, certain ingredients – such as dark chocolate – stimulate serotonin production, enhancing mood.” Obviously, stick to a small amount of dark chocolate and treat yourself to desserts weekly, rather than daily.

Make a will

If you haven’t already; do it. Getting your affairs in order is one less thing to worry about.

Keep connected

“Stay connected to friends and loved ones, even if it feels an effort at times,” says Hartley. “Making time to do things you enjoy and connect with other people is vital for good midlife mental health and to reduce the risk of developing dementia in later life.”

Rethink ‘old age’

According to a wealth of research, those with a positive view of growing older live longer than those who worry about it.

Celebrate yourself

Start to say nice things to your reflection. “When we repeat positive affirmations (pdf), we rebuild neural pathways which change how we see ourselves,” explains counsellor Georgina Sturmer.

Create more collagen

As we age, the body produces less collagen (responsible for skin’s elasticity and hydrogen) and while supplements are available, Hartley says you can eat wisely to produce more. “Eat a diet rich in protein – such as dairy, lentils, meat, fish and poultry – plus foods containing vitamin C, zinc and copper – such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, leafy greens and wholegrains.”

Scale back salt

Eating too much salt may raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases.

Walk after meals

“Taking a walk after eating can reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, which help reduce the likelihood of diabetes,” says Hartley.

Stay strong

Illustration of alarm clock split into segments representing rest, exercise and nutrition

Get down with glute bridges

“Strength exercises are great for midlifers because as we get older we naturally lose muscle mass,” says personal trainer Nicole Prasad. “Focusing on exercises that help with mobility improves posture, balance and agility, which helps support our joints, reducing the risk of age-related injury.” Try a daily glute bridge:

  • Lie on a comfortable, supportive surface.
  • Place feet in line with hips, and knees in line with feet.
  • Tilt pelvis towards you until your back feels like it’s pressing into the ground.
  • Press down firmly into the soles of your feet and roll your back off the mat until you’re in a “glute bridge”.

Practise getting up off the floor with no hands

You might not look elegant, but restricted mobility in knee and hip joints are a common problem as we age, and working on flexibility and lower body strength will literally carry you through even more years.

Stand on one leg

Balance deteriorates as we age (pdf) as a result of a decline in our vision and vestibular system, meaning that injuring ourselves can become more common. “Start standing on one leg when you brush your teeth,” suggests Prasad. “Maintaining core muscle strength and the ability to balance is crucial in reducing risks later down the line.”

Build your strength

Carry out strength or resistance training several times a week – it will pay dividends in later life, maintaining strength and slowing the natural decline from age 40 to 50, as well as improving mental health.

Protect the skin you’re in

Use daily sunscreen

A significant amount of skin ageing is due to sun damage over time, so delay this process by using protection, even when not on holiday. “Regardless of age or whether it’s sunny, using a daily sunscreen will help protect your skin against damaging ultraviolet rays, associated with skin cancers,” says Hartley. There are a wide range of sunscreens to suit different skin types, with many integrated into makeup or daily moisturisers.

Moisturise within minutes of showering

Get the most bang for your buck out of anti-ageing creams and moisturisers by using them after getting out of the shower to seal in added hydration from the water.

Face your phone

Fine lines and wrinkles can form over years of repeated motions, so if you’re often looking down at your smartphone and squinting – stop. Holding your phone at eye level can help, as well as making text larger and making sure you have regular eye tests.

Consider your hormones

What about supplements?

Despite a healthy diet, some people might benefit from supplements such as iron for some types of anaemia, or vitamin D, if not getting enough sun exposure in winter months. Since supplements may have adverse effects, take medical advice over the benefits versus the risks.

Reduce: deep-fried foods and those high in sugar.

Increase: fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel and tuna, eggs and cold-pressed nut oils.

Book in with the hygienist

“Declining oestrogen levels caused by peri/menopause can weaken our gums, causing gum disease and tooth decay,” says Hartley. “Have regular dentist checks, visit the hygienist and make sure you’re brushing twice a day and flossing to maintain optimal gum health.”

Get a diagnosis

There are many potential symptoms of peri/menopause and if you are concerned about any of these, talk to your GP. If you’re under 45, your GP might want to check your hormone levels.

Bring sexy back

Experiment in the bedroom

drop in libido is extremely common, especially for women with fluctuating hormones, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of sex. “Communication with your partner is key,” says Hartley, “but also experimenting with toys and sex aids can bring the buzz back.” Doctors can consider prescribing testosterone in cases where HRT isn’t effective with low libido.

Buy lube

Depleting hormones can cause vaginal dryness (pdf) but your pharmacist should be able to suggest a range of water-based lubricants that will make sex more comfortable.

Eat more beetroot

Libido left the building? “Beetroot may be linked to libido as it contains the compound boron, which impacts our body’s use of oestrogen and testosterone, which may increase sex drive and act like a natural viagra,” says nutritional therapist Alexa Mullane.

Time for a health upgrade? From easy-to-book digital GP appointments to faster treatment and diagnosis, find out how Aviva health insurance and wellbeing services can help.

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