Staying Healthy after 40
August 2000

“Staying Healthy after 40,” Ensign, Aug. 2000, 68–69

Staying Healthy after 40

The scriptures make clear that our physical bodies are gifts from our Heavenly Father and that they not only house our spirits but also, as we are worthy, are a place where the Holy Ghost can dwell.

Our bodies can be defiled, both spiritually and physically, by acts of commission as well as by acts of omission. The medical care we may neglect to give our bodies can be just as harmful in the long run as the ill effects of poor nutrition and lack of exercise.

As we get older, we should be especially aware of changes in our bodies and our health. We should not trust solely in our own judgment, however. By ourselves, we generally cannot detect silent menaces such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or glaucoma. Some conditions manifest themselves only after damage is done. Other conditions may pass on their own. But because some conditions may grow worse if untreated, we should take advantage of available health tests and procedures.

So how can we help protect our health as we age? For those 40 and older, the best place to start is a comprehensive physical examination. Most of the health problems associated with aging start after about age 40, so regular physical examinations are important. “A good physical examination periodically is a safeguard and may spot problems that can be remedied,” taught President Ezra Taft Benson (“Do Not Despair,” Ensign, Oct. 1986, 2–3).

A comprehensive physical examination should include the following measurements and tests: height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, fecal occult blood test and sigmoidoscopy (for colon cancer), urinalysis, prostate and rectal examination for men, and a Pap smear, pelvic, and breast examination for women.

Many diseases and illnesses are preventable. As part of a physical examination, your doctor should update your medical history and lifestyle inventory to determine what health problems might run in your family and what behaviors might lead to potential health problems. For women, your doctor should also show you how to conduct your own monthly breast examination.

Based on the results of your examination and medical history, your doctor will make recommendations about future evaluations and their frequency. Key to monitoring your health is to find a doctor in whom you have confidence.

In addition, adults should remember to get necessary vaccinations. All adults need a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years. Many, especially those older than 65 or those with significant health problems, should get an annual influenza vaccination about a month before the start of flu season. Your doctor can advise you on whether you might need other tests and vaccinations.

Because our bodies are gifts from our Heavenly Father, we should care for them. Healthy people, after all, are more capable of serving others and of prolonging their own ability to carry forth the Lord’s work here on earth.—Garrett L. Hancock, Tucson, Arizona

Illustrated by Scott Welty