Last updated: May 19, 2009



Our experts know all of the niggling complaints that can plague a woman in her 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond—the sudden batch of pimples, raging night sweats, or the urge to go to the bathroom all the time. These pros want to help you make the hassles go away—before small annoyances turn into bigger problems. Here's their advice:


In your 30s: Stop the leaks
Cough, laugh, sneeze … whoops! “Urinary leakage can start early, and it affects 10% of women in their 20s and 30s,” says Donnica Moore, MD, president of Sapphire Womens Health Group, a health-education firm. “Yet most women wait months or years before discussing it with their physicians, because its often associated with being older.”

Incontinence frequently occurs because pelvic-floor muscles have relaxed due to vaginal childbirth, she says. Weight gain also increases the risk by hiking abdominal pressure. To diminish leakage, avoid these bladder irritants: alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, spicy foods. And do Kegel exercises daily.

Zap those zits
Hormone fluctuations caused by your period, pregnancy, stress, and even lack of sleep can stimulate the skins sebaceous glands to produce extra oil. Oil glands are larger in your face, so thats predominantly where flare-ups occur. At the same time, adult acne can be difficult to control because its not always associated with oily skin, and the underlying hormonal influences can make it slow to resolve, says Doris Day, MD, director of Day Cosmetic, Laser and Comprehensive Dermatology in New York City.

Your best bet is to consult with a derm to determine the cause of the acne and to wash with a facial cleanser with salicylic acid or retinol, such as Avon Clearskin Professional Deep Pore Cleansing Scrub ($12). If you see a connection between stress and breakouts, focus on relaxation to chill out.

Quiet your tummy
Age-related changes in the digestive tract can increase intestinal gas. Plus, “all our muscles, including the anal sphincter, weaken with age,” says Lauri Romanzi, MD, urogynecologist at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City. “This makes it harder to ‘hold it in, even when its inappropriate to let it out.” A childbirth-weakened pelvic floor can benefit from Kegels and physical therapy. And avoiding gas-producers—such as sugar-free gum, carbonated beverages, and foods like broccoli and beans—is an easy fix.

Eat for PMS relief
Headaches, bloating, cravings, muscle spasms, tummy aches, anxiety, paranoia. No wonder women with premenstrual syndrome get grumpy before their periods. Whats one fix? “Avoid simple carbs like sweets. Complex carbs, such as oatmeal, beans, and pasta, will help you feel better,” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale School of Medicine. “Were not sure exactly why they ease PMS symptoms, but it probably relates to a slower release of insulin.” She also recommends a daily cocktail of vitamin B6 (100 to 200 milligrams), vitamin E (200 to 400 IU), and evening primrose oil (1,000 IU), which may be especially effective for breast discomfort.

In your 40s: Shush the snoring
“As progesterone starts to drop during perimenopause, a womans tongue is more likely to relax and fall backward during deep sleep,” says otolaryngologist Steven Y. Park, MD, author of Sleep, Interrupted: A Physician Reveals the #1 Reason Why So Many of Us Are Sick and Tired. “This can cause snoring, which disrupts sleep.”

One solution: an antisnoring dental device. It pulls your jaw forward and opens airways so you breathe and sleep better, but it doesnt treat the more serious sleep apnea. Various models, such as SomnoGuard or PureSleep, are available online, but check with your doc first. If your snoring keeps you up, ask a sleep specialist about a sleep study.

Ban bad breath
Aggressive tooth-brushing, using toothpicks, grinding teeth, and normal aging can lead to receding gums, says Emanuel Layliev, DDS, of the New York Center for Cosmetic Dentistry. The pockets of those gums harbor bacteria and can create dental-related dragon breath. One easy, healthy way to freshen your breath? Finish off your meal with crunchy fruits and veggies, such as apples and celery; theyll help get rid of food particles between teeth.

Drown urinary infections
“Decreasing estrogen levels around peri­menopause cause your urethras lining to become thin, inflamed—and more at risk for urinary tract infections,” Dr. Romanzi says. Her advice: Drink plenty of water, and take cranberry-extract tablets, sip cranberry juice, or eat dried cranberries daily. Water flushes out bacteria associated with UTIs, and cranberry makes it harder for bacteria to stick to bladder walls. Some evidence suggests that taking vitamin C may be helpful, too.

Outsmart the blues
Maybe you think you should be happier as you get older. Youre more able to appreciate life and let go when necessary. Sounds good—except the average age of depression in women is 44. “Its the ‘sandwich generation theory,” Dr. Moore says. “Sleep deprivation, caring for kids and aging parents, and other stressors all conflict.”

Rule out hypothyroidism (which has many symptoms in common with mild depression and may be mistaken for it) with a thyroid-function test. Get aerobic exercise, eat healthfully, dont skimp on sleep, and take care of any medical conditions. If you think youre depressed, your doctor can give you a simple questionnaire to help determine whats wrong; she may suggest therapy or meds.

The 50s-plus
Minimize memory hiccups Youve just hit 50 and feel like youre losing your mind? Decreased blood flow (because of low estrogen and arterial plaque buildup) and lower neurotransmitter production in the brain (estrogen again) lead to fuzzy thinking. The fix? “Anything that increases blood flow to the brain—exercise, a good diet, sleep—can improve memory lapses,” says Henry Hess, MD, PhD, associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. Dr. Hess also recommends fish oil; its omega-3 fatty acids may lower the risk of cognitive decline.

Give your bladder a break
Peeing more than six to eight times a day is considered frequent urination, says urologic surgeon Melody Denson, MD, of the Urology Team in Austin, Texas. Once again, blame diminishing estrogen levels. Starved of the hormone, the bladder lining thins and becomes more prone to irritations. As a result, food triggers can quickly bring on urgency and frequency. “The worst thing you could do is eat a spicy Mexican dinner, drink margaritas, and finish with a glass of red wine or coffee and chocolate cake! Youll be up all night running to the bathroom,” Dr. Denson says. Go easy on spices, alcohol, and caffeine, and see a doc if the problem persists.

Supplement your hair
Midlife hair loss is usually caused by declining ovary functioning and lowered levels of estradiol and testosterone. “Stress, nutritional deficiencies, gastro trouble, and changes in thyroid function or blood sugar all add to the problem,” says gynecologist Barbara Soltes, MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Over-the-counter supplements of biotin (vitamin B7), which help metabolize amino acids and fatty acids, may stimulate hair growth.

Heal heel pain
If you walk around the planet once, youll log approximately 25,000 miles. “By age 50, youve walked around the Earth twice,” says Seema Ramcharitar-Amante, DPM, a podiatric surgeon and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association. No wonder your feet ache. At this age, foot arches start falling and stressing the plantar ligament, which is attached to the heel bone. This can trigger inflammation that calcifies and can lead to a heel spur. Over-the-counter insoles and customized orthotics can prevent pain and treat heel spurs.

Warm up with lube
“The vagina is rich in estrogen receptors,” Dr. Romanzi says. “In menopause—average age 51—estrogen levels drop sharply, causing vaginal skin to lose elasticity and lubricate poorly.” Lack of lubrication can lead to painful sex, which may send your libido into hibernation. Try over-the-counter lubes or topical estrogen therapy cream, a prescription medication that can restore what youve lost down there.