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What happens to your body at 30?; It's the milestone that so many women dread but is there any reason to fear turning 30? Some believe their body will start to go into decline, while others say that the power of positive thinking can stave off the seemingly inevitable. Here we examine the toll that three decades of life takes on you - and what you can do about it.


THIS year may not be an entirely happy one for Cameron Diaz, Geri Halliwell and Gwyneth Paltrow. They join 300,000 British women in turning 30 during 2002.

But do things suddenly take a turn for the worse after the 30-year milestone?

According to Dr Susan Whitbourne, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, things do start to decline.

"Aerobic fitness drops by 10 per cent between the age of 20 and 30. But you really won't notice any difference in the way your body behaves from 29 to 30 and a few years either side."

Ian-Stuart Hamilton, professor of psychology at Worcester University, says it all depends on how young you feel. "If, when you get to 30 you suddenly feel middle-aged, you're less likely to be active. So you may gain weight or suffer stiffening joints. This makes you feel older - ageing can become a self-fulfilling prophecy."

But it doesn't have to be. There are positive psychological and physical changes in your 30s. And as for the negatives, well, if you know what's going on you can take steps to slow down the decline. Here's what you need to know...

Why it's a reason to celebrate..


As you reach 30, it's one of the best times to make changes to your health and one when lots of people boost their fitness and self-esteem.

This can be triggered by the shock of reaching the milestone. But it's also when people often get married or have babies - and major life transitions provide the impetus for change, says Dr Whitbourne.

"For example, you may get fitter to keep up with your children or, if you start a new job, you could decide that you want to improve your appearance to make an impression.

"The early 30s are a time of major transition for many and these provide impetus, along with the realisation that we can change. This helps to prompt positive actions all over."


You're more intelligent now than you've ever been. Long-term studies have found that most of us gain intelligence until our mid-30s - then it starts to decline. Your memory is also likely to be in good shape - unless you use your electronic organiser too frequently. Recent research found memory loss in one in 10 Japanese 20-35 year olds and linked it to increased use of computers. Rely on your grey matter instead.


If you're not wearing glasses by now you probably never will. Well, not for shortsightedness. This tends to develop in our mid-20s, or in childhood. But you may need reading glasses in your 40s.


It's very possible that you damaged your hearing in your 20s, by listening to loud music. But now that you've turned 30, you'll probably be doing your ears less harm.

US military research has found that a single night at a rock concert can age your ears by two years.

Swedish research found that listening to loud music while you work out can cause twice as much damage as normal, because more blood is being pumped to the muscles rather than the inner ear. This leaves the ear more vulnerable.

You should also stop smoking for the same reason - it reduces bloodflow to the ear. But age- age-related hearing loss doesn't start until your 50s.


Your heart doesn't decline in your 30s. According to the British Heart Foundation, there were only 31 recorded deaths from heart disease in women under 35 in the year 2000. "Pre-menopausal women have a low risk of developing coronary heart disease because they have higher levels of oestrogen, and this may lower cholesterol or help the blood vessels dilate, reducing risk of arterial furring," says Alison Shaw, a nurse adviser for the BHF.


At 30, your bones are likely to be 10 per cent thicker than at 20 - and at their peak.

"We build bones until our mid-20s and this stays stable until about 35," says the National Osteoporosis Society. "After this, the amount of bone you lose overtakes that which you can repair."

Keep them strong by having 1,000mg of calcium a day through dairy products and/or supplements. And do 10 star jumps a day. Impact exercises such as these help to stimulate bone growth. They have also been shown to reduce fracture risk by as much as 40 per cent.

Why it's a reason to worry..


Hair starts to change noticeably at 30, says trichologist Philip Kingsley. "Blonde hair starts to darken while brunettes normally notice their first grey hair. Over the next few years, you'll also notice a drop-off in volume and thickness as the follicles start to produce thinner hairs."

You can combat this through dietary change. "Eat a little protein - meat, poultry, dairy - at each meal," says Philip. "Without protein, the follicles produce more easily damaged hair, which will add to the effects of ageing."

Hair firms are also bringing out anti-ageing ranges. Salon-based Nexxus is launching its Y Serum at pounds 15.90 next month. It is designed to fight all the signs of ageing hair. Call 01752 222 177 for details.


"This is when you start to see the effects of the sun damage that occurred in your teens and childhood," says Candice Saville, of the International Dermal Institute.

"The first changes the 30-year-old face will experience are an alteration in skin tone - it becomes more blotchy as melanin production becomes irregular. It may also look dull as cell renewal slows down.

"Finally, fine lines will start to appear under the eyes."

Make your skin younger by wearing sunscreen every day. "This doesn't just prevent damage, it also reverses past damage," says Candice. "Applying topical vitamins such as vitamin A (retinol), vitamin C and vitamin E can also reverse problems such as lines, dullness and irregular pigmentation."

For a triple vit whammy, try Dermalogica's Multivitamin Power Concentrate capsules, pounds 29.70. Call 0800 591 818.


"Your teeth will be more discoloured at 30 than at 20," says cosmetic dentist Anthony Newbury.

This occurs firstly because of long-term exposure to stainers such as tea, coffee and alcohol but also as wear and tear removes white enamel to reveal the darker dentine.

In terms of tooth health, by 30 you'll probably have six or seven fillings (with two more to come by 45). However, it's not holes that you need to watch. Beware of damage to your gums - a third of thirtysomethings have gum disease.

Professional tooth whitening will knock a few years off your appearance - ask your dentist for details.


When it comes to the ticking of your biological clock, 27 is your last chance for maximum fertility.

According to research by Dr David Dunson, of the US National Institute For Environmental Health Sciences, until 27 you have a 50 per cent chance of falling pregnant in any one menstrual cycle. That falls to 40 per cent up to the age of 34 and continues to decline until menopause (which, in the UK, normally begins around 51).

But this doesn't mean those without children need to panic. New research by Dr Dunson has found that only six per cent of 27-34-year-olds and nine per cent of 35-39-year-olds didn't conceive within two years of trying.

Preserve your fertility by drinking less. Thirtysomething women are now one of the largest consumer groups of alcohol in the UK but studies show that just five drinks a week doubles the time it takes to conceive. And while you're at it, stub out that ciggie. It takes the average thirtysomething smoker 40-80 per cent longer to conceive than a non-smoker - and you'll be fertile for an average of two years less.

Lungs and fitness

As we age our lungs stiffen, reducing the amount of air we can take in. As a result, our aerobic fitness declines by roughly 10 per cent a decade from around age 20.

"You won't really notice this when you hit 30," says Dr Whitbourne. "However, the 20 per cent decline between 20 and 40 does take its toll. You'll find yourself getting breathless more easily and something simple such as walking up stairs can become a chore."

The good news is that someone who exercises has a decade decline rate of only five per cent or less.

But if sweaty workouts aren't for you, try yoga. Research from the King George's Medical College in Lucknow, India, found that daily yogic breathing exercises boosted lung function in people who did them for 10 weeks.

And eat more apples. According to a study at St George's Hospital, London, those who eat an apple a day have better lung function in middle age than those who don't. It's believed the anti-oxidants they contain protect against pollutants.


Gravity affects breasts from your 20s onwards and the increased likelihood of having children in your 30s makes things worse.

"Babies are definitely bad for breasts," says cosmetic surgeon Jan Stanek. "After delivery and breast-feeding, breast volume diminishes - and that means sagging. Nipples also become darker and less sensitive."

Exercise helps, as it tones the chest muscles, making breasts look fuller. Your risk of breast cancer increases in your 30s but is still low - one in 1,900, compared with one in 15,000 in your 20s.


Your waist won't start thickening until your mid-30s. After that, levels of hormones called anabolic hormones that help keep off body fat and preserve muscle mass start to decline.

You'll lose roughly 5lb of muscle in each decade after your mid-30s. As muscle burns more calories than fat, this means you have to eat five per cent fewer calories. But most people simply gain 10-15Ibs a decade.

Pumping iron three times a week offsets the muscle loss that causes metabolic slowdown. But if you don't fancy the gym, cut out a biscuit a day.

According to top weight researcher Dr Susan Jebb, of the Medical Research Council, the five per cent slowdown actually equates to just 50 calories a day less burnt. So just cutting out your one biscuit, one glass of wine or a quarter of a chocolate bar could be enough to prevent those waistline woes.


You're more likely to have cellulite at 30 than 20. Research from New York's Columbia University has found that cellulite is normal fat held in pockets by strips of collagen. As we age, these fibres thicken and become less elastic, and this causes the fat to bulge through the skin.

Keeping your weight down helps fight cellulite, as does reducing your exposure to free radicals - compounds produced by exposure to factors such as smoking, sunlight and pollutants.

Because of this, leading cellulite researcher Dr Elisabeth Dancey also recommends anti-oxidants as a way to treat cellulite. Take 3g of vitamin C (the most your body can store) in three 1g doses daily and 400iu of vitamin E.
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Title Annotation:M Health
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 19, 2002
Previous Article:How the stars feel about their milestone.
Next Article:medical round-up; Medical Correspondent JILL PALMER reviews the issues that are making the health headlines.

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