40 unhealthy habits you need to ditch at 40

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Everyone falls victim to a bad habit here and there. While some habits, like biting your nails or playing with your hair, are relatively benign, others can have serious long-term health implications. So if you're figuring out which of your habits it's time to quit, there are some that are more worth your time to address.

When you turn 40, there are some rules and conventions it's time you ditch. Life is supposed to be fun, after all. But while you're letting loose in some areas of life, it's time to tighten up some of your other routine behaviors. The everyday habits of your life may seem small, but their effects can really add up. A diet mistake you're making every morning at breakfast can end up increasing your risk of diabetes or high blood pressure. The hours you sleep at night can wreak havoc on the rest of your health later on in life. Now that you're 40, you should really ditch these 40 unhealthy habits.


Not getting enough sleep

Your younger days of staying out until 4 a.m. and pulling all-nighters are behind you. Even if you're just a habitual night owl, it's smart to take steps to regulate your sleep schedule. You need the full eight hours of sleep. Getting enough sleep is important at any age, but especially now that you're older and have more responsibilities on your plate. You'll probably find you can't muster up the same energy you used to. And the health effects of sleep deprivation are actually more severe than you think.


Skipping doctor's appointments

Health care is a privilege, and depending on your access, it may be easier or harder for you to get the care you need. But going to the doctor to get your annual physical is seriously important. Doctor's appointments are important for checking in on things like blood pressure and cholesterol, which may otherwise stay under the radar. Especially now that you're older, going to the doctor at least once a year gives you a bigger chance of catching those subtle signs or symptoms of something more serious you may be missing.


Not drinking enough water

Hydration is important for so many reasons. Water aids in digestion, supports healthy skin and keeps pretty much every function in your body running smoothly. If you don't drink enough water, you're going to feel the effects pretty quickly. How much water do you really need? Here's what nutritionists had to say.


Drinking caffeine late in the day

The late afternoon slump is very real. But try not to deal with it by relying on caffeine. Though it may not feel that way, caffeine stays in your system for up to six hours. That means if you drink a cup of joe at 4 p.m., you'll still be feeling the effects near bedtime. This could mess with your sleep and end up creating a domino effect wherein you don't get the quality rest you need.


Skimping on protein

Eating enough protein is important at any age, but as you approach 40 and 50, you may need to eat more of it. Research shows that your protein needs increase with age, yet studies show approximately one-third of older adults don't get enough protein in their diets. Specific protein needs vary per person, but these subtle signs can tip you off to a protein deficiency if you have one.


Eating mostly meat

That being said, the protein you eat doesn't all have to come from meat, and it probably shouldn't. While red meat and pork are good sources of protein and iron, they also have a lot of saturated fat and should therefore be eaten in moderation. Plus, if you're filling up on meat at every meal, you're probably lacking in other areas such as servings of grains and vegetables. Opt for seafood, lean meat such as chicken and meatless protein options as well as red meat.


Relying on fast food

It's an easy trap to fall into. You're on your way to work and you pick up a fast food breakfast because you ran out of time. Then later, you just grab something for lunch because it's a busy day. Before you know it, all of the food you consumed that day came from a deep-fryer. Eating fast food is OK now and then, and some fast food places even have some surprisingly healthy options. But you don't want to get into the habit of eating these foods every day. They're often lacking in important nutrients and are heavy on sodium and saturated fat.


Relying on supplements

There's a lot you need to know before taking a multivitamin. Supplements should supplement your nutritional needs, not provide all of them. While taking a multivitamin certainly won't hurt, it isn't a guarantee of good health. Supplements aren't closely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning that you can't be sure of what's actually in each pill that you take. Focus on trying to get your nutrients from food instead by eating vitamin-rich foods.


Never cooking at home

Cooking at home is good for more than just your health. It's a great way to save money and bond with your loved ones by eating meals together around the table. Some people feel intimidated at the prospect of cooking meals, but cooking doesn't have to be complicated. Try a few of these simple, healthy dinners if you're not sure where to start.


Not cleaning often enough

Cleaning up clutter is more than just an organization thing. If your house is a mess, it can actually impact your health. Your mental health can suffer from a disorganized place, resulting in more anxiety and a greater likelihood of depression. Additionally, the amount of bacteria you allow to grow in those areas people always forget to clean could actually make you sick. Make sure you clean your home regularly. All-natural cleaning solutions are, of course, best for avoiding chemicals and other hazards, but the most important thing is that you stay on top of it.


Staying indoors

Spending too much time indoors can take its toll. Walking outside can change your life if you do it regularly. Sunlight gives you vitamin D and fresh air boosts your mood. Plus, getting movement into your day is crucial for keeping your heart healthy.

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Sitting all day

Desk jobs and sedentary lifestyles are extremely common, but make it a priority to get up and move now and then. Studies show that those who sit for a majority of the day have a 22 to 49 percent greater risk of death than those who are active. Sitting too much is one of the worst things you can do for your heart.


Never exercising

It's never too late to start exercising. Even if you have never had a consistent workout routine, it's a good idea to start one. Neurologists say that exercising is the best thing you can do to protect your brain health as you age. Additionally, there are a lot of ways your body changes when you start working out, including an improved mood, better heart health and a lower risk of other types of disease.


Not stretching after exercise

One of the most common mistakes people make at the gym is neglecting to stretch after exercise. Especially as you age, your joint mobility may become limited. Studies show that stretching helps with mobility and improving posture, which is also helpful for avoiding injury during your workouts. Stretching may also improve your heart health and circulation according to some findings.


Forgetting to call loved ones

Keeping in touch with the people most important in your life can actually make a big difference in your physical health. Studies show that remaining isolated from your loved ones can lead to early death. Give your mom a call - it could help both you and her live longer.


Eating too much sodium

You'd be shocked at some of the foods that are loaded with salt. The days of eating as much cheese and as many potato chips as you want are behind you. As you get older, your risk of high blood pressure increases. One of the eating habits that will help lower your blood pressure is to limit the amount of sodium in your food.


Cutting carbs

Low-carb diets are all the rage, but this is one of the diet tips you need to ditch before 40. Foods with carbohydrates are where you get most of your fiber each day, so if you don't eat enough of them you could end up with some severe digestive distress. There are a lot of weird things that happen to your body when you eliminate carbs, including low energy levels and brain fog.


Yo-yo dieting

Before you try that popular new diet, you should know that there are some hidden side effects. Yo-yo dieting is when a person repeatedly tries to diet, only to lose and regain weight in a phenomenon called weight cycling. Weight cycling is not only stressful for the dieter; it's also connected to other health complications such as increased insulin, blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. Weight cycling is also tied to inflammation and slowed metabolism.


Ignoring symptoms

There are some things you really shouldn't keep from your doctor. Speak up during your appointment and mention anything you've noticed going on. Seemingly small symptoms such as feeling cold, dry skin and trouble sleeping could all be indicative of a bigger problem.


Not protecting your bone health

While eating well for your heart, brain and gut may be often on your mind, eating well for your bones might have slipped through the cracks. Osteoporosis affects 54 million Americans, with one out of every two women over the age of 50 likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Eating nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D can help lower your risk.


Using your phone before bed

There are a number of lifestyle habits that can disrupt your sleep, and using your phone before bed is one of them. The bright screens signal to your brain that it's still daylight. This poor sleep hygiene can keep you up at night and interrupt your ability to get the amount of sleep doctors say you need.

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Not managing stress

There are a lot of scary effects mental stress can have on your body. Taking steps to manage stress can minimize the damage done. Try incorporating mindfulness into your everyday life and ensuring you are taking the time you need to rest and recuperate after a stressful event.

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Not making time for yourself

This may not seem like a health concern, but it really is. Self-care is important, and failing to make time for your hobbies and other things that make you happy can take its toll on your mental health. Anxiety and depression may worsen if you don't. If you struggle with taking your much-needed "me time," here are some tips for people who never do.

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Neglecting your skin

Wrinkles and acne happen - but the less damage you have on your skin, the better. You should really take good care of your skin at all ages, but if you don't already have an established skincare routine, now is the time to start. Wash your face in the morning and at night. Make sure you stay hydrated so that your skin can stay hydrated, too, and incorporate these foods in your diet for healthy, glowing skin.

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Not wearing sunscreen

Another often-neglected aspect of skincare is sunscreen. There are more serious consequences than a sunburn to consider. One in five people will have a skin cancer diagnosis before the age of 70. Make sure to apply it every day (even if you're indoors!) and tell your doctor about any unexplained moles or marks on your skin.

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Not making time for your hobbies

Whether your hobby is playing a sport or knitting a scarf, it's good for your health to make time for it. Active hobbies (of course) help you stay active. Reading has benefits for your brain. And just the simple act of making time to prioritize your happiness is a huge win for your mental health. Happiness is good for your physical health, too; the positive effects of happiness on your body are pretty incredible.

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Not taking care of your mental health

Many people allow their mental health to slip. Therapy and other mental healthcare may not be convenient, but it's really important for your longevity to address mental health disorders and other problems. Anxiety and depression have some very physical effects. In addition to improving your quality of life, taking care of your mental health can help improve the quantity of life you get to experience.


Drinking too much alcohol

To avoid the negative health effects of drinking alcohol, you really should limit your consumption. According to the National Institutes of Health, moderate drinking constitutes no more than approximately one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. The health risks of drinking alcohol range far and wide, but most notably are the risks to the liver and an increased risk of cancer.

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Not protecting your hearing

Hearing loss is more common than you think. If your workplace exposes you to loud noises, you listen to music loudly or spend lots of time at loud bars or concert venues, you need to be taking care of your eardrums. Wearing ear plugs might not seem appealing, but it's better than having to wear a hearing aid for the rest of your life or developing tinnitus. If you've noticed hearing loss, tell your doctor immediately.

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Skimping on healthy fats

You might think fatty foods are bad for you, but you really need to be eating enough dietary fat. There are a number of surprising reasons you should eat more fat every day, especially those from foods such as olive oil, avocados and nuts. These foods are good for your heart, can help stave off cancer and help you to feel more satisfied by your meals and snacks.


Skipping breakfast

Skipping breakfast is an easy habit to get into, but it's a really bad one. There are some health consequences to skipping breakfast you might not know about, including blood sugar fluctuations, low energy throughout the day and increased emotional stress. Take the time to treat yourself to a nice breakfast instead of making this nutrition mistake before noon.


Hating your body

How you feel about your body can actually affect the physical health of your body. Research has linked poor body image with a lower quality of life in all categories tested. Studies also show that low body image is correlated with less frequent exercise, which is why working out to lose weight is one of the ways you're sabotaging your own workout. Additionally, people with poor body image are more likely to suffer from depression and eating disorders, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Tackling poor body image can be really difficult, especially when facing societal pressure and other barriers. But you can take a few simple steps to feel less insecure in your body.


Eating canned foods

Foods sold in cans, such as beans, fish and vegetables, are all really good for you - but the can itself isn't. Canned goods are often high in sodium, and some cans can leak bisphenol A (BPA) into your food. High-sodium foods can send your blood pressure through the roof, and BPA has been linked to harmful health effects.


Staying in toxic relationships

The people you surround yourself with can severely impact your quality of life. Life is too short to spend it around people with toxic habits. Additionally, the stress of being in a toxic relationship dynamic can take its toll on your physical well being. A study that followed over 10,000 people for 12 years revealed that people stuck in poor relationships had a greater risk of heart attacks and strokes.


Not saving money

If you don't already have a savings account or other plan to save money, you need to make a plan ASAP. One of the secrets financial planners wish people knew is that it's never too late to start investing or saving. You still have some years until you retire, but it's important to start planning for that as early as possible. Retiring with a mountain of debt or without any savings to support yourself is going to be really stressful, and could interfere with things like your access to healthcare and housing.

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Staying in the wrong job

It's never too late to switch your career. If you're miserable at work, it could make you physically sick. Even if you're just bored all day, studies show it could increase your risk of early death. Take the time and effort to pursue a career that feels fulfilling. It will be worth it!

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Not reading

Whether you like to read novels or news articles, make reading a part of your day. The simple practice of reading for 20 minutes or more can help prevent cognitive decline from dementia or Alzheimer's. It's also a good way to practice mindfulness and relax.

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Not flossing your teeth

Sure, flossing your teeth can be an annoying task, but it's important for preventing disease. Research in the Journal of Dental Hygiene showed that flossing helps to reduce the risk of gingivitis. Additionally, some studies have shown a link between poor oral health and heart disease, though more research is needed. All in all, there are no drawbacks to flossing, so why not add it to your bedtime routine?

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The health risks of smoking are extensive and well documented, and it's really never too late to quit. According to the American Cancer Society, smoking causes one-fifth of deaths in America every year. Many of these deaths are due to lung cancer or other cancers caused by smoking - it's one of the most common cancer-causing habits in the U.S. Smoking puts your heart at risk, too. After just one day of quitting cigarettes, your risk of a heart attack begins to drop. Smoking negatively impacts your skin, teeth and other organs, as well. If you are having trouble quitting, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a list of resources on their website, many of which are free.

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Wishing you were younger

There's no reason to dread getting older - while your 20s and 30s had their merits, there are some experiences you only get to have once you're older. This new phase of life has much in store, and embracing your age can help you limit stress and improve your quality of life. Age gracefully and don't freak out about the ways your body is going to change as you approach 50.

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