Women by the Decade
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30: CAREER, FAMILY, LOVE
Women in their 30s are able to have it all—an education, a satisfying career, travel adventures, long-term partnerships, and independence. They are hopeful and optimistic, and have more choices than their mothers did at the same age.
One of these choices includes waiting to get married and have children. The number of first-time moms in their 30s has more than tripled since 1975—which has both benefits and drawbacks. Benefits include financial stability (they worked hard in their 20s to get to this point), emotional maturity, relationship security, life experience, and higher levels of confidence and energy, all providing a great foundation for a family. The main drawback is an age-related decrease in fertility. Women over the age of 35 ovulate less frequently, making it harder to conceive than a 25-year-old. It’s estimated that one in six parents-to-be will have problems getting pregnant.
"There are a number of issues that can contribute to infertility and we need to evaluate all of them," explains Dr. Nancy Kersey Cooley of Western ObGyn, fellow of American College of ObGyn, and associate clinical professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Western ObGyn has a dedicated infertility program to help couples realize their dreams of parenthood.
Not only is her biological clock ticking, a woman in her 30s will notice that her metabolism is slowing down—making it harder to burn off that pizza than it was a few years ago. A woman’s metabolism slows by about five percent each decade. If women don’t start exercising now, they’ll find it harder to maintain or lose weight as the years go by.
“We start losing one percent of our muscle every year in our thirties unless we do something to stop or reverse that loss,” explains Judy Beyers, owner of PowerSource Personal Training in Edina. “We need to work that muscle. The fountain of youth really is weight training.”
Weight training can also help build bone strength, a valuable tool in preventing osteoporosis down the road. "As women age—especially after menopause—we lose bone mass," says Dr. Cooley.
To avoid this, a woman’s diet should include plenty of calcium, vitamin D to help bones maintain density, vitamin C to help absorb calcium, and iron to maintain tissues, bones, and teeth.
And while a 30-something woman is far from over-the-hill, she should be mindful of her skincare routine during this decade.
“The essential program for most skin types is using a C serum plus sunscreen in the morning, and using a retinoid cream at night,” says Dr. Jaime Davis, founder and medical director, Uptown Dermatology and SkinSpa. “And never use a tanning bed, or if you do, stop immediately. Skin cancer is a concern for all ages, but especially for those who have ever used tanning beds."
Emily, 32, Marketing Project Coordinator
What do you notice now that you didn't in the past? My metabolism has slowed down. I used to be able to just do a few sit-ups to shape up my abs, but that doesn’t cut it now, especially after having a baby. I have wrinkles at the corners of my eyes, and one gray hair. (I pull out that one hair, but it insists on growing back!)
Do you take vitamins? I take prenatal vitamins and Align probiotics.
Do you have a special skincare routine? I use Burt's Bees face wash and an herbal night repair moisturizer. In the morning, I use bar soap and a moisturizer with sunscreen.
What's your typical fitness routine? I try to exercise at least four days a week. Right now I am doing the Couch to 5K running program and the Jillian Michaels DVD.
What do you enjoy most about this stage of your life? I really enjoy being a mom. I hadn't planned to wait until my 30s to start a family, but looking back, I'm glad I did. I feel like I am more mentally equipped to deal with the insane responsibility of raising a child now that I am more mature. Also, my husband and I both have stable jobs, which makes the cost of the whole baby thing much easier to bear.
What is the most challenging? Lack of sleep!
What advice would you give the 20-year-old you used to be? RELAX! I have always been a worrier, and if I could go back I would tell myself to enjoy being young, thin, and having the time to sleep in.
40: SUCCESS, FITNESS, FRIENDS
Many women in their 40s consider this decade the best years of their life as they hit their stride with work and family. Women in this age group, though, have to be careful not to overextend themselves, which could lead to stress-related problems such as depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease. These multi-tasking powerhouses have a lot going on —a career, growing kids, aging parents —now is the time to be sure to get enough rest, exercise, and eat well, as well as keep up with a supportive social network.
Weight control during this decade also becomes more of an issue. Women are no longer building bone mass—they’re slowly losing it—and metabolism is steadily decreasing so it’s harder to keep the weight off. A low-fat diet, weight-bearing exercise, and physical activity can help (it’s never too late to start!)
"Exercise is extremely beneficial at any age; however, it is crucial to continue or begin exercise as we approach our 40s and the decades beyond, because that is when physical strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance begin declining," explains Chris Hesse-Withbroe, owner of Tenacity Fitness and Endurance in Oakdale. "Additionally, exercise is essential for preventing disease and decreasing the moribidity and mortality associated with heart disease, type II diabetes, cancer, and stroke."
Women in this age group should also schedule annual mammograms and Pap smears (sometimes sooner, depending on family history). Ridgeview Medical Center's advanced imaging technology at Two Twelve Medical Center in Chaska and Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia provides patients shorter scan times, higher-quality scans and quick turnaround on reports—all things that matter when you need a CT, MRI, screening mammography, or ultrasound.
Mammograms should be high on the list of priorities for women in their 40s, as should birth control. Women over 40 have the highest rate of unintended pregnancies next only to teenagers, yet nearly 25 percent opt out of birth control altogether. "Luckily there are many fantastic options for pregnancy prevention," says Dr. Cooley of Western Ob/Gyn.
An anti-aging skincare routine should include sun protection, retinol products to stimulate cell turnover, the use of antioxidants, and regular exfoliation, says Dr. Barry LaBine , a board-certified dermatologist with Lakewood Dermatology and Refine Dermatique in Sartell.
Those with healthier lifestyles will notice less dramatic changes during this decade, so 40-something women should continue to maintain a healthy diet, drink plenty of water, minimize stress, exercise at least three times a week, and get enough rest.
Mary, 41, Freelance Graphic Designer
What do you notice now that you didn't in the past? Definitely aging skin and feeling tired if I don't take care of myself. I used to be able to get by on very little sleep, but I can't do that anymore.
Do you take vitamins? I take a multivitamin. I figure it can't hurt!
Do you have a special skincare routine? Sunscreen, and products with antioxidants and retinol.
What's your typical fitness routine? Lots of yoga—I started in my late 20s and realize how important it is to keep up a practice as I get older. I love the focus it places on breathing, flexibility, strength, and body awareness—as well as stress reduction. I know I will be able to continue to do yoga in some form my whole life. I also run and do cardio classes at LifeTime Fitness. Working out has become about maintaining rather than improving. I'm trying to view exercise as a tool to prevent disease in my later years.
What do you enjoy most about this stage of your life? I love being a mom and really being able to enjoy my three kids (10, 8, and 7) now that we're out of the busy baby and toddler stages! And I don't get worked up about the small things.
What is the most challenging? Juggling work and family life. I'm not sure that ever gets easier.
What advice would you give the 20-year-old you used to be? Please don't take for granted your youth and your health!