Are you approaching your 50th birthday with a bit of trepidation? Fear not, because more than ever, women in their 50s are finding that now is the best time of their life. “It’s a very exciting time for women,” says Kevin Henderzahs, M.D., a Community Health Network OB/GYN. “It’s an exciting time to get involved in different things. It’s time to renew relationships with their spouse, family and friends, and time to renew relationships in a spiritual way, too.”
“They’re going from caregiver to being able to work on their career,” adds Patrick Rankin, M.D., a family practitioner with Community Health Network. Women may be traveling more or exploring new hobbies. They often have more time and energy to take care of themselves. “People turning 50 are more positive in their outlook than in the past. Usually they’re happy to be turning 50,” he says.
A fitting birthday present for yourself is a trip to the doctor to get your 50s off to a healthy start. Here are some issues to consider and discuss with your physician:
General health issues. Continue to get regular checkups that include breast exams and Pap tests.
Diet and exercise. "If you haven’t made an effort to improve your eating and exercise habits already, now’s the time," says Dr. Rankin. Doing so can help control blood pressure and cholesterol, and prevent troubles such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. For both diet and exercise, sustainability is the key when making any changes. “It’s important to find something that you enjoy so that you’ll keep doing it,” he says.
Colon health. “At age 50, women should get a colonoscopy,” says Dr. Henderzahs. “Every 10 years is what I’d recommend. It’s essential to make sure their colon is healthy and that there are no signs of any colon cancer.”
Cardiovascular health. “Hypertension and cholesterol are essential screenings,” Dr. Henderzahs says, noting that high blood pressure and high cholesterol “are things you don’t feel.” They are also conditions that can be effectively addressed through diet, exercise and, if necessary, medication.
Bone health. “Now that women are going through menopause, this is more and more important,” Dr. Henderzahs says. That’s because estrogen is a key component in bone strength, and menopause cuts its production. Doctors may seek bone-density testing and are almost certain to recommend an increase in calcium and vitamin D, as well as an added emphasis on weight-bearing exercise, which can include walking or jogging.
Menopause issues. “Hot flashes or changes in sexual function would be important to talk with your physician about,” Dr. Henderzahs says, noting that "there’s no reason to suffer, because all such symptoms can be addressed." "Whether estrogen replacement is advisable depends on individual circumstances," Dr. Rankin adds, "including age, cardiac history and whether you smoke."
Your skin. Some women will find that their skin is becoming thinner and drier. Dr. Rankin tells women to use lotion and try to reduce sun exposure a bit, and also to keep an eye on any changes in skin lesions.
Sleep habits. “It’s important that they get an appropriate amount of rest,” says Dr. Rankin. “It’s good to develop a good sleep pattern and to try to get to bed at about the same time every night.”
By getting a handle on your health, you’ll be well prepared to face the opportunities that come with being in your 50s, Dr. Rankin says. “Today’s 50-year-old women are a very positive group.”