We experience a great deal of physical and emotional growth and development in our twenties and thirties. Apart from an increase in dramatic life changes, recent researchshows that the brain changes more this decade than in any other period of adulthood. Navigating these changes can seem daunting, but the effort we place on caring for our health today will impact us sooner than we know. Focusing on the following healthy habits in your twenties and thirties can yield lifelong benefits for your later years.
01. Bulk Up Your Bones
During your twenties, your bones are still developing and growing. By the time you hit thirty, the process slows down significantly, thus increasing the risk for bone-related diseases such as osteoporosis. This is a good time to monitor your calcium intake and aim for about 1,000 mg each day (about 3 cups of yogurt or 4 cups of milk). Get creative with it: Add spices to plain yogurt for a healthy veggie dip, or use milk instead of water to make hot chocolate or oatmeal. And limit your phosphorous consumption (goodbye, soda!), as high levels can facilitate bone calcium loss. You may be surprised to find that salmon, leafy greens, and fortified orange juice are also great calcium sources. If you're still not getting enough, or if you're lactose intolerant, consider calcium supplements. Just be sure to consume no more than 2,500 mg total from all sources combined—that's the safe healthy limit.
02. Get Up and Move
Maintaining your bone health doesn't stop at your diet. Regular exercise and weight training can prevent (and even reverse) the anticipated bone loss that starts at thirty—proof that it's never too late to start exercising. Physical activity can also lower cardiovascular disease risk, relieve stress, boost your mood, and encourage a regular sleep cycle. Aim for at least thirty minutes of moderate exercise daily. Try sneaking in some exercise by parking your car further from the store or walking or biking to work.
03. Protect Your Skin
Guarding your skin from the sun’s harsh rays prevents skin cancer, fine lines, and wrinkles in your later years. Shield yourself with adequate shade (a stylish hat, perhaps?) and broad-spectrum sunscreen (at least SPF 30). If you're spending the entire day outside, reapply every two to three hours. Don’t skimp during the cooler months either. Just because you can’t see the sun rays, doesn’t mean they aren’t there!
04. Drink Wisely
If you choose to consume alcohol, focus on making conscious beverage decisions. The American Heart Association recommends no more than one drink a day for women. For a lower calorie intake, opt for mixed drinks made with club soda or 100 percent fruit juice. Wine is a good choice as it's full of antioxidants and can contribute to your daily iron, magnesium, and potassium levels. Light beers are another option if you’re not one for cocktails. At the end of the day, alcohol is a toxin to our bodies, and we can only process so much. If you decide to drink, do so safely and with people you trust.
05. Know Your Health History
Genetics is one of the best pre-determining factors for disease risk. Getting to know your family history will give you a glimpse at any potential red flags. Know your parents’ and grandparents’ medical history. Don’t forget to look into significant conditions that your great-grandparents may have had, too, as it can help your doctor create necessary preventative measures. Specialized exams, routine monitoring, or lifestyle changes can help ensure a healthy future.
06. Realize Every Body is Different
Relationships, careers, moving, children, you name it—a lot can happen in your twenties and thirties. Thanks to social networking, it's easy to compare yourself to peers who may have tied the knot or bought a house. Be mindful that everyone will “figure it out” at a different pace, and that life is not a competition. Comparing yourself to others creates unnecessary psychological stress. Plus, it can throw your self-esteem out the window. So take good care of yourself, and then let yourself grow and evolve into the unique, wonderful woman that you are.