The big 40 – is it all down hill from here?

Different decades of our lives bring different life experiences. During our first ten years we’re normally the focus of other people’s care and attention, our minds and our bodies are developing; then as we move into our second decade as teenagers, we are faced with the hurly-burly of school life, puppy love and seesawing hormones. Many of us settle down in the second and third decades – in our 20s and 30s we’re pursuing careers, meeting a life partner and maybe starting a family of our own. Then we reach the grand old age of 40 – so is it all down hill from here?

Absolutely not! The phrase ‘life begins at forty’ says it all – there are, yet again, different life experiences and changes ahead and these can be just as exciting and challenging as our experiences during earlier decades. For example, those of us who have enjoyed good health shouldn’t expect all this to change as soon as we reach the age of 40 – it simply makes sense to catch up a little at this stage with how we’re functioning generally.

Some basic health checks

A straightforward health screening will present us with any indicators of potential problems, so that we’re well informed and can take steps to improve our diet, exercise regime, stress responses, or whatever might need fine tuning. It’s always worth getting blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels checked. Also, healthcare providers might suggest that those aged 40 or over should have a simple blood test to check levels of homocysteine, C-reactive protein and triglyceride. These are associated with stroke, heart attack and cardiovascular disease respectively.

Fertility in the over-40s is the subject of much debate and discussion. Whilst it’s generally acknowledged that fertility begins to decline somewhere towards the end of the third decade, it’s by no means the case that women can’t have children well into their 40s, and even their 50s. In fact, many healthcare professionals believe older mothers are less impatient and more tranquil, with generally good self-esteem and well-developed support systems – all of which is very beneficial for the new baby. Usually, more settled mothers also will have made sensible, practical arrangements such as making a will, and ensuring their income is secure and life cover is in place.

Take care of yourself

Women of any age are urged to take really good care of themselves during pregnancy and Moms-to-be who are in their 40s should do likewise. My Irish great-grandmother had twelve children – she was in her 20s when her firstborn made an appearance, and in her 40s when my grandmother, the 11th child, was born. Although the family wasn’t wealthy, my great-grandmother always had fresh food; she had no option but to stay busy, but she loved to walk so she made sure to take sensible exercise and also to have regular rest and relaxation periods.

Nowadays there’s a lot of options for mothers in their forties in terms of looking after their physical and mental health. Mind and body programs often focus on combining my grandmother’s favorites – a good diet, with the right vitamins and minerals, and exercise – with meditation and visualization techniques, for achieving the restful calm that she managed to find in her relatively simple, everyday life.

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