Ever dream you could go back in time to give your younger self the advice you wish you’d had all along? Here’s the next best thing: tips from medical professionals for women in their 40s and 50s who want to be proactive about staying healthier longer. Do these things now so future you will say “Thanks!”
Avoid the wear and tear. Just like the soles of our shoes, the cartilage that protects our joints can wear out over time, resulting in a type of arthritis called osteoarthritis. Two things that can trigger the condition, which occurs more often in women than men, are age and repetitive motions. Areas most affected by osteoarthritis are the thumbs, big toes, knees, and spine. “If it hurts, do it in a different way,” says Brian Peck, a rheumatologist and medical director of the Arthritis Center of Connecticut. If you feel a twinge at the base of your thumb every time you pick up a book or a full dish, use your whole hand instead of a pinch-grip. The next time you climb a flight of stairs, try squeezing your glutes or using the railing, rather than asking your knees to do all of the work. If wearing heels gives your big toe pain, try traveling to work in sneakers and changing when you get there.
Preempt pre-menopause. Ah yes, the hot flashes, the sleeplessness and everyone’s fave, vaginal dryness. Mary Zozulin, an OB/GYN with Westwood Women’s Health in Waterbury, CT., recommends trying natural remedies first: “Eating or drinking natural phytoestrogens like soy and yam can help with menopausal symptoms and promote well-being. Adding a daily 50 mg DHEAS supplement can also help adrenals produce hormones as the ovaries stop their production of hormones. And weekly vitamin E vaginal suppositories can help the vaginal dryness and promote elasticity of the tissues, so sex is not painful.” But above all, Zozulin reminds us to keep up that maintenance with regular doctor visits. “My mantra to every woman is to come for her yearly pelvic and breast exams and pap smears.”
Take care of your skin.
Corinne Horn, a facial plastic surgeon at Weill Cornell Medical Center, offers these five pillars for keeping your face firm. First off, stay out of the sun, and be religious about using an SPF of 50 or higher and wearing a hat. “This is not just a beauty recommendation,” says Horn. “Sun exposure is the major risk factor for skin cancer.” Next: Hydrate. Eight glasses of water a day keep skin cells appearing healthy, and proper hydration is key for cardiovascular and joint health while keeping you and your kidneys properly detoxed. Third: Don’t smoke. “Smoking contributes to those little fine lines everywhere, especially around the mouth,” says Horn. “Your skin appears sallow and dull.” Fourth: Botox as soon as you start developing noticeable lines. “Some lines you make now just can't be erased in the future if they are too deeply etched in,” she says, “so best to avoid them in the first place with a light and consistent dose of Botox.” And finally: Use Retin A for healthy, glowing skin, smaller pores, and improved pigment. “This is a topical miracle cream!” raves Horn. Be aware it makes your skin more sun-sensitive. (But you’re already following Pillar #1, right?)
Go easy on your kidneys. Proactively protecting the nephrons in your kidneys also means keeping cardiovascular disease at bay. Keep up regular exercise, follow a sensible diet with lots of fiber and not a lot of salt, learn to relax under stress, and maintain your weight in a normal range. “In that order!” says Anthony J. Cusano, a nephrologist with Connecticut Kidney and Hypertension Specialists. “That’s right: Weight is less important than diet, exercise, and good stress management. If you’re eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and not gaining weight, then you’re not overeating.”