On Turning 40

I wasn’t going to bring attention to my birthday or my age for that matter. After all, age is just another number.  On the other hand, 40 is a major milestone.  I’ve lived half of my life according to various sources stating the average life expectancy in the US is around 80-82yrs.  And apparently in the next several years, my body will undergo some noticeable changes.

The beauty of it is I am now in full control of the next 40+ years of my life.  What I do in terms of my health and fitness rests on me.  I can’t ignore the changes that aging bring so I will learn about them and explore ways to slow down the process.

On Losing Muscle Mass

After the age of 40, we can lose 8 percent or more of our muscle mass every decade. The good news is this condition only applies to people who have been inactive and choose to remain inactive.  An article in the NYT Aging Well Through Exercise revealed the results of a study done with 40 competitive runners, cyclists and swimmers ranging in ages from 40 to 81.  After taking muscle mass measurements, the thigh muscles of the 70 and 80 yr old athletes looked comparatively the same as their 40 yr old counterparts.  We’ve heard of the term ‘use it or lose it’.  Our muscles start to shrink when they’re not activated.  By consistently engaging in various activities we enjoy, we can keep our muscles happy and remain with us for the long haul.

On Hormonal Changes

The apparent hormonal change in women in their 40s is the decline of estrogen levels as we enter the perimenopause period.  While I might experience uncomfortable symptoms, they’re the least of my worries.  I am more concerned about the function of my pancreas after I read that as we age it loses its ability to efficiently process insulin, causing blood glucose levels to rise.  I’ve managed to keep my blood glucose levels under control by focusing on my nutrition and addition of weight training.  It’s important now more than ever to continue my journey of eating well and building strength to maintain good glucose levels.

On Bone Loss

Peak bone mass happens between 25 to 30 years of age.  This is when our bones are maximally developed in its size and strength.  Once this point is reached and when our estrogen levels decline, the rate of bone loss becomes more significant. Women can lose an average of 53% of peak bone mass compared to men with an 18% loss by 80 years of age!  As with muscle loss, the key to preventing bone loss is with physical activity (along with proper nutrition).  Being active during our younger years while our bones were still developing build maximum bone strength,which lessens the risk of osteoporosis (when the body loses too much bone).  It’s never too late to take action even after we reach our peak bone mass as studies have proven that with “above-average level of physical activity, it will delay the onset and reduce the rate of bone loss“.

On the Risk of Breast Cancer 

We see visions of pink everywhere this month for breast cancer awareness.  I scheduled my well exam appointment for the end of the month and I received a call from my provider the same afternoon to remind me that I also need to schedule for a mammogram. Apparently, this is now a required exam once you turn 40.  It was also a surprise to me when I found out the jump in breast cancer risk at age 40, 1 in 68 compared to age 30, 1 in 227 due to more abnormal cell changes in our bodies as we age.

Forging Ahead

After reading plenty of articles with regards to aging, particularly with the changes women undergo, I noticed a common theme to delay the aging process.  It’s no secret as it boils down to providing our bodies with the right type of nutrients, proper doses of physical activity, enough quality sleep and good stress management.  This recipe applies to every stage of our lives – children to elderly – to achieve optimal health.

I planned a getaway weekend to Newport Beach with family to celebrate my 40th birthday.  I’ve never been there so I thought it would be a nice experience to visit someplace new.  We spent the afternoon on the beach and enjoyed a delicious Baja-style Mexican dinner . Oddly I had a craving for a margarita.

The next day I woke up early to run 4 miles on my 40th and thought about the past four decades of my life:

Birthday run

The first decade of growing up in the Philippines, I experienced and learned about the simpler pleasures of life spending time with family and friends at home, in school and around the community. The second was a decade of major transitions.  First we immigrated to the US, a whole new world to us.  I remember my excitement when I turned on the faucet and water came out!  This was a big deal since in the Philippines we had to pump water from our neighbor’s freshwater pump and store them in big containers.  The second transition was attending college out of state – becoming independent and living on my own, free to make my own decisions.  The second decade was definitely life-changing.

Still the next two decades brought even more significant changes. Entering and resigning from the military.  Finding true love and getting married.  And discovering a greater dimension of fulfillment and even more love after I gave birth to my two daughters.  I’ve had my share of highs and lows, some difficult challenges along the way but who I’ve become at the present moment is a culmination of how I’ve dealt with my past.  Being 40 feels absolutely wonderful right now.

Time for cake!

I am linking this post with the DC Trifecta Ladies, Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, Mar at Mar on the Run and Cynthia at You Signed up for What for their final Friday Five. This was the first link up I participated in and it’s been a pleasure to connect with fellow bloggers.

Also linking with Ilka and Angela for the Sunday Fitness and Food link-up.