Dealing with a Midlife Crisis and When You Should You Start Preparing for It

It’s completely natural to go through a midlife crisis. However, ageing can also make a person vulnerable to physical illnesses.

Woman looking into the distance as she sits on a sofa with her knees close to her chest and right hand pressed against her forehead

For ageing adults, a midlife crisis is often associated with boredom, being angry or irritable, making impulsive purchases or decisions, or feeling sad despite hitting a milestone birthday. A transitional period that sees a person struggling with their identity and self-confidence, a midlife crisis isn’t usually physical, but psychological in nature.

However, being between the ages of 40 to 60 can also put men and women at risk of multiple chronic conditions. Here are some of the physical changes that could start to happen in midlife, and ways to prevent age-related medical illnesses.

Man with his head in his hand looking tired and depressed.
Experiencing a midlife crisis can affect you psychologically and signs can start showing after 40.

Long-Term Health Problems that are Associated with a Midlife Crisis 

According to Eu Yan Sang physician Ignatius Ooi, the most common age-related health conditions are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and gout. Knowing the signs and symptoms of these conditions can prepare you for lifestyle changes that’ll keep you healthy and happy.

Excessive weight gain  

Men and women tend to gain weight easily after age 40. This comes from a slowdown of the resting metabolic rate – the total number of calories burned when the body is at complete rest. Combined with a lack of physical activity as a person becomes older, it’ll result in muscle loss and fat gain.

In addition, natural appetite regulation weakens with age, making you prone to uncontrolled eating. Fried foods and fatty meats and cheeses can cause weight gain and increase cholesterol. These will bring about an onset of hypertension and diabetes, which are also risk factors of heart disease. 

Diabetes mellitus  

Ageing is the most notable risk factor of diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases. Interestingly, evidence also shows that the effects of ageing and diabetes mellitus share similar onset pathways.

For instance, a symptom-free increase in blood sugar levels over time can lead to metabolic dysregulation. This changes how sugar is stored and used in the body, insulin sensitivity and fat metabolism. It makes a person vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases or other chronic illnesses.

Gout

Woman barbecuing skewers and patties of meat on a grill
The overconsumption of meat can lead to gout for some people. 

An ancient disease that relates directly to uric acid deposit in the joints and kidneys, gout can occur between the ages of 40 to 60 years. A stand-out trigger of the diseases’ onset is your body’s inability to excrete enough uric acid in the urine.

Stemming from a genetic defect of the kidneys, and involving a substance called organic anion transporters, it’ll prompt an excessive accumulation of uric acid in the organs. Gout can happen for several other reasons, including: 

  • Alcohol consumption 
  • Poor kidney function  
  • Excessive consumption of meat and meat gravies 
  • Use of medications like diuretics and low-dose aspirin 

Gout symptoms can present as joint pain, or red and swollen joints. You might also experience fever, chills and a general feeling of discomfort.

Vision deterioration 

Presbyopia is a normal consequence of moving past age 40 and will result in a person being long-sighted. Long-sightedness describes the inability to see objects or words from a relatively close distance.

When you’re young, your eyes’ lenses are flexible and soft. This makes it easier for them to change shape to focus on subjects up close or at a distance. Ageing makes the lenses more rigid, impairing your ability to look at people, objects, images, or words nearby or perform tasks up close.

Perimenopause 

Women who turn 40 will transition into perimenopause – the period before menopause – due to a slower production of oestrogen. It can provoke irregular or more frequent menstruation, and symptoms like: 

  • Hot flashes 
  • Changes in bladder control 
  • Disturbed sleep 
  • Vaginal dryness or irritation 
  • Loss of interest in, or discomfort when having sex 

Effective Ways to Slow Deterioration as You Age 

It’s understandable that you’ll feel confused or emotionally frustrated if going through a midlife crisis. Fortunately, making small lifestyle adjustments can help you achieve better outcomes as you undergo this phase of life.

Change the way you eat, sleep and move 

A healthy lifestyle starts with a balanced diet. Consume foods that are unseasoned but nutritionally rich. Also, eat low-calorie and low-cholesterol meals that have minimal amounts of sodium and fat. Limit alcohol consumption.

It’s also necessary to get your sleep schedule right. Go to bed at the same time nightly and limit yourself to a fixed set of work hours. Exercise regularly to maintain proper weight control.

Use TCM therapies 

Bu Zhong Yi Qi (补中益气) is a herbal formula that can be added to a chicken, beef or dumpling stew. It comprises multiple herbs and is frequently used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat fatigue and symptoms like weakness, indigestion and a loss of appetite. 

These include: 

  • Astragalus (huang qi, 黄芪) 
  • Bupleurum (chai hu, 柴胡) 
  • Ginseng (ren shen, 人参)  
  • Black cohosh (sheng ma, 升麻)  
  • Chinese Angelica (dang gui, 当归) 
  • White atractylodes (bai zhu, 白术)  
  • Dried tangerine peel (chen pi, 陈皮) 
  • Baked liquorice root (gan cao, 甘草) 

Ning Shen herbal soup (宁神汤), meanwhile, can be consumed to keep your heart and mind healthy.

The stimulation of acupressure points like guan yuan (RN4, 关元), zhong wan (RN12, 中脘), zu san li (ST36, 足三里), and san yin jiao (SP6, 三阴交) can also help achieve the same effect. 

Ultimately, you will experience a midlife crisis if you are carrying a heavy psychological burden as it strains your body and mind. Hence, taking steps to improve your mental and physical well-being is necessary to prevent the development of certain illnesses.

If your chosen methods include TCM therapies, it’s best to speak to a TCM practitioner beforehand. Doing so will help you identify the herbal formulas or ingredients that are suitable for your body constitution.

References

  1. . Acenda Integrated Health. AM I HAVING A MIDLIFE CRISIS AND HOW DO I HANDLE IT? [online] [Accessed 4 July 2022] 
  2. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure. [online] [Accessed 4 July 2022]
  3. American Heart Association. 2018. Age-Related Changes in Glucose Metabolism, Hyperglycemia, and Cardiovascular Risk. [online] [Accessed 4 July 2022]
  4. Hospital for Special Surgery. Gout: Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatment. [online] [Accessed 4 July 2022]
  5. AMERICAN ACADEMY OF OPTHALMOLOGY. What is Presbyopia? [online] [Accessed 4 July 2022]
  6. Keck Medicine of USC. 2022. Your Body at 40. [online] [Accessed 4 July 2022]

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