Women in their 50s have their own unique health needs.
Heart health is a major consideration, as it's the leading cause of death in the U.S..
Fight middle-age weight gain with the help of proper diet and exercise.
Depending on who you talk to, 50 is the new 40, or 30, or even 20. But women in their 50s have their own unique health and wellness concerns that are different from women of other ages. If you want to be 50 and fabulously healthy, here is a checklist of things you should be doing:
Get a good night's sleep.
While you may have gotten by on a few hours of sleep when you were younger, it's more important than ever to get your seven to nine hours of rest each night. Poor sleep can affect many areas of your health—everything from weight and memory function to increased risk of illness and the hardening of the arteries called atherosclerosis. The latter is important because heart disease is the leading cause of death for women (and men) in the United States—and as you'll see, heart health plays a role in many items on this checklist.
Stay on top of screenings.
As we get older, we need to be more vigilant about certain health issues. Screenings can include colonoscopy, mammogram and a bone density test to check for osteoporosis. Some screening guidelines are affected by risk factors for certain conditions, so talk with your physician to see what is the optimal schedule based on your health history.
Keep up with annual checkups.
Don't neglect those yearly doctor visits. Those are necessary for keeping up on basic health metrics, such as blood pressure, thyroid and cholesterol levels, that can fluctuate and cause issues as you get older. These visits are also valuable for you to have face time with your physician to talk about any concerns or symptoms you may be experiencing that could require testing. And annual checkups aren't limited to doctor visits—don't forget to schedule regular appointments for dental and eye exams, too.
Reconsider your multivitamin.
If you haven't been taking a vitamin supplement, you may want to consider doing so to ensure you get enough vitamins and minerals such as calcium that can be vital for older adults. If you have been taking a multivitamin for years, talk with your physician about whether you need to change things up. For instance, postmenopausal women don't need as much folic acid and iron as women of childbearing age.
Make sure your diet has plenty of whole foods.
Unfortunately, as women tend to age, they are more susceptible to gaining weight. If that weight gain gets out of control and leads to obesity, that can put you at risk for health problems such as diabetes and joint strain. One way to help keep the middle-age spread from spreading too much is to make sure you are eating a healthy diet that emphasizes whole foods over processed ones. A Mediterranean-type diet with healthy fats, plenty of produce and lean protein can be ideal. Women in their 50s will want to watch their red meat consumption, as that could pose an increased risk for heart disease, as well as their sodium intake, in order to prevent high blood pressure.
Stay active—and mix up your workouts.
This helps with weight gain, of course, as well as many other aspects of your health—mobility, brain function, balance, joint health, and much more. Exercising is also crucial as we age, in order to combat the natural loss of muscle mass. It's recommended that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week (or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous exercise). Take a page from Ruth Bader Ginsburg and make variety a staple of your workouts. Cardio exercise, such as walking or running, can benefit the heart; strength-training regimens that involve weight-bearing exercises can boost bone and joint health; and tai chi or yoga can enhance balance and flexibility while also relieving stress.
Cultivate your passions.
As women enter their 50s, they are beginning a new phase in their lives. Children are moving out of the home and retirement may be on the horizon, which means the dynamics of daily life may change. Don't find yourself at loose ends when you have an empty nest. Find those hobbies our pursuits that allow you time to focus on yourself. This can create positive social connections, guard against depression and help your brain stay active and healthy. Find an outside interest—painting, playing an instrument, learning a language, joining a book club—that will bring you joy and give your life a sense of vitality. Turning 50 isn't the end of your story—it can be the beginning of a new and exciting chapter.
Looking for a trusted primary care provider to partner with in achieving a healthier lifestyle? Find a Swedish doctor near you and book an appointment online at Swedish Primary Care.
Subscribe to the Swedish blog for monthly health tips from our medical experts.
Recommended for you:
Judge for yourself: RBG's workout is fabulous
Breaking the silence about pelvic pain