Happy Birthday! Go get a physical.
I turn 30 today, and in honor of this mythic event I’m getting a check-up.
That’s right, “Happy Birthday! Now put on this scratchy robe and step up on the scales.”
Not exactly the most romantic, restful or indulgent way to spend the day, I know. But it’s important. Because as we grow older there are much more significant numbers we should focus on besides our age, especially if we want to live to see another year.
So, instead of throwing a pity party about my new number, I’ll be investigating these others:
1. Blood Pressure & Cholesterol
According to the CDC, the leading cause of death in women is heart disease. Although having a healthy heart is much more complex than submitting to a test, getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly—especially if you have a family history of heart disease—is vital. It gives you much needed information about your current functioning and can help you investigate aspects of your life that contribute to heart disease such as stress level, diet and exercise routine.
Ideally, blood pressure should be around 120 over 80, or less, and total cholesterol below 200 mg/dL.
For a more complete discussion of cholesterol click here.
2. Hours Slept
Studies have shown that people who sleep less than the recommended six to eight hours a night were 12 percent more likely to die prematurely. Sleep deprivation also has been linked to weight gain, diabetes, increased blood pressure and decreased immune function—none of which did I wished for when I blew out my birthday candles.
So, it’s important to pay attention to how much rest we’re getting, especially since the older we get the more likely we are to have trouble sleeping.
3. Steps Taken
Note I did not say number of hours spent working out, at the gym or lifting weights. That’s because in a comprehensive (and thoroughly fascinating) study it was discovered that the world’s longest living people do not workout.
Finding out I never have to go to the gym again = best birthday present ever!
Instead, these people move. They ride bikes, they walk, they work for their meals. They most certainly do not sit behind a desk all day, drive home and prop themselves up on the couch until going to bed.
Get a better idea of how close you come to the recommended 10,000 steps per day number by investing some birthday cash in a pedometer or app. A few bucks is nothing in exchange for a few more years living.
4. Fruits & Veggies Eaten
Micheal Pollan said it best, “Eat food. Not too much. Mosty plants.” Which runs contrary to my breakfast, lunch and dinner of cake and ice cream I realize, but it’s true.
There are far too many reasons to list why tracking the number of fruits and vegetables consumed daily is beneficial. And I do mean tracking, as people who write down what they eat tend to be leaner and have healthier diets.
So, I’ll be grabbing a pen and journal and getting to writing (but maybe I’ll wait until my celebrating is over).
5. Moments Smiling
It’s no secret that stress can kill you. It’s been linked to a whole host of issues and diseases that can shorten one’s life. It’s also no secret that there are millions of stress-busting ideas out there.
However, the simplest, easiest and most cost effective (and let’s face it I need whatever’s handy as I bask in my getting older misery) is smiling. That’s right, cracking a smile, even if you don’t really mean it, can lower your stress level and improve your mood.
Bonus Numbers: Pelvic, Breast & Skin Exams
Okay, those aren’t so much numbers as unpleasant (and very important) tests women should have regularly. Seriously, cancer is real. And some can be prevented or caught early with simple tests and checks. It’s the best birthday present we can give ourselves and those that love us, girls. And what better time to strip down to our birthday suits and make sure they’re in full working order than on our birthdays?
So, as my friends and I gather to pay tribute to the end of my twenties, I won’t be counting the number of candles on my cake—nor will I be getting fall down drunk or acting flippant about my future (characteristics that marked most of my other birthdays). Because as our age grows so does our responsibility to ourselves, our bodies and the fragile lives we’ve all been given. Care more about them than their age, and give yourself the best present you can: a physical, a great meal and lots of laughs. You deserve it.
Sara McKeown is just like every other yogi, except she hates coconut water. When she’s not perfecting her Downward Facing Dog or teaching other people how to perfect theirs, she can be found eating avocados, doodling in her journal, talking with her hands, microwaving her non-dairy ice cream, daydreaming about having Ira Glass’s babies, debating which book to stick her nose in or helping people live their best lives through her work as a counselor and wellness coach. Send her love notes at [email protected] or come along with her on her journey by checking out her blog, My Great Leap.
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Editor: Lynn Hasselberger