Midlife will bring some special health challenges to women. The good news is that none of those challenges have to stop you from living a vibrant and productive life — for decades to come. To keep yourself in the best of health, avoid these six common health mistakes at midlife and beyond.
You ignore heart health
Heart disease is the number one killer of women, and risk rises as women age. Menopause doesn’t cause cardiovascular disease. Rather, it’s those bad habits earlier in life, such as smoking, obesity, and lack of exercise that can begin to take a toll on heart health in the 50 and over woman, according to the American Heart Association.
A September 2015 report issued by the CDC on so-called “heart age” versus biological age shows women, on average, have hearts that are five years older than actual chronological age. If a woman has high blood pressure (140 mm Hg or more), her heart’s “age” is 18 years older than she is, according to the report.
But the good news is that it’s not too late to change habits that increase your risk of heart disease, says Leslie Cho, M.D., director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Cardiovascular Center.
“Although some damage may already be done, the evidence points to the fact that changes you make in terms of getting more exercise, eating smarter, losing weight, and quitting smoking, no matter what your age, will benefit your heart,” says Cho.
You put up with menopause miseries
One of the biggest mistakes women make during this time is thinking they have to learn to live with menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, sleeping difficulties, and vaginal and urinary problems.
Although short-term use of hormonal therapy has been shown to help many women who deal with some of the most severe problems of menopause, not every woman is a candidate or may want to take hormones, says reproductive endocrinologist Barbara Soltes, M.D., of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “But that doesn’t mean they have to suffer since there is other help available,” she says.
You think sex is over
Sexual frequency can decline with age, but a survey published in The New England Journal of Medicine shows even 75- to 85-year-olds had sex two to three times a month, with more than 20 percent reporting sexual relations at least once a week.
However, sex can change due to hormonal upheavals at menopause, which can cause vaginal dryness and potentially painful sex. But over-the-counter lubricating products can help, as can prescription topical estrogen, says Kat Van Kirk, a licensed family and marriage therapist and board-certified clinical sexologist in Lihue, Hawaii.
To be continued…