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Healthy at every age: Your 30s

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Life often has a way of expanding in this decade. Weddings. Babies. Job promotions. There’s a lot to manage, including staying on top of your health. Here are seven areas to focus on to help you feel your best.

We all want to have a long and healthy life and to stay strong, active and vibrant as we age. No matter how old you are, certain basic habits are key for feeling good and fending off disease: Eat healthy food. Get enough sleep. Exercise. Wear sunscreen. And get regular health screenings. But other health advice may vary based on your age. In this special five-part series, we offer focused wellness tips for your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s and beyond. 

Read the whole series:

Now that you’re in your 30s, you may be busier than ever. Perhaps you’re logging longer hours at work. Or now caring for your children. Or doing both. The result: It may be harder to put your health first when there’s more to juggle. But it’s important to make the time.

Here are some smart health steps to take during this decade.

1. Step up your stress management

Yes, you’re swamped. But taking time to relax is important for good health. “Chronic stress can lead to inflammation throughout the body,” says Sarah Kent, MD. Inflammation causes soreness. It can lead to serious problems like heart disease and diabetes. She’s a family medicine physician at USMD, part of Optum, in Cross Roads, Texas.

There are many ways to find a sense of calm. The key is to try different things and see what works best for you. You can try yoga, meditation or deep breathing.1 Spending time doing something you love can also be helpful. Maybe that’s baking, reading or playing a round of golf. And it’s all right if you don’t have a ton of time. You can bring your stress level down in just a few minutes. 

2. Keep getting annual well visits

If you didn’t get yearly checkups in your 20s, be sure to visit your doctor now. You should be getting regular blood pressure screenings. And a cholesterol test is also important. Cholesterol is a type of blood fat. So if you missed that one in your 20s, get it now. If your first test is normal and you don’t have risk factors for heart disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you can wait five years until your next one. If not, follow your doctor’s advice.

You’ll also want to be sure your doctor has your full family history. If certain diseases like breast or colon cancer run in your family, you may need to start screenings earlier.

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3. Pay attention to your period (if you menstruate)

Your periods can get heavier, lighter or less regular now. That is especially true when you reach your late 30s. For some women, the end of this decade brings the start of perimenopause. That’s a sometimes years-long hormonal shift that takes place. It’s followed by menopause, when your periods stop.

But there are several conditions that may affect a woman in her 30s, says Dr. Kent. These include:

  • Fibroids (growths in the uterus)
  • Endometriosis (when uterine tissue grows outside the uterus)
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (a hormone problem that keeps your ovaries from releasing eggs normally)

Fibroids may make your periods last longer than a week. And endometriosis can cause severe pain and bleeding. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome often have fewer periods. Some have periods that keep changing in length.2

You don’t have to just live with difficult periods. Reach out to your ob/gyn or primary care provider to talk about any symptoms. You can care for these diseases with medication, surgery or both. And if you’d like to get pregnant, taking care of these issues can help make that easier to do.

4. If you want to get pregnant but can’t, talk to your doctor

More people are waiting longer to start their families. In fact, the median age for a first pregnancy is now 30.3 But getting pregnant can be more challenging in your 30s. Fertility starts to decline around age 32.4 And the odds of conceiving drop even more quickly after about age 37. But there are other reasons you may be having trouble getting pregnant. Those include endometriosis, fibroids or a thyroid disorder.

Infertility is often considered a women’s issue. But it affects men, too. Causes of infertility in men include problems with the testicles and a lack of sperm. In fact, only one-third of infertility cases are due to a problem with the woman. Another one-third have to do with an issue with the man. The other cases involve either both or unknown reasons.5

If you and your partner are in your early 30s and have been trying to have a baby for at least a year, it’s time to get help. Think about getting a fertility evaluation. And if you’re older than 35, get an evaluation after six months of trying to get pregnant. Women should see an ob/gyn. Men should visit a urologist. (Search for providers near you now.)

5. Protect your bone health

Your bones continuously break down and rebuild themselves to stay strong. But starting around age 30, you slowly begin to lose bone mass.6 That can lead to weaker bones, if you don’t take steps now to save bone mass. It’s a bigger concern for women than men, as women lose bone mass faster.

“To lessen bone loss, women this age should be doing strength training and other weight-bearing exercises,” Dr. Kent says. “For example, they can try walking.” These activities stimulate the bones to become stronger.

Calcium is also important. The recommended daily amount is 1,000 milligrams. If you can’t get it from what you eat, a calcium supplement can be helpful. But talk to your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you. They can also tell you how much to take. Consuming too much calcium may lead to heart disease, and it’s easy to overdo it, says Dr. Kent.

Your doctor may also suggest a vitamin D supplement. Your body needs vitamin D to take in calcium. And getting enough vitamin D from food alone can be difficult. (You can stock up on all your doctor-approved supplements at the Optum Store. Shop now.)

6. Focus on core strength

Having strong core muscles is important at any age. (Your core includes the muscles in your stomach, pelvis and back.) But it’s especially important in your 30s.

You may notice that you have more aches and pains than you used to. You may have low back pain from spending long hours sitting at work, or from constantly picking up your kids. A strong core also improves your posture, so you may be less likely to slouch in your chair.

Workouts that strengthen your core include yoga, tai chi and Pilates. You can also do moves that challenge your core as part of your regular workout. Good options:

  • Planks. Start as though you’re going to do a push-up, but with your forearms on the floor, palms down. Keep your abs pulled in tight. Hold there for as long as you can without letting your hips sink down or hike up in the air.
     
  • Hip bridges. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet close to your butt. Place your hands on the floor by your sides. Slowly lift your hips as high as you can. Pause at the top, then lower and repeat. Do as many reps as you can.

Aim to do muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week.7

If you have ongoing back pain, though, be sure to check in with your doctor. Certain types of arthritis that affect the spine and pelvis can set in at this stage of life. If your doctor suspects that this could be the cause, they may send you to a rheumatologist. That’s a doctor who specializes in arthritis. A combination of medication and exercise can ease pain and stiffness.

7. Keep your skin firm and healthy

Notice some wrinkles on your face now that you’re in your 30s? That is partly due to a natural drop in levels of elastin and collagen. Those are proteins that keep your skin smooth.

Using moisturizer on your skin can help with wrinkles.8 Your skin doctor can also suggest something stronger. For example, medicines like prescription retinoid cream or chemical peels.

Sun exposure also causes wrinkles. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day. If you haven’t yet made that a habit, now is the time to start. Not worried about wrinkles? Sunscreen can help with more serious problems. It can keep you from getting skin cancer, including melanoma (the most deadly form).9

Schedule a skin check if you haven’t had one yet. That way your doctor can check and possibly remove any suspicious spots.

Yes, you do have a few more to-dos on your list now that you’re in your 30s. But focusing on your health will always be worth the extra effort.

Sources

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy ways to cope with stress. Last reviewed April 2020. Accessed July 14, 2022.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Common reproductive health concerns for women. Last reviewed April 18, 2018. Accessed July 26, 2022.
  3. United States Census Bureau. Fertility rates: Declined for younger women, increased for older women. Last revised: April 12, 2022. Accessed August 8, 2022.
  4. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Female age-related fertility decline. Last reviewed March 2014. Accessed July 18, 2022.
  5. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. How common is male infertility, and what are its causes? Last reviewed November 18, 2021. Accessed August 8,2022.
  6. National Institute on Aging. Osteoporosis. Last reviewed June 26, 2017. Accessed July 18, 2022.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need? Last reviewed June 2, 2022. Accessed July 18, 2022.
  8. American Academy of Dermatology. Wrinkle remedies. Accessed July 18, 2022.
  9. American Cancer Society. How do I protect myself from ultraviolet (UV) rays? Last reviewed July 23, 2019. Accessed July 18, 2022.

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