When you’re in your 20s or 30s, the thought of turning 40 can be a bit scary. And then actually entering your 40s might be a rather nail-biting experience. But while many people look down upon, and even fear aging, many past the age of 40 and well into their golden years actually consider it to be the best time of their lives. In the latter half of life, many individuals find themselves well into their careers, more financially stable, married with children, and finally more confident than they were in their 20s or 30s. But that’s if we’re talking about mental and emotional health.
There is, however, the unfortunate side to getting older which is the physical decline that our bodies inevitably go through. Our bodies go through many changes as we age, but the main pitfall centers on the fact that we just aren’t the resilient, high-metabolism machines that we were in our 20s.
Here are 40 ways in which your body changes after the age of 40. You might have already noticed these happening to you. And now you’ll know why!
Your Liver Loses Toughness
Have you had a hangover recently despite only having a couple of drinks? That’s because once you enter your 40s, fewer drinks get you drunk and your hangovers get noticeably worse. I know, it sucks. So when it comes to enjoying some drinks on a well-deserved night out, don’t expect to keep up with your previous younger self.
Why does this happen, you ask? Well, it’s because of your liver’s increasingly weakened ability to metabolize alcohol and the fact that you have less water in your body. So drink more water! If you’re over 40, you probably shouldn’t be having more than one drink a day. Sorry, folks.
You Don’t Recover as Quickly
After the age of 40, sports injuries and pulled muscles just aren’t easy to get over anymore. This is due to a complex interaction of hormonal, biochemical, and physiological processes that are going on in the body.
All that means that it takes more time and power to heal your muscle wounds. If you want to keep up an athletic lifestyle into middle age and beyond (as you should!), you might want to integrate a large amount of protein into your diet. And stretching. Stretching is key.
Aging impacts our mental health as well, as you’ll see in the next slide…
Your Self-Confidence Increases
This specific change tends to happen to women only. When reaching the age of 40, something happens to a woman’s self-esteem. They find a newfound confidence, at least according to recent research.
A study done in 2017, from the marketing agency SuperHuman, found that 67% of women over 40 felt more confident than they did just a decade ago. Many of those women find that by the time they reach their 40s, they finally feel comfortable in their own skin. And thus, they’re more confident than ever before.
You’re More Resistant to the Common Cold
One major bonus of an aging immune system is that by the time you reach middle age, your body will have been exposed to the cold and other similar viruses so many times, it will have become naturally immune.
Of course, this can’t be said for all strains of the cold, and certainly not for the flu. Still, getting through an entire winter without a runny nose is pretty great
The truth is everybody shrinks; it’s inevitable. Even the tallest basketball players lose inches in their height as they age. The shrinking is due to losses in bone density and muscle mass. For some people, this process can begin as early as 30.
Between ages 30 and 70, men are likely to lose about an inch, whereas women can expect to lose two. And then, after 80, it’s possible to shrink even more and lose another inch or so. What you can do to control the rate at which you shrink by maintaining good posture, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, and eating well.
As we say goodbye to height, we’re saying hello to something else…
Sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s around the age of 40 that both men and women begin experiencing changes in their skin, especially in the face. For men, testosterone levels slowly drop, and so they notice their facial skin drying out and thinning, which makes wrinkles more apparent.
The case is actually similar for women, where the skin produces less oil due to a decrease in estrogen levels. If you’re looking to combat sagging skin (as so many of us are), make sure to moisturize thoroughly and daily!
Hello, Gray Hairs!
Chances are you’ll notice gray hairs before you reach 40. But it’s nothing really to worry about. It’s due to a decrease in the amount of melanin that your body produces. Interestingly, how much and fast you get gray hairs is based on genetics.
The rate at which you go gray is more often than not linked to your family history and to your ethnicity, according to Roshini Rajapaksa, an associate professor of medicine at New York University. For example, Caucasians and Asians begin graying in their 30s, while African-Americans tend to get gray hair later on, in their mid-40s. But hey, there’s always hair dye!
Your rationality changes too in your 40s…
You’re Less Rational
Sadly, the brain begins deteriorating earlier than we would like to accept. Which is just after it reaches its maturity in our late 20s. That’s right. But the truth is that these changes in the brain are hardly noticeable until you get to your mid-40s when your reasoning skills start to slow down.
Research was done and published in the British Medical Journal, which revealed that reasoning skills drop 3.6% throughout your mid-40s and 50s. Keep that in mind when you find yourself arguing with your spouse or family member!
Your Sight Deteriorates
If you’ve had to buy a pair of reader’s glasses lately, you’re not alone. Starting in your early- to mid-40s, your eyes will become more easily strained when you’re reading or looking at screens. And trying to focus can be especially difficult when the lighting is dim.
This change is called presbyopia if you’re curious and it’s completely normal. A word of advice: make regular trips to your ophthalmologist to stay on top of your eye health. These are our eyes! They’re worth maintaining.
Lactose isn’t your friend anymore after the age of 40…
You Can’t Tolerate Lactose Anymore
It comes to a point when you have to decide whether that ice cream is worth the bloating, cramping, and possible bathroom runs you might have to endure. We tend to develop lactose intolerance in our 40s. Although this doesn’t happen to all adults, it is surprisingly common.
According to the National Institute of Health, about 65% of people experience lactose intolerance later in life as levels of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, decrease. The good news is that most stores and ice cream parlors now offer tons of lactose-free alternatives like soy and almond milk.
Your Joints are Weakening
Are your joints feeling more rickety lately? It could be a sign of osteoarthritis, which is considered a normal part of aging. It happens when the cartilage between the bones wears down over time. But it can also be aggravated by factors like hormonal imbalance, obesity, and chronic inflammation.
What should you do to prolong this weakening? Eat non-acidic foods, lead an active lifestyle, and buy orthopedic shoes. These are a few ways that you can soothe joint pains.
No surprise here, but your hearing gets worse. And it’s for a reason…
Your Ear Drums Weaken
There’s just no getting around the fact that your ears are not as useful as they once were. While some cases are due to family history or linked to disease, environmental conditions also play a major role. People who are exposed to excessively loud noises will begin to notice a decline in hearing as early as their 40s.
But for the majority of people, serious hearing loss develops later on. About one-third of people in the United States between 65 and 74 have hearing loss, according to the U.S. Department of Health. Sorry, what was that?
Your Gums Decay
For some reason, oral hygiene is an often disregarded part of health, but skipping the dentist just isn’t worth it, especially once you’re over 40. As we age, lower bone density leads to receding gum lines in the mouth, leaving the roots of our teeth more exposed and susceptible to decay.
Ways to prevent root decay: brush often, drink tap water (which usually has fluoride in it), and make regular trips to the dentist. Oh, and floss!
Here’s something rather positive about aging oral health…
Your Oral Nerves Shrink
Yes, many facets of aging are unfortunate, but here’s something on the plus side. It’s not all bad news for your oral health when you’re middle-aged. You might find that your teeth become less sensitive by the time you enter your 50s.
And this is because the nerves in your teeth get smaller with time. While this does mean you can bite into that ice cream sandwich without pain, you should still be aware that you’ll also be less likely to notice any cavities.
Speaking of tastes…
Your Senses of Taste and Smell Diminish
Smell and taste happen to be highly connected senses. So when one deteriorates, the other does too. And this is yet another age-related factor. Head injuries, as well as nerve damage, can lead to long-term smell impairment.
Also, serious diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s have the same effects. Taste buds also slowly die off the older we get, making you less sharp when it comes to picking up on certain flavors. So let’s stop and smell the roses!
Good Morning Brain Fog
Brain fog is just one of those things that happens more frequently as we get older. It’s when we have trouble thinking clearly, staying on track, or even remembering little things. This mental fuzziness can result from stress, fatigue, depression, blood sugar imbalances, and hormonal changes.
Brain fog can happen to people of all ages, but it’s more common among people over 40, as hormonal changes tend to trigger these symptoms.
Hair growth changes too…
Hair Starts Growing Where?
For many people, hair may stop growing, and for others, it starts to appear. Both men and women are likely to notice new wiry hairs in places they never had them before when they were in their 20s and 30s.
For men, common areas are the back, nose, and ears. And that’s because men continue to produce testosterone into their 70s. When it comes to women, it most often occurs in the form of facial hair, as estrogen levels decrease and testosterone begins to take superiority.
This can really be positive! As we age, our sweat glands change and shrink in size, becoming less responsive to stimuli. When this happens, you’ll see that your armpits actually stay dry most of the time.
The only major exception to this general rule is when women are experiencing menopause or perimenopause, who will get sweaty during hot flashes.
And that brings us to our next point…
A Woman’s Cycle Changes
It seems as though middle age hits women the hardest. The 40s and 50s are the ages when women first begin experiencing pre-menopause or perimenopause.
A shifting of hormones has a field day on women’s bodies, which causes hot flashes, irregular bleeding in their cycles, and trouble sleeping. It’s just one of those necessary evils. But hey, like everything else, it passes.
An Increased Risk of Breast Cancer
This is no surprise to anyone these days: the risk of developing breast cancer increases as women get older. By the time a woman reaches age 40, her risk of getting breast cancers is 3.5 times higher than it was when she was 30.
Aside from age, other factors that can determine the risk of breast cancer, including family history and ethnicity. Women in Asia, for example, are half as likely to develop breast cancer as women from Western countries. So get screened!
Men, the next one for you…
An Increased Risk of Colon Cancer
Men are not exempt from the possibility of cancer as they increase their risk of colon cancer as they age. In fact, 90% of patients with colon cancer (which is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States) are over 50.
In addition to a man’s age, ethnicity, weight, and family history are all real risk factors too. Just as women need to, it’s important for men to get screened regularly. The more proactive and aware, the better the outcome!
Fertility Rates Decline
Fertility in both men and women decreases after the age of 40. For men, the quality of sperm decreases with age. If a man is over 45, the woman has a higher chance of having a miscarriage.
For women over 40, they are half as likely to get pregnant or have a healthy baby as when they were under the age of 32. At 30, women have a 20% chance of becoming pregnant in a given month. But by age 40, it’s only 5%.
Let’s talk about testosterone for a moment…
Testosterone Levels Decrease
Hormones are unstable, especially in middle age. And testosterone is a fussy one. It’s the hormone that’s responsible for the libido, sperm production, muscle mass, and energy. That said, when testosterone levels decrease, the body naturally responds.
After the age of 30 actually, testosterone decreases by 1% each year in men. Ironically, women experience an increase in testosterone as menopause hits. But their levels eventually decrease, too.
A Man’s Prostate Grows
Many men experience an increase in the size of their prostate as they get older. Benign prostatic hyperplasia something that affects 14 million men in the United States, most of whom are over 50. But keep in mind that it’s a non-life-threatening occurrence.
The symptoms of an enlarged prostate are urinary issues mostly. It can be treated in serious cases, but most men will just have to get used to going to the bathroom more often.
And what about libido? It slows down…
Your Libido Slows Down
As testosterone decreases, something else does too. And that something else is the libido. But the truth is that the change in one’s libido is as psychological as it is hormonal. As we age, yes our bodies begin to change, but so do social roles.
People get into retirement or shift focus to different parts of their lives. All these changes can lead to issues in self-perception, which inevitably will challenge the libido in both men and women. The message here: you’re not alone. Talk it out!
But Then Libido Speeds Up!
Good news ladies and gents! After the difficult time that perimenopause can cause, something good can come out of it. Perimenopause is responsible for an increased sex drive in many women. That’s right.
Though it’s important to note that this isn’t the case for every woman, the hormone testosterone, that’s linked to libido, becomes dominant.
First-time moms over 40 might have a better time…
You Might be a Better First Time Mom
One study said that a woman’s earnings increase 9% for every year she doesn’t have a child. Also, if you don’t have a partner, you’re likely to have a support system and are more self-reliant, so your ability to raise your baby the way you want to is just better.
Your Metabolism Slows Down
When you get to 40, if you eat the same food as you did when you were 20, you’re going to gain weight a lot faster. The thing is, our metabolism decreases and we lose muscle at a quicker rate. The average woman gains around 15 lbs between the ages of 40 and 55.
To avoid this unpleasant issue, it’s important to keep a healthy diet and exercise! There’s no quick fix when it comes to health and proper weight. We have to do the work! But nothing worthwhile comes easy.
Waking up during the night? That’s because of age too…
Waking Up in the Middle of the Night
It’s totally normal to experience changes in sleep patterns when aging. Older adults are more often less satisfied with their quality of sleep, and they report waking up more frequently during the night.
Sleep troubles, including insomnia, can be indicative of underlying health problems associated with age. Chronic diseases like osteoarthritis and neurodegenerative disorders may be at fault, so make sure to check with your doctor!
You’re More Likely to Break a Bone
Our bones lose calcium and minerals and become more brittle and achier. This means there’s an increased risk of bone fracture as well as stress on the joints. It’s why so many adults suffer from arthritis.
There are definitely things you can do though, like keep a well-balanced diet with calcium and vitamin D to help prevent excessive bone deterioration.
Not just bones, but muscle too…
You Lose Muscle
The unfortunate truth is that muscle loss is natural and unavoidable for all adults. It also begins earlier than we want it to – around the age of 30. Sarcopenia, what this process is called, is slow-going and can be slowed even further by regular exercise.
Aside from the obvious physical appearance, typical symptoms usually include brain fog and decreased energy. Again, another reason to eat well and work out!
More Struggles With Your Weight
If you’re feeling rounder in the midsection, you’re definitely not alone. Hormonal and lifestyle changes can easily lead to weight gain, especially when you’re in your 30s and 40s. It’s those extra seven pounds (which is the average amount of weight gain that people experience in their 40s) that make losing weight such a challenge.
What happens is muscle mass degenerates, and fat is burned at a generally slower rate. But there are ways to combat the degeneration. Yup, you guessed it: regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and portion control are all good ways to start.
Your digestive tract is something else to know about…
Your Digestive Track Suffers
One way that muscle deterioration affects the body is by the weakening of the muscles in the digestive tract, causing digestive issues. Those issues can include heartburn, peptic ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome, among some others.
And these age-related digestive issues can trigger secondary conditions. So the best solution to staving off this repercussion is to live a healthy life. Get moving, ladies and gentlemen!
You Can’t Control Your Bladder
Some of the muscles that weaken with age are the urinary tract muscles. This can be problematic for both men and women. Most post-menopausal women and men over 40 suffer from urinary incontinence, which is referred to as “leaking.”
In one study from the University of California, researchers found that 68% of women between 42 and 64 experience this issue.
Women also experience the next issue more frequently…
More Frequent UTIs
Unfortunately for all the women getting close to or currently experiencing menopause, there are the agonizingly common urinary tract infections. There are changes in vaginal architecture, a decrease in the hormone estrogen, and urinary incontinence.
All those factors play a role in the problem of frequent urinary tract infections. But antibiotics are a useful treatment for UTIs if necessary. See your doctor, ladies.
Your Skin Is Less Elastic
Your skin isn’t the same anymore. More and more men and women are getting facelifts, and Botox, which are meant to reverse the body’s natural aging process. The skin on the face appears just happens to be less taut over time.
Along with new wrinkles, the sagging skin on the face is most apparent on the ears, in the jawline, below the eyes, and at the tip of the nose.
Speaking of aging skin…
Once you get past 40, you’re more likely to develop small spots on your skin in places that are exposed to the sun, like your face, chest, and hands. These spots are usually called age spots or liver spots.
Many believe that these spots are the result of extensive UV exposure. While they’re almost always harmless, they can be removed. And the moral of the story: wear sunscreen!
Your Hair Gets Thinner
No, this doesn’t only happen with women. Pretty much everyone experiences some hair loss as they get older. The statistics are the same for both men and women, 40% of whom will see visible hair loss by the time they reach the age of 40.
This is due to the hormonal changes that alter the re-growth rate of hair. Adults continue to lose hair at a normal rate (around 100 strands per day), but the time it takes for them to grow back takes longer and longer.
You Can Develop a Chronic Disease
The real danger of entering middle age is the increased risk of developing a chronic disease. The leading causes of death all over the world are heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
The good news is that aging doesn’t mean you’re going to get a chronic illness. Just keep up those regular check-ups and lead a healthy, active lifestyle as much as possible to ward off those common illnesses.
Sure, this wasn’t the most encouraging list you’ve ever read. But it’s important to be aware of the facts in order to prepare yourself and your loved ones and do what you can.
At the end of the day, we can only do so much as sometimes there are things that are out of our control. But that doesn’t mean you should take the passenger seat in your life’s ride. Do what you can, and you’ll be happy you did later!