What really happens to your body when you turn 30

I turn 30 in a few months and for the most part I am feeling pretty calm about it. But I've watched as my friends go from cool, calm and collected to a bit anxious about a week before their big birthdays. So, I thought it was time to do a little research for myself and find out not only what to expect, but what I'm really in for when the clock strikes midnight on my 30th birthday.

Whether you're like me and watching as 30 creeps closer and closer, are years away from this milestone birthday, or are already in the heat of it and starting to discover a few of these things for yourself, there is no doubt that turning 30 brings about several changes in your body. It's time to find out exactly what they are.

Metabolism slows down

This may very well be the most well known change in your body, but it is still one worth noting regardless. As we welcome our 30s, we see the start of a slowing metabolism, or the method by which the body turns food into energy.

What exactly does that mean for us? It means maintaining a healthy weight can be a little bit harder and unless we are eating a balanced diet and getting an appropriate amount of exercise, we are likely to start packing on a few pounds year-after-year and find our jeans getting tighter and tighter.

Stiff Joints and bone thinning

We've all been there. You wake up in the morning and everything feels extra stiff, you're feeling more sore from yesterday's workout, and you start noticing more cracks and crunches as you walk, bend over or squat down. Say "hello" to the start of joint pain.

A lot of the time, joint pain involves inflammation caused by injury or overuse, and as long as we're allowing our bodies the rest it needs to recover and following a healthy lifestyle, then the inflammation will heal, but this often becomes harder as we get older.

While we feel the effects on our joints, we don't usually notice it happening to our bones. Bone loss begins in our 30s and as we get older and continue to progress through life, can even lead to osteoporosis if we are not consuming calcium-rich foods and staying active.

The appearance of wrinkles

We all know at some point those dreaded wrinkles are going to begin to appear, and it's not uncommon for them to start showing during our 30s, but Robin Ashinoff, MD, a dermatologist at the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, says "with the information and technologies we have today, you really can look as young as you feel."

Most of us love our summer pool and beach days too much to avoid the sun entirely, but ensuring that we're wearing sunscreen is a must for helping prevent the onset of wrinkles. It is also recommended to use a moisturizer daily — and while there are so many products out there labeled "anti-aging," don't underestimate the power the basic moisturizer from your local drug store. Any moisturizer is better than none at all.

Decreased fertility and hormone changes

You've heard the saying, "Your biological clock is ticking," right? Maybe this is an issue with you and maybe it isn't. Regardless of where you stand on the matter, though, that clock is definitely marching on.

Fertility begins to decrease in our 30s, especially past age 35, and while many women can have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies past this mark, there are often additional health risks associated with these later pregnancies, including an increase in miscarriages.

Aside from our decreased fertility as we make our way through our 30s, some women even begin to see the start of perimenopause, also known as premenopause. Perimenopause is a very personalized experience for each woman, but often includes symptoms such as irregular periods, night sweats, worsening PMS, depression, mood swings and anxiety.

Increased stress

There, I said it. Honestly, regardless of our current age, life presents us with stresses, but our 30s can be full of a whole new world of stresses in our everyday lives that we haven't yet faced.

We are learning to navigate more serious relationships and marriages, we are having babies and raising children, we are buying homes, we are beginning to think about our 401k and retirement savings plans, and we are likely to start facing the reality of aging parents. Even the mere thought of any of those things and I can feel my heart start to increase.

Part of our 30s that isn't discussed often enough is our need for self care and learning to manage our stress in healthy ways. Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP, suggests setting aside "time each day to lower your stress levels." You will have to find what works best for you, but this could be lacing up your shoes and heading out for a run, curling up with a cup of tea and reading a good book, practicing yoga or meditation, or even heading to the spa for a massage.

Stress can manifest in our bodies in numerous ways, such as migraines, fatigue, trouble sleeping, depression, anxiety, stomach upset, and even drug or alcohol abuse so it is especially important that we learn to manage it in healthy ways while we are still young.

Slowing down the aging process

Now before you run off to the kitchen, grab that pint of ice cream from the freezer and drown your sorrows in an HGTV marathon, know that there are things we can do to help slow down a lot of these scary and intimidating aspects of the aging process. The first is to ensure you are eating a balanced diet, rich in nutrient packed foods, like fruits and veggies, healthy fats, and low in processed foods.

Next, you have to stay active. Whether you head to a nearby trail for a run, join your local gym, attend regular yoga classes, or get in consistent walks, find the form of exercise that feels good in your body and that you can do consistently.

And finally, limit your alcohol consumption. Note that I'm not saying to avoid it entirely; there's nothing like a glass of wine after a long day at the office, but keep it to a healthy limit and recognize that you may not recover as easily as you used to.

The good

I promise though, turning 30 doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. We're not going to go from feeling like a vibrant 20-something, to an old woman overnight. I want to leave you with something positive and a little hope that your brightest and happiest days are ahead of you, not circling around somewhere in your past three decades.

One of the things that I hear over and over from friends who are well into or even past their 30s, is how much more comfortable and confident they felt during this stage of life than they had in years past. They were starting to feel settled in their careers, more financially stable, their relationships improved, their self confidence grew, and the self doubt began to crumble away. All of those 30-plus years of life experience started to really pay off as they felt more prepared for all of the ups and downs that life threw their way.

Sure, those things won't all happen overnight either, but there's a lot to be said for feeling more comfortable in our skin and with who we are. And if we're taking care of our bodies, minds, and souls, then at the end of the day, what is there to be afraid of? The answer is nothing.