Kegels and kidney care – Health tips for your 40s as Kate Middleton celebrates milestone birthday

Turning 40 can feel like a daunting birthday but it certainly isn’t all doom and gloom. Indeed, many women feel in their prime in this decade.

Kate Middleton will celebrate her 40th on 9 January, and while there's no denying the Duchess of Cambridge radiates beauty and good health, according to the experts, now is the perfect time to start making health routines a priority.

We spoke to several doctors about the life changing habits it’s wise to adopt as you enter this fifth decade of life. Here are their suggestions…

Book An Eye Test

Don’t put off looking after your eyes – we only have one set to last us a lifetime.

“While it’s important to adopt good eye health habits at any age, as we get older, we are at an elevated risk of developing eye diseases such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and glaucoma,” says Dr Elizabeth Hawkes. “It’s really important to book to see your optometrist once a year if your family has a history of eye problems and even if they don’t, every two years having a check up is wise.

“Many eye diseases do not have any symptoms in the early stages,” warns Dr Hawkes. “This is why eye examinations are vital.

“A test can also determine a lot about health such as detecting diabetes, hypertension, autoimmune conditions and certain cancers – often before you may be experiencing any symptoms.”

Being forewarned, it seems, is being forearmed. So don’t let the pandemic put you off making your routine appointment a diary priority.

Do Your Kegels

You don’t have to wait until you hit 40 or have children to start taking preventative measures to look after your intimate health. No one wants to be leaking or enjoying sex any less – and doing kegel exercises makes a real difference.

“Women over 40 commonly suffer from two types of urinary incontinence: stress incontinence and urge incontinence,” explains Dr Shirin Lakhani.

What is the difference?

Stress incontinence – which has nothing to do with being stressed – is usually the result of the weakening of or damage to the muscles used to prevent urination, such as the pelvic floor muscles and the urethral sphincter.

It happens when you cough, laugh, sneeze, run or lift something heavy, which puts pressure (stress) on your bladder, causing you to leak urine. It’s more common in women than men.

Urge incontinence, however, is usually the result of overactivity of the detrusor muscles, which control the bladder. This feels like having a sudden urge to wee before you can get to the bathroom.

If you don’t know about kegels, it’s never too late to start practicing them.

“The pelvic floor muscles lie across the base of your pelvis, to help keep the pelvic organs – bladder, uterus and bowel, in the correct position,” explains Dr Lakhani. Still not sure? Next time you’re having a wee, try and stop yourself mid-flow, these muscles are the ones you need to be looking after and working out.

“The onset of perimenopause and menopause can cause your pelvic floor muscles to weaken,” adds Dr Lakhani, a world expert in intimate health. “The majority of these changes are caused by hormone levels, and a small proportion of the changes are down to age and the natural collagen reduction that occurs as a result of ageing, and weight gain – which is common and again, due to hormone changes.”

The results of having pelvic floor problems, the doctor says, are issues such as prolapse and incontinence. Apart from the obvious ‘main culprit’ of childbirth, Dr Lakhani points out that a number of things can put pressure on your pelvic floor, “especially if repeated and done incorrectly.”

“Constipation, straining and being overweight puts pressure on it and can cause it to weaken,” she says. “As can high impact exercise.”

“Kegel exercises involve laying or sitting in a comfortable position and then breathing in and then on the out breath contract your pelvic floor muscles for 3-6 seconds whilst breathing out. When you breathe in again release the contraction. Then relax all the muscles completely and repeat. Do this about ten times per session. Do two to three sessions of Kegel exercises a day to get the best results.”

Why not set a reminder on your watch? Or make it a habit by practicing them each time you brush your teeth.

Be Mindful Of Your Kidneys

Just because you can’t see them or feel them doesn’t mean you should take them for granted. “Age associated changes in kidney function are well known, and the end of the fourth decade is usually when these changes start,” says Dr Tom Oates, a leading consultant physician and kidney specialist.

“Blood flow to the kidneys, the weight of the kidneys themselves, and the glomerular filtration rate – that is how much the kidneys are cleaning the blood – all begin to decline around this age.”

But we shouldn’t be too depressed, says Dr Oates. “This is just part of normal ageing for most people and they WILL NOT develop kidney disease for which they would need treatment or close monitoring.”

So what can we do to look after our kidneys and slow this decline?

“Anything that constitutes a healthy lifestyle will help protect your kidneys,” says Dr Oates. “Staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking and too much alcohol are all important.

“Get your blood pressure checked at least once a year after the age 40 too. If you have other illnesses such as diabetes it's vital to manage these as best as you can to reduce the damage they might cause to your kidneys.

“Your GP can check your blood pressure, measure the function of your kidneys with a blood test (the eGFR or estimated glomerular filtration rate), and look for protein in your urine. If these are abnormal, you might need further tests like a scan of your kidneys or more blood tests.

“You don’t need to be a member of the Royal family, like Kate, to have access to these checks.”

The main culprits of kidney damage, according to Dr Oates, are common illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, or repeated kidney infections.

“Diseases that only affect the kidneys themselves are less common, but can run in families, like polycystic kidneys. Also some common medicines like ibuprofen may damage your kidneys if you use them a lot.”

Prioritise Fitness – But Don't Compare Yourselves To Others!

“We should avoid comparing ourselves to other people’s bodies and their fitness, whether that’s Royalty, online or even friends,” says Penny Weston, a fitness guru and nutrition expert.

“All of our bodies are different, being healthy and happy are the most important things. We can all make positive changes to our bodies, whether that’s trying to do more exercise or eat a healthier diet. And this only becomes more important with age. It’s crucial to remember your overall wellness instead of solely physical appearance.”

Basically, keep a positive attitude and find a routine that works for you. We weren’t all captain of the hockey team like Kate was.

Get To Know Your Hormones

“While it’s generally uncommon for women to experience menopause at forty, many women can begin to experience symptoms of what is referred to as perimenopause – the transitional period that precedes menopause,” says hormone expert Dr Martin Kinsella.

“Perimenopause can begin up to eight years before the onset of menopause and, while this is completely natural, it can bring about symptoms that can often be distressing due to the imbalance and fluctuation of hormones,” he explains.

“Symptoms can include menstrual changes from acne, changes in libido, hair loss and water retention through to more emotional symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, a sense of urgency and mood swings.

"If you do experience symptoms that are causing you a problem, it’s important to speak with your doctor in the first instance or a hormone specialist who will be able to check your hormone levels and create an individualised treatment plan to help reduce any uncomfortable symptoms.”’

Change Up Your Skincare

“The forties is the decade when things start to slow down,' explains Dr Elizabeth Hawkes. “Especially your lymphatic system which is responsible for draining the toxins from your skin. This can lead to puffiness, often in the eye and cheek areas and can result in dark circles under the eyes.”

Dr Hawkes adds: “The decline in sebum production also means that your skin is less protected and more vulnerable to damage from environmental factors such as sunlight and pollution.

“Hormone changes in this decade result in a decline in oestrogen, and with it the skin loses its tautness appearing more saggy and wrinkly.

“Also at this age years of excessive drinking, smoking or sun exposure can begin to catch up with your skin, resulting in broken red blood vessels on the face which create a ruddy appearance. Similarly smoking can not only create more pronounced lines around the mouth but also dull the skin.”

We doubt Kate has anything to worry about, but it’s sage advice for the rest of us.

How to care for your skin in your 40s…

“Cutting down on alcohol, stopping smoking and eating a well-balanced diet are all important in looking after our skin ,’ explains Miss Hawkes. “Continue with using an antioxidant such as Vitamin C in the mornings, an SPF 50 day cream and a retinol at night”.

The doctor suggests that – should you want to take it further – “Medical grade chemical peels and facials such as Hydrafacial are great to help restore the skin’s hydration and luminosity”.

Of course there is Botox and fillers, but there’s also something called Profhilo to consider – not that we are suggesting Kate needs an help!

“This is a newer injectable hyaluronic acid based product for treating skin laxity, boosting and hydrating the skin, and remodelling the ageing and sagging tissue.”

Look out for 'Kate At 40', a collector's edition of OK! magazine packed full of exclusive content about the Duchess Of Cambridge. On sale now for £4.99 at most good newsagents.

Look After Your Hair

Few of us are naturally blessed with the Duchess’s glorious mane, but can we help out our hair with supplements?

“Nutrition is important to achieve hair maintenance and growth,” says Consultant dermatologist Dr Ophelia Veraitch. “Research shows we need relatively high levels of iron, vitamin B12, folate, vitamin D and zinc. Iron and zinc are particularly important, but when taken together they don't absorb well.”

The doctor has created recommended doses of hair nutrients in separate morning and evening doses for medical grade approach to supporting beautiful hai r. And for those with hormonal or genetic hair thinning, she’s developed a range of bespoke hair growth elixirs that contain active ingredients only available on prescription.

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