There are plenty of reasons to embrace getting older: You have a stronger sense of self, better awareness of the world, and years of life experience that help avoid making any major mistakes. That said, despite some extra years of wisdom, there’s still a chance you’re making some common snafus when it comes to your health and well being. Here, 12 mistakes that women in their 40s, 50s, and beyond often make—plus how to fix them, stat!
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Tempted to stop working out as you get older? (Or use it as another excuse not to start?) We’d strongly advise otherwise.
Despite the aches and pains of middle age, exercise is vital to your health and quality of life down the road. In fact, it can actually relieve pain, and stave off health problems in coming years, such as creeping weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, or dementia.
If you’re already an avid fit fanatic, that’s amazing. And if not, now is a great time to check out the gym pool, start taking yoga, or fall in love with power walking.
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Getting stuck in a rut
"Many women keep doing the same things they've been doing for decades,” says Barbara Grufferman, author of The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money, and More ($14; amazon.com). Whether that’s hanging on to ill-fitting clothes you’ve had for years, or sticking with the exact same makeup routine, there are a number of aesthetic gaffes that may be keeping you from looking your best.
So rather than try to turn back the clock, figure out what makes you feel and look the most confident, and embrace how incredible you are right now!
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Not paying attention to your heart
Unless you notice obvious signs that something is off with your ticker, you may not be giving your heart the attention it needs. But the reality is, the lifetime risk of developing hypertension, or high blood pressure, for adults in their mid-50s is approximately 90%, even with those who never had a problem before. "Just because you didn't have it at 24 doesn't mean you don't have it at 54," Robert Ostfeld, MD, a cardiologist and director of preventive cardiology at Montefiore Health System in New York City, told Health in a previous interview.
Not to mention, cardiovascular disease—including stroke, heart disease, and heart failure—causes more deaths in the U.S. every year than any other illness. So even if you feel 100% healthy, it’s crucial to check in with an MD so that you know your numbers for cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
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You don’t practice self-care
Between raising your kids to be healthy adults, dealing with your own parents, and the countless obstacles that life throws your way on a daily basis, it can be pretty challenging to squeeze in some you-time. But, really, you don’t have time NOT to practice self-care. If you’re constantly focusing on others and not dedicating any time to recharge, you won’t have an ounce of energy left for anything or anyone. (Think about the safety messages on airplanes: "In the event of an emergency, please put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.”) If you need some inspiration on how to get started, check out our editors’ favorite self-care practices.
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Not getting enough sleep
Gone are the days when you could stay up all night and still make it to work with a glowing complexion and a spring in your step (although, lack of shuteye wasn't healthy then either!) While it may be tempting to shortchange sleep, particularly if you're juggling parent- and child-care duties, this may be one more thing you need to change. Fewer hours of sleep is linked to a greater risk of diabetes and other health problems, which become even more important as you age.
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Not getting enough vitamin B12...
You know you should be getting plenty of iron, calcium, and vitamin D in your diet. But what about B12? This vitamin is often overlooked as a necessity, but it’s really important to pay attention to this nutrient, as you get older. That’s because, as your body ages and your level of stomach acid decreases, it can be challenging to get all the vitamin B12 it needs from a healthy diet alone. So once you hit 50, in addition to pumping up the amount of B12-rich foods in your diet (think eggs, meat, shellfish, and dairy), you may want to look into trying some foods fortified with the nutrient as well.
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Speaking of neglected nutrients, were you aware potassium is especially vital once you hit middle age? That’s because blood pressure tends to rise as you age, and potassium can help combat that problem, as well as lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. But that doesn’t mean you have to start eating a banana a day to keep the doctor away, plenty of other foods are chock-full of potassium, including sweet potatoes, beans, and yogurt.
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Thinking there are hair “rules”
Do you have to cut your tresses short or above the shoulders once you're 50? No, because there aren't really any hair "rules" for middle-aged women, says Grufferman. "It depends on a woman's height, shape, lifestyle, and the condition of her hair."
The fact is that your hair will probably get more gray and thin as you age, and the texture may get coarser as well.
Choose a cut and color that's flattering, keeping in mind that it probably won't be the cut and color that worked for you in your 20s and 30s.
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Using the wrong makeup
Even though you've been wearing certain makeup colors and brands for years, they may not reflect what's best for your skin anymore.
And resist the urge to slather on heavy-duty powders and concealers to cover up wrinkles and under-eye circles, as caked-on or dark makeup can make you seem even older. For a more natural look, Grufferman suggests applying with a "lighter touch." Keep your cosmetic bag current—replace foundations, powders, and concealers every 6 months to a year, and steer clear of dated makeup styles too.
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Ignoring your teeth
You may be focusing on your wrinkles or thinning hair, but don't forget to smile at yourself in the mirror.
One thing that can make you appear older is yellowing teeth, but it is about more than just looks. Dental health is closely linked with overall health, and gum diseasewhich gets more common as you agehas been associated with a higher risk of heart problems.
So don't skip those visits to the dentist.
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Wearing the wrong bra
It's inevitablegravity has an impact on our bodies. But while you might be saggy where you were once perky, that doesn't mean you have to stay that way.
"Many women continue to wear the same size and brand they've always worn, without considering that our bodies change as we age," says Grufferman.
The right underwear can help lift and slim your body, so re-evaluate your undergarments and invest in some new pieces. Most large department stores and lingerie shops offer free bra-fitting services.
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Settling for a boring sex life
Our culture tends to sell the message that young equals sexy, but you don't have to buy into it.
You should have the confidence and freedom to dress and feel as sexy as you want to, and explore your sexual needs as well.
"Women over 50 can have the best sex of their lives," Grufferman says. "For many women, it's the first time they are having sex for fun and enjoyment, not for a result (children)."