Entering your 40s marks a significant milestone in a woman’s life. This is the age when maintaining healthy habits physically and mentally becomes a priority. From menopause, stress and mental well-being to bone health and heart disease, women’s health issues over 40 significantly impact overall well-being and quality of life. Adopting healthy habits can empower women to navigate this stage of life with vigour and strength. As of 2022, nearly half of Australia’s female population is older than 40. That is equivalent to over 7 million Aussies. The prevalence of chronic health conditions increases with age, with conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis becoming more common among women over 40.

Common Health Concerns for Women Over 40

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report in 2023,
  • Back pain, breast cancer, osteoarthritis, anxiety disorders, depressive disorders are the leading causes of ill health and death for women aged above 44 in Australia.
  • 59% of the females aged above 45 years of age have at least one chronic condition.
  •  Breast cancer with 20,428 cases reported by Cancer Australia and melanoma were common for females aged 20–59.
  • Around 1 in 9 (11.1%) females born in 1973–78 is estimated to have been diagnosed with endometriosis by age 40–44 (Rowlands, et al. 2021).
  • The number of women between the ages of 40 and 44 having babies nearly doubled, increasing from 8.4 out of every 1,000 women in 1999 to 15.5 out of every 1,000 women in 2019.
  • Based on the 2020–21 National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing (NSMHW) (ABS 2022j) Mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, affect a significant proportion of women in Australia, with middle-aged women facing unique stressors related to career, family, and ageing.
  • 21% of those aged 35–44, and 13% of those aged 65–74 reported 12-month mental health disorder.
  • It is estimated that around 251,700 women in Australia who are 30 years old or older have dementia. This is about 19.2 out of every 1,000 women. This number is expected to rise to 533,800 by the year 2058, according to a report by AIHW
  • Menopausal transition and hormonal changes during perimenopause and post-menopause can impact women’s health, leading to symptoms such as hot flashes, mood changes, and bone density loss.
  • Women are also vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases (STI’s or STD’s) such as chlamydia, gonococcal infection, syphilis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), donovanosis, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

40 Healthy Lifestyle Tips for Women over 40

Far from being a time of decline, 40 has emerged as a new beginning. A chapter brimming with opportunities for growth, self-discovery, and reinvention. “40 is the new 20” is a modern adage that celebrates the vitality, wisdom, and beauty of women as they enter their 40s. Here are 40 tips to embrace this mindset and make the most of this stage of life:

Diet & Lifestyle:

In Australia, obesity rates are concerning, with over 56% of adult women being obese. This is primarily higher when it comes to women between the ages of 45-54. As women enter their 40s, adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle is important. This supports overall well-being and mitigates age-related health concerns.
  1. Healthy Eating Guidelines: Following dietary guidelines such as the Australian Dietary Guidelines can help women over 40 make informed food choices.
  2. Embrace a Balanced Diet: Prioritise a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Include a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables. This is to ensure adequate intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants essential for optimal health. Incorporate lean protein sources such as poultry, fish, beans, lentils, tofu, and Greek yoghurt into your meals to support muscle health, satiety, and metabolism.
  3. Importance of Nutrient Intake: Nutrient needs change with age, and deficiencies in vitamins and minerals can impact overall health. More than 67% of Australian women aged 31 and above have insufficient calcium intake and more than 38% of women have inadequate iron intake. One should understand what nutrient values are required for your age and how much you should consume. You can utilise government apps such as EatForHealth Nutrient Calculators and Health Star rating system to understand the food you eat better.
  4. Choose Local and Seasonal Produce: Support local farmers and enjoy fresh, seasonal produce that is abundant in Australia. Visit farmers’ markets and get a diverse range of locally grown fruits and vegetables.
  5. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to maintain hydration and support overall health. Consider carrying a reusable water bottle and aim to consume at least the recommended eight glasses of water daily, adjusting intake based on activity level, health conditions and climate.
  6. Minimise Processed Foods, Added Sugars, and Sodium: Limit intake of processed and packaged foods high in added sugars, unhealthy fats, and sodium to support optimal health and well-being. Minimise consumption of sugary drinks, sweets, and desserts. These can contribute to weight gain, inflammation, and chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
  7. Bone Health Concerns: Osteoporosis, and arthritis become significant health concerns for women over 40. Consuming calcium-rich foods and engaging in weight-bearing exercises are essential for maintaining bone health.
  8. Sedentary Lifestyle Risks: Sedentary behaviour, such as prolonged sitting, is associated with increased risks of obesity, heart disease, and premature mortality. The Australian National Health Survey shows that on average, adults spent about 39 hours per week engaged in sedentary activities.
  9. Stress Management Strategies: Managing stress is essential for overall well-being, as chronic stress can negatively impact physical and mental health. Surveys indicate that 70% of women over 40 prioritise stress management techniques such as mindfulness and relaxation exercises.
  10. Reduced Alcohol Consumption and Smoking: Excessive alcohol consumption is a concern for women over 40, as it can contribute to weight gain, liver disease, and increased cancer risk. Statistics show that 1 in 5 Australian women aged 45-54 consume alcohol at levels that increase long-term health risks. It is important to curb regular indulgence of alcohol after 40. While smoking rates have declined in Australia, tobacco use remains a concern for women over 40. Women should aim to drink on average at most 1 standard drink a day and to avoid binge drinking.
  11. Sleep Quality and Quantity: Adequate sleep is essential for overall health and well-being, yet many women over 40 experience sleep disturbances and insomnia. AIHW Studies on sleep problems suggest that women are 1.4 times more prone to insomnia than men. It is important to understand the quality and quantity of sleep one is getting to avoid other chronic conditions such as hypertension etc. Consumer wearable devices, like smartwatches and fitness bands, can estimate sleep duration and assess sleep quality.

Physical and Mental Well-Being:

  1. Physical Activity Guidelines: Regular physical activity is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. The Australian Department of Health and Aged Care gives out physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines for all ages and it is important to keep up to date with this. Staying active contributes to both physical and mental well-being. The more active you are, the greater the benefits for your overall health.
  2. Find Activities You Enjoy: Discover physical activities that bring you joy and incorporate them into your daily routine. Whether it’s walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, or yoga, choose activities that you look forward to and can sustain long-term. Incorporate movement into your daily routine by taking short walking breaks, using stairs instead of elevators, and engaging in household chores or gardening. Every bit of physical activity counts towards improving overall health. There are many calorie and step counter apps which are a fun way to set your fitness goals and achieve them.
  3. Prioritise Strength Training: Include strength training exercises in your fitness regimen to maintain muscle mass, bone density, and metabolic health. Aim to incorporate resistance training exercises at least two days per week, targeting major muscle groups.
  4. Explore the Great Outdoors: Take advantage of Australia’s stunning natural landscapes by engaging in outdoor activities such as hiking, bushwalking, or beachcombing. Spending time in nature offers numerous health benefits, including stress reduction and improved mood.
  5. Practice Stress Management: Develop stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, or relaxation techniques to manage stress effectively. Prioritise self-care activities that promote relaxation and rejuvenation. Here’s a head to health quiz to understand your stress levels.
  6. Foster Social Connections: Cultivate meaningful relationships with friends, family, and community members to foster social support and connection.
  7. Look after your Mental Health: Don’t hesitate to seek support from mental health professionals or counsellors if you’re struggling with emotional challenges, stress, anxiety, or depression. 
  8. Practice Gratitude: Cultivate an attitude of gratitude by focusing on the positive aspects of life and expressing appreciation for the blessings around you.
  9. Stay Positive and Take time to unwind: Keep a positive outlook on life and focus on the things you’re grateful for. Schedule regular downtime to relax and recharge – whether it’s reading a book, taking a bath, or enjoying a leisurely picnic in the park.

Preventive Health Care:

  1. Know Your Numbers: Monitor important health indicators such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and body mass index (BMI) to assess your overall health and risk for chronic diseases. You can calculate your BMI here.
  2. Schedule Regular Check-ups: Stay proactive about your health by scheduling regular check-ups and screenings with your healthcare provider. These appointments allow for early detection and management of health conditions. Thanks to Telehealth, you can skip the wait lines at the clinic and get an appointment with an online doctor within minutes.
  3. Screenings and Tests: Follow recommended guidelines for age-appropriate screenings and tests such as mammograms, Pap smears, bone density scans, cholesterol checks, blood pressure monitoring, and colonoscopies. These screenings can help detect potential health issues early and prevent complications. Here are various types of health checks for women from Better Health Australia.
  4. Stay up-to-date on Vaccinations: Ensure you’re up-to-date on vaccinations, including flu shots, pneumonia vaccines, and other recommended immunisations based on your age, health status, and lifestyle factors. Vaccinations can help prevent serious illnesses and complications, particularly as you age.
  5. Perform Regular Breast Self-exams: Conduct monthly breast self-exams to become familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts and to detect any changes or abnormalities early. Here’s a step-by-step guide for conducting a breast self-exam by Australian College of Nursing.
  6. Schedule Mammograms: Follow recommended guidelines for mammograms to screen for breast cancer and detect any abnormalities early when treatment is most effective. You can book a free BreastScreen Mammogram appointment funded by the Australian Government.
  7. Stay Informed About Menopause: Educate yourself about the physical and emotional changes associated with menopause, including hormonal fluctuations, hot flashes, mood swings, and changes in libido. Seek support and guidance from healthcare professionals as needed. Here are some factsheets from the Australasian Menopause Society.
  8. Prioritise Bone Health: Take steps to maintain strong bones and prevent osteoporosis by consuming adequate calcium and vitamin D from dietary sources or supplements, engaging in weight-bearing exercises regularly, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
  9. Practise Safe Sex: Use protection to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies. Discuss contraceptive options with your healthcare provider to determine the best method for your needs and preferences.
  10. Maintain Vaginal Health: Practise good hygiene and vaginal care to prevent infections and maintain vaginal health. Avoid douching and use mild, fragrance-free products for cleansing.
  11. Perform Regular Pap Smears: Schedule regular Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer and detect any abnormalities early when treatment is most effective. Follow recommended guidelines for screening frequency based on your age and health history.

Skin Care Over 40:

As women reach their 40s, their skin undergoes significant changes due to factors like hormonal shifts, decreased collagen production, and environmental exposure. It is important to take care of your skin and to age gracefully.
  1. Sun Protection: In Australia, where the sun’s UV rays are particularly harsh, skin cancer rates are high. According to Cancer Council Australia, around 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70. Sunscreen is crucial for protecting the skin from harmful UV radiation.
  2. Moisturisation and Hydration: As skin tends to become drier with age, using a hydrating moisturiser enriched with ingredients like hyaluronic acid can help maintain skin moisture levels and plumpness.
  3. Anti-Aging Concerns: Fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots become more prominent in women over 40. Incorporating a skincare routine can help improve skin texture, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and stimulate collagen production for firmer, more youthful-looking skin. You can speak to your GP to understand which type of skincare routine you should follow.
  4. Collagen Support: Collagen levels naturally decline with age, leading to loss of skin elasticity and firmness.
  5. Routine Skin Examinations: Schedule regular full-body skin checks with a GP or dermatologist for early detection of skin cancer.
  6. Nutrition and Skin Health: A balanced diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids can benefit skin health. Dietary changes should be incorporated to improve your skin’s appearance and vitality.
  7. Consulting a GP or a dermatologist: Seeking professional advice from a dermatologist or a healthcare provider is essential for addressing specific skin concerns.
  8. Stay Consistent: Consistency is key when it comes to skincare. Establish a daily skincare routine and stick to it diligently to achieve optimal results and maintain skin health over time.
  9. Lastly, Celebrate Your Strengths: Recognize and celebrate your strengths, accomplishments, and resilience as a woman over 40. Acknowledge your unique qualities, talents, and contributions to your family, community, and the world around you.

What not to do?

Women over 40 should be mindful of certain aspects to safeguard their health and well-being. Neglecting regular health checks and screenings for conditions like breast cancer, cervical cancer, and osteoporosis is unwise. Early detection is crucial for effective treatment. Additionally, ignoring sun protection can increase the risk of skin cancer and premature ageing. Ignoring mental health concerns such as stress, anxiety, or depression can have negative effects on overall well-being. Neglecting heart health by maintaining unhealthy habits like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to cardiovascular issues. Furthermore, overlooking sexual health, pelvic health, and dental health can impact quality of life. It’s important for women over 40 in Australia to put their health forward by addressing these areas and seeking appropriate medical care when needed. Prioritise a good sleep routine, healthy eating habits and stress reduction. Be content and age gracefully.

When to seek professional help?

Women over 40 should seek professional help for various health concerns to ensure optimal well-being and early detection of potential issues. It’s advisable to consult a healthcare provider if experiencing any of the following:
  1. Breast issues: Changes in breast size or shape, nipple discharge, or skin changes on the breast or nipple area, finding lumps.
  2. Irregular Menstrual Cycles: Any significant changes in menstrual patterns, such as irregular periods, heavy bleeding, or spotting between periods
  3. Pelvic discomfort: Speak to a doctor if there is persistent pelvic pain, discomfort during intercourse, or changes in bladder or bowel habits.
  4. Mental Health Concerns: Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability, or mood swings that interfere with daily life should be addressed immediately by speaking to a mental healthcare expert.
  5. Heart Health Symptoms: Chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, or dizziness, which could indicate heart problems or other cardiovascular issues.
  6. Bone Health Concerns: Any unexplained fractures, height loss, or persistent back pain should prompt evaluation for osteoporosis or other bone-related conditions.
  7. Screening and Preventive Care: Regular screenings for breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, and osteoporosis are essential for women over 40.
  8. Hormonal Changes: Women experiencing symptoms related to menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, or vaginal dryness, may benefit from discussing treatment options with a healthcare provider.
  9. Skin Changes: Any new or changing moles, skin lesions, or signs of skin cancer should be evaluated by a dermatologist for early detection and treatment.
Your 40s can be a time of growth, exploration, and self-discovery. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, practising mental well-being, and taking steps towards preventive care is essential. Incorporating these 40 simple healthy habits into your life will help you feel your best and embrace all that life has to offer. Remember to listen to your body, prioritise self-care, and enjoy the journey!

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This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.