Make healthy behaviors a habit while you’re still young, and you’re more likely to hold onto them throughout your life. To that end, here are 30 health choices every woman needs to make by time she reaches the big 3-0. (And if you’ve already blown out 30 candles but haven’t made some of these choices yet, there’s still time—better late than never.)
Find a Workout You Actually Enjoy
Exercise improves your mood, makes you sleep better, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and more. But if you don’t like it, you’re so much less likely to do it. Need some new ideas to try? We’ve got a ton of workouts and lots of info about running, yoga, Crossfit, and more.
Drink More Water
It can help you lose weight, improve your mood, and more.
Quit Smoking (or Don’t Start in the First Place)
You know that smoking seriously increases your odds of getting lung cancer and may even hurt your brain—and research published in 2012 indicates that women who quit before they hit 40 live at least 10 years longer than those who keep lighting up past the big 4-0.
An increasing amount of research shows that the more time you log planted in a chair, the higher your risk of suffering from from obesity, heart disease, and diabetes (which is why some people have started warning about the danger of “sitting disease”). Even scarier, this holds true whether you work out regularly or not.
Find the Best Birth Control for You (if Any)
Yes, there are very legitimate reasons to decide not to use birth control—but the fact is that it’s important to make a conscious decision on the subject one way or the other, rather than leaving yourself open to an unplanned pregnancy. And if you choose to use some form of contraception, you’ll want to pick the best one for you by learning about all of your birth control options first.
Drink Only in Moderation
If you’re anything like most Americans, you’re probably not that concerned about blowing this one off sometimes (see: birthdays, post-breakups, the holidays, regular happy hours, etc.). But here’s why you shouldn’t exceed the U.S. dietary health guidelines to consume no more than seven drinks a week and no more than three in one day: Regularly throwing back more than that can lead to both minor health issues like low energy and blotchy skin and major problems like strokes and certain cancers.
Get Health Insurance
Regardless of what you think about the Affordable Care Act, the fact remains that you need health insurance. Whether you get into an accident, develop a disease, or get pregnant, you will appreciate having coverage at some point.
Love Your Body
Notice we didn’t say, “when you reach your goal weight” or “if you’ve got a great rack.” The truth is, your body does a ton for you, even if you’re not thrilled with every single aspect of it. Learn how to appreciate your body now, and you’ll be so much happier and healthier for it.
Schedule Regular Friend Dates
Not only will it help you de-stress (which is important for mental and heart health), but at least one animal study also suggests that it may result in your body burning more calories. So even when things get crazy-busy, make some time to catch up with your girls—your health will thank you!
Learn How to Cook at Least a Few Truly Delicious Healthy Dishes
Recent research shows that, if you enjoy the food you’re taking in, it’s so much easier to stick with a healthy-eating plan—whether it’s designed for weight loss or just overall wellness. So get cooking!
Find a Doctor You Love, or At Least One You’ll Listen To
Recently, we wrote about new research that suggests women may be better doctors than men. Of course, it’s impossible to make wide-sweeping statements about all medical professionals. But we can tell you this: Your doctor’s gender doesn’t matter nearly as much as how comfortable you are with them. Because when you like and trust your doc, you’re more likely to give them the information they need, listen to their suggestions, and even just make the trip to see them once a year.
Learn Your Family’s Health History
No, your mom may not want to talk about her father’s struggle with heart disease or her uncle’s mental health issues—but your wellbeing depends on it. The more you know about your family’s health history, the better prepared you and your M.D. will be to deal with any issues that come up for you down the road.
Practice Mindfulness Whenever Possible
There are times when we all want to zone out. But mindfulness has been associated with lower levels of stress, extra brainpower, and other positive side effects (like not eating a whole bag of chips without even realizing it).
Do Regular Health Checks
To really stay on top of your health, you’ll need to do more than just see your OB/GYN and general practitioner once a year.
Have More Sex
Not that we think we’ll have to do much convincing here, but have sex and enjoy life!
Have Safe Sex
Yes, getting busy is just plain fun (and good for you, as we mentioned in the last slide). But STDs can compromise your fertility—or cause even more serious health issues. So if you’re having sex with someone who you’re not absolutely certain is STD-free, you need to use a rubber.And if you haven’t talked to your partner about when he or she was last tested, it’s time to get on that.
Get Your Vitamins From Your Food as Much as Possible
Some studies have linked supplements to negative health consequences, and recently, an editorial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine discouraged consumers from spending money on multivitamins. Yes, your doctor may recommend supplements in certain situations. But in general, getting as many of the vitamins and minerals you need from your diet as you can is a better idea than relying on pills, since you’re less likely to face toxicity concerns.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Whether it’s figuring out when to you need to dial down your stress levels or dealing with something more sinister like depression, your mental health plays a huge role in your day-to-day happiness and overall wellbeing. If you’ve been dealing with psychological issues, don’t ignore them—get help.
Swear Off Extreme Dieting
Experts say that the max amount you can aim to safely lose in one week is one or two pounds. Since that means creating a calorie deficit (through diet and exercise) of 500-1,000 calories, you’ll probably want to consume about 1,500 calories a day and supplement that with regular (reasonable) workouts. Anything more extreme will prevent you from getting all of the nutrients you need and set you up for yo-yo dieting since your body will go into starvation mode.
Limit TV Time
No one’s asking you to cancel your Netflix subscription. But the more time you spend in front of the television, the more likely you are to gain weight. Plus, at least one study finds that logging lots of TV time may have a negative impact on your relationship. So keep the minutes you spend in front of the silver screen to a minimum, and use these moves to stay more active when you are watching.
Ditch The Food Guilt
Not only is it just plain un-fun to sit around moping about that piece of chocolate you ate—but it may also sabotage any weight-loss goals you have. The truth is that it’s OK to indulge in sugary or fatty foods once in a while—and even if you do find yourself going overboard sometimes, beating yourself up about it isn’t going to help anything.
Protect Your Heart
Forty percent of women rarely give their heart a second thought, according to a poll conducted by Women’s Health, the American Heart Association (AHA), and Weekend Today. But scarily, one in four women will die from heart disease—so the actions you take now to keep your ticker healthy could literally be the difference between life and death.
Avoid Harmful Chemicals
It’s true that we don’t have conclusive evidence about the long-term effects of exposure to various chemicals, including BPA. But we hope it goes without saying that it’s better not to play a game of Russian roulette with your health.
Get Your Flu Shot
When you’re young and lazy, you might risk not getting a shot—but once you hit 30, you have no excuse. Don’t just get it for your own sake, either—if you don’t get the flu, you can’t spread it to anyone else.
Actually Stay Home When You’re Sick
Nearly four out of five people say they go to work while ill, even if they know they’re contagious. Don’t perpetuate this cold- and flu-spreading habit!
Get Outside Regularly
Women who spend more time in green spaces are happier, healthier, and more even creative—but there’s been an increase recently in what some doctors are calling “nature deficit disorder.”
Fight Less With Your Partner
Brand-new research finds that people who don’t feel supported by their partner tend to experience higher levels of coronary artery calcification, or hardened arteries that restrict blood flow to the heart. We get that sometimes you feel like you just have to prove how right you are, but it’s not worth it.
A number of studies indicate that spending too much time on your digital devices can disrupt sleep. Other research links increased cell phone use to worsened physical fitness and your number of Facebook friends to your stress levels. So go ahead and log off whenever you can—you’ll be better off for it.
Log 7-8 Hours of Sleep a Night
Skimping on shuteye doesn’t just leave you exhausted—it also comes with a host of health consequences.
Forgive Yourself for Health Slipups
No one’s perfect 100 percent of the time—and beating yourself up about minor missteps won’t help anything. In fact, an increasing amount of research shows that self-compassion is vital to your mental wellbeing.
Source: Women`s Health Magazine