In your 30s, your body should be in its prime – your stamina peaks around this age and so does your body’s ability to extract oxygen from the bloodstream. However, you can’t afford to be too complacent; these are also the years during which your blood pressure and cholesterol could start to rise (along with your weight, if you aren’t vigilant!) Experts recommend that you follow the same schedule of check-ups and tests as in your 20s, including screening for high blood pressure, testicular and skin cancer, and regular visits to the dentist.
You should continue too to have a routine physical examination every three years. The doctor will check your height, weight and blood pressure and listen to your heart, lungs and carotid arteries to screen for abnormalities such as breathing problems, heart murmurs and early signs of vascular issues. Your mouth, ears and lymph nodes should be checked and your abdomen palpated for any abnormalities. Simple blood and urine tests done in your doctor’s rooms can indicate infections, kidney problems or early signs of diabetes.
You know your own body better than anyone else does, so tell your doctor about changes in your health, and discuss being tested for any conditions you’re particularly concerned about.
Possibly the most important thing you can do for your body at this stage of life is to manage your weight, starting with checking your BMI (Body Mass Index) and your waist circumference. Your doctor can help, or you can work out your BMI yourself by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared to arrive at an estimate of your total body fat based on your height, weight and activity levels. A reading higher than 25 spells trouble, putting you at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers in years to come.
The circumference of your waist is a gauge of abdominal fat, and a measurement 94 to 102cm increases your cardiovascular risk by two. A measurement of 102cm or more, increases your cardiovascular risk by four to six times. Your doctor or a dietician can help you devise a programme to achieve and maintain a healthy weight by managing diet and exercise. Not only will you reduce the risk of developing problems in the future, you’ll also feel more energised and focused.
Your cholesterol level should be tested every five years, and more frequently if you are overweight or have a family history of heart disease or other risk factors. Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance in the blood which is necessary for the proper functioning of our cells and hormones. It is produced by the liver. If our diet is too high in fats (especially saturated fats), the balance is disturbed and excess cholesterol is generated. High levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) can build up in the arteries, slowing down or blocking the flow of blood to the heart, and levels of ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL), which clears excess cholesterol from the blood back to the liver, may drop. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease.
Your doctor can perform the simple blood test in his rooms and help you interpret the results. If you have high total cholesterol (above 5.0 mmol/l), it is important to know which type of cholesterol is high – HDL (‘good’) should be above 1.2 mmol/l and LDL (‘bad’) should be below 3.0 mmol/l. Cholesterol problems are usually addressed first with dietary changes, specifically by reducing the intake of saturated fats, then if necessary with medication.
Keeping a regular check on your health in your 30s will help you live not only longer but better. An investment of an hour or two now may add years to your life, as identifying early signs of trouble gives you the opportunity to take action before problems become more serious. You’ll gain peace of mind and a well-maintained body now, and you’ll be grateful in years to come.