Happy at 50: An Essential Health Guide for Women in Their 50s

December 06, 2017

Happy at 50

While you may approach your 50s with some trepidation, there’s truly no reason to dread this mid-life period, you should be happy at 50! As a doctor and women’s health expert, I can tell you that many women aged 50 or older report increasing levels of happiness and life satisfaction as they progress into their 50s and head into their 60s (which is the decade that’s more and more proclaimed as the “new 40s”). That’s likely because you’re now better able to manage that work-life balance thing (the fact that your kids are in their teens or 20s can help!). You also probably worry less and have achieved more, and, in general, have decades of life experience behind you that enable you to better cope with life’s inevitable ups and downs.

By now, you know the importance of caring for yourself AND you actually have a bit more time to devote to your own interests and well-being. You likely have more financial security, too! All good stuff, but as a doctor and women’s health expert, I need to remind you that this doesn’t mean it’s time to coast on managing your health. In fact, there’s now more to manage than ever. Knowledge is power though, and knowing how to care for yourself in your 50s will go a long way to ensuring you’re healthy and happy at 50 and for decades to come.

  1. Heart Health: I can’t say it enough: as the number one killer of women, heart disease is your biggest threat, and one that increases as you age. Smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and poor diet can all damage your heart, but the good news is, even if you’ve already done a number on your ticker, you can actually reverse some of the damage. Don’t wait; start now: Eat a healthy, varied diet, get plenty of cardiovascular exercise, and for goodness’ sake, if you smoke, quit NOW! It’s never too late.
  2. Managing Menopause: One of the biggest reasons women dread middle age is because they fear menopause. While the symptoms of menopause can be quite uncomfortable, many women erroneously assume they simply have to live with hot flashes, weight gain, and a host of other unpleasant issues. The good news is there is plenty you can do to manage these symptoms and minimize the impact they have on your daily life. There are tried-and-true treatments, from medications to therapies to hypnosis, that can help with hot flashes, urinary problems, vaginal issues, and sleeping difficulties.
  3. Sex Changes: Don’t let menopause problems prevent you from enjoying activities you once did, including sex! While it may seem less appealing (due to hormonal changes) and less comfortable (due to vaginal dryness), it still has big benefits, such as improving your pelvic muscle tone and boosting your emotional health, not to mention helping you stay connected to your partner. So, use plenty of lubricant and/or a prescription topical estrogen, and continue to enjoy the many benefits of sex as you once did.
  4. Warding Off Weight Gain: As a doctor and women’s health expert, I realize that another frustrating side effect of menopause is that it puts you at increased risk for weight gain. But that doesn’t mean packing on the pounds is inevitable. You’ll need to work harder to maintain your weight though. While it’s tougher to stay at your current weight, it’s even tougher to lose it, so don’t make the mistake of allowing your weight to creep up now (as many people do during the holidays) and assuming you can lose it later. Instead, redouble your efforts to eat well and move as often as possible. Stay active by walking, hiking, swimming, biking, or doing yoga or pilates.
  5. Boosting Bone Density: Unfortunately, bone loss is also an increasing concern as you age. Be sure to get plenty of calcium in your diet and engage in strength-training exercises. Simple body-weight moves such as squats, leg lifts, and tricep dips can help you protect your bones and strengthen your muscles, (which, in turn, boosts metabolism!).
  6. More Screenings: In addition to the other screenings that began earlier in your life, you should begin getting colorectal cancer screenings at age 50. While many people find the test preparation (which involves cleansing one’s bowels) unpleasant, for most people, it’s a tiny price to pay for reducing their chances of colon cancer. This type of cancer begins as small, noncancerous polyps that can be identified through a colonoscopy, then removed if necessary. Don’t wait until you have symptoms such as changes in your bowel habits, as this is often a sign that colon disease has progressed to an advanced stage.

Yes, there’s more to manage, health-wise, in your 50s, but with some effort and diligence, your 50s can one of the happiest decades of your life! Enjoy them and every decade that follows by taking control of your health now. Stay happy at 50! I’ve been a doctor and women’s health strategist for many years, and I have plenty of ideas and tips for helping you live your best, healthiest life. Follow me on social media, check out my other blog posts, and look out for me on television!