30s: The decade to… optimise your prime
So your face has a few more lines, your hairline some silver intruders and your list of responsibilities… let’s not go there. But arm yourself with some essential skills and you’ll enjoy your best decade yet.
Support your fertility
If you’re looking to start a family now or later, there are practical steps you can take. Here, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Larisa Corda and nutritional therapist Melanie Brown walk you through the essentials.
Mind your movement
“Sitting down all day can reduce blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, so stand up as much as possible,” says Brown. Be careful about overexercising, too. “Exercising too intensely for too long can increase levels of cortisol in the body, which can be a barrier to conceiving.”
“This is essential if you’re looking to get pregnant,” says Dr Corda. Plot out your stressors on a page, then note the things you can’t control (an unwell parent, for example), the things you can take steps to address (long working hours) and the things you can fix without much hassle (too many plans).
Achieve your body’s happy weight
“If you’re overweight or obese, take sustainable steps to achieve a healthy weight,” advises Brown. “If you’re underweight, increasing your body fat will signal to your brain that your body can support a pregnancy.”
Eat for balance
“It’s important to consume enough complex carbs,” notes Brown, who points to research indicating that they promote ovulation. “You need good fats for fertilization, and quality protein provides the building blocks to eggs.”
As the responsibilities start to bite in your thirties, you’re more vulnerable than ever to anxiety-based mental health problems, such as panic attacks. Use our expert-backed timeline to dial down the intensity.
0 to 3 mins
What’s happening: A panic attack occurs when the mind makes a negative interpretation of normal events. When your boss sets you an impossible deadline, for example, your hypothalamus activates your pituitary and adrenal glands, causing stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol to flood into your system: the fight-or-flight response. the result? Shallow breaths, an accelerated heart rate and trembling.
Your defence: A US study found that refocusing the mind on simple tasks can calm you down. The solution can be as mundane as counting the number of tiles on your office ceiling until the panic passes.
3 minutes to 2 hours
What’s happening: Adrenaline has a half-life of three minutes, so the initial panic soon passes – your breathing normalizes and your heart rate falls. Cortisol, however, sticks around for longer. It can take two hours for your more chronic feelings of stress to subside.
Your defence: Take a 10-minute break and divert your attention to what’s around you, even if it’s just your neighbor taking the bins out. Your cortisol levels will fall and you can return to a more even keel. Ahhh…
What’s happening: Anxiety can easily extend beyond a specific stimulus and its chronic form can leave your hypothalamus in a state of constant agitation. It’ll keep releasing adrenaline and cortisol and, with levels set to surge at any point, the simplest upset can burst the dam.
Your defence: In severe cases, doctors may prescribe you anti-anxiety medication, along with beta blockers, to steady your heart rate. Omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish can curb adrenal activation caused by stress and there are cortisol-slashing B vitamins in legumes, meat and eggs. Plus, a run produces mood-boosting endorphins while using up extra adrenaline.
Nutrient to know: healthy fats
Found in olive oil, avocado, nuts, mackerel and anchovies, they’re hallmarks of the Mediterranean diet, which studies suggest can reduce your risk of heart disease. That shoots up in your forties, so take pre-emptive steps now. Doubts remain about the effectiveness of supps, so stick to natural sources.