Turning 50 is a threshold year for many women. It’s the time when they’ve done a lot of what life has to offer and are now focused more on the people around them than their own personal development and acquisition of wealth.
But just as half a century of life brings benefits to personal growth, it also brings challenges, especially when it comes to health. Midlife isn’t always an easy time. Aging is starting to play a greater role in determining what you can and can’t do.
What’s more, many women continue to live as they did when they were younger, eating the same food and enjoying the same lifestyle. And while this might seem like a good idea (after all, who wants to accept their own mortality?), it’s not advisable.
Take a look at some of these health mistakes that you may be making now that will impact your life as you age.
You’re Skipping Important Screenings
As our cells age, they become more prone to going haywire. Cancer, in particular, becomes a problem because the ability of cells to repair damage to DNA goes down. Mutations occur more frequently, making certain cancers more likely.
Screening is an essential way of catching cancer before it becomes dangerous. Many women over the age of 50 have cancerous cells in their bodies that have the potential to grow and metastasize. Screening allows doctors to get a handle on disease early, reducing the amount of radiotherapy required and increasing survival chances.
Women over 50 also need to make sure that they’re being screened for other markers of diseases, especially things like cholesterol and blood pressure. If either of these is too high, then you could be at risk of stroke or heart disease – the biggest combined killer of women.
You Lack Purpose
You might not think that something as intangible as “purpose” would have a material impact on your health, but you’d be wrong. It turns out – at least according to epidemiological studies – that women who have the most purpose in their lives are also more likely to live longer.
The Midlife in the United States study, for instance, found that people who had a strong sense of purpose in their lives tended to have a much lower risk of dying over the 14 years the study ran. They had more social connections and were more embedded in their communities. Whether this was the direct result of social interactions or the fact that having a purpose is often linked to other important lifestyle factors, remains to be determined. But evidence from all over the world, from Seventh Day Adventists in California to the peasants of Okinawa, suggests that believing you have a part to play makes a difference.
Having a purpose may also have an indirect effect, especially on cognitive function. Being mentally active is associated with having more “cognitive reserve” – or excess brain capacity, which is something that is believed to buffer people against Alzheimer’s disease.
You Haven’t Planned For The Future
Having a plan in place is financially prudent because you never know when your body might start to fail you. The last thing you want is financial as well as health concerns at the same time. Diseases can strike at any time and without warning. Without adequate savings or health insurance, one medical emergency can cost you everything.
Once you get past 50, it’s also a good idea to start preparing in advance for the needs you will have as you get older. You don’t want to be a burden to your family, so make sure you have made preparations for funeral expenses or long-term care. You can prepare a moving to assisted living checklist, just in case you need somebody to take care of your needs. You’ll want to mentally and physically prepare for the move: it’s a significant lifestyle change. It can also be costly, and so coming up with savings plan is a good idea too.
You Think That Weight Gain Is Just A Part Of Getting Old
As you get older, your ability to cope with modern dietary practices declines. Your body is no longer able to process all that fat and sugar as well as it used to, and it gets stored on your hips, thighs, and buttocks. But is it inevitable?
Doctors used to think that middle age weight gain was unavoidable. But this belief only came about because virtually all their patients were on the western diet. It just seemed normal because it was universal, not inevitable.
It turns out that you can switch off your body’s propensity for weight gain by eating more like they do in places like rural Japan and southern Europe. Swap out heavy meat and dairy for beans and whole grains, and avoid refined foods. Obesity among the middle-aged is far rarer in places where the food is homemade and straightforward than it is in areas with a fast food joint on every corner.
You Ignore Your Heart
With so much focus on breast cancer, you would think that it was the leading cause of death in women over 50. But it turns out that heart disease is number one, and by quite a margin.
According to Dr. Esselstyn who works with terminal heart disease patients, heart disease is a “paper tiger.” In other words, it seems like a threat to human health, but, in his opinion, it needn’t exist. He’s found that with the right diet and lifestyle changes, heart disease can be reversed. With only one exception out of hundreds of patients, Esselstyn says that he’s healed patients that the medical system would otherwise call “terminal.”
You might think that the diet these patients were on is too difficult to follow. But it turns out that many of them were just eating healthier versions of regular food. For instance, instead of using white spaghetti and beef for bolognese, patients would eat brown pasta and lentils in a bolognese sauce instead. Instead of having sugary cereal in the morning, patients would replace it with oats and dried fruit. These simple changes, applied over the course of a few months, were all it took to reduce symptoms of angina and return them to cardiovascular wellness.
Are you making any of these health mistakes now that you’re over 50?
Are there other mistakes we should beware of?