12 Mistakes Women Make in Middle Age
There are plenty of reasons to embrace getting older: You have a stronger sense of self and the confidence to make decisions that your 20- or 30-something self might have second guessed. That said, despite some extra years of wisdom, there’s still a chance you’re overlooking opportunities to optimize your health and well being. Here, 12 mistakes that women in their 40s, 50s, and beyond often make—plus how to fix them, stat!
A sore elbow or low-back pain? Neither is a reason to quit exercising or an excuse not to start. Remaining physically active is vital to your health and quality of life. In fact, it can actually relieve pain and stave off health problems down the road, such as creeping weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, or dementia.
"Exercise puts your body in a state of arousal, which translates into more vitality and a greater sense of well-being," Frank Frisch, PhD, director of kinesiology at Chapman University in Orange, California, previously told Health. "Daily tasks become less strenuous and require less exertion."
If you’re already an avid fit fanatic, that’s amazing. And if not, now is a great time to explore your options. Why not check out the gym pool, take a yoga class, or fall in love with a walking workout.
Getting stuck in a rut
Go ahead and get rid of worn, ill-fitting looks in your wardrobe. You can replace these items without having to sacrifice your personal style. "Women who age gracefully don't step aside from trends because of their age," Gretta Monahan, style and beauty expert and author of Style and the Successful Girl, previously told Health. Pairing a great-fitting jean with a trendy colored shoe or accessory can give you an “instant energy boost,” she says
Find the looks that make you feel most confident, and embrace how incredible you are right now!
Not paying attention to your heart
One in every four deaths in the US is due to heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—in other words, taking care of this all-important organ should be a top priority for everyone. But how do you know if you’re at risk for heart disease?
It all begins by knowing a handful of key indicators of heart health, including your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and body mass index, says the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women initiative. While you can’t change your age or family history, there are a slew of habits you can modify to ward off heart problems.
You don’t practice self-care
It can be pretty challenging to squeeze in some you-time when you’re tackling the countless obstacles that life throws your way on a daily basis, especially if you’re raising kids, dealing with aging parents, or both. 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.
Author and blogger Rachel Macy Stafford previously shared several self-care tips she adopted in the wake of a health scare. She says it can be something as simple as freeing your mind of burdens by giving them voice: Choose a trusted soul and voice the unspeakable: “I need help.” “I am afraid.” “I haven’t felt like myself in awhile.” Or give yourself a moment, whether that’s time set aside to journal or an extra hour of slumber.
Not getting enough sleep
Gone are the days when you could pull all-nighters and still pull yourself together the following morning (although that’s not a healthy habit at any age!). 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. Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to a greater risk of diabetes and other health problems, which become even more important as you age.
Not getting enough vitamin B12...
You know you should be getting plenty of 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.
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 and kidney disease, says the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
But that doesn’t mean you have to start eating a banana a day. Plenty of other foods are chock-full of potassium, including sweet potatoes, beans, and yogurt.
Thinking there are hair 'rules'
Go shoulder-length or longer—why not? There aren't really any hair "rules" for middle-aged women, Barbara Grufferman, author of The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money, and More, tells Health. "It depends on a woman's height, shape, lifestyle, and the condition of her hair."
The fact is that your hair will probably thin out as you age, and the texture may get coarser as well. Choose a cut and color that's flattering, which may not be the same look you rocked in your 20s or 30s, and that’s OK. Or let your locks go full-out gray, which happens be both timeless and trendy!
Not updating your beauty routine
Skin changes over time; so should your beauty regimen. Heavy applications of makeup can be aging on dry skin. For a more natural look, Grufferman suggests applying your products with a "lighter touch." And while you're at it, consider splurging on creams and serums containing hyaluronic acid. Skin care experts say this hydrating ingredient will keep your skin looking and feeling moist and dewy fresh.
Ignoring your teeth
Regular brushing, flossing, and dental checkups aren’t just about maintaining a beautiful smile. Poor oral hygiene is closely linked with higher rates of heart attack and stroke—problems that become more common as you age. It’s not clear why, but one theory is that the bacteria infecting your gums cause blood vessel inflammation and damage.
So don't skip those visits to the dentist.
Wearing the wrong bra
Haven't we all kept that extra, ill-fitting bra in our lingerie drawer as a backup for when the good ones are in the laundry? Maybe you don't even own one that provides the proper support anymore. After all, breast tissue changes over time as a result of pregnancy, weight fluctuations, and, well, gravity, as the Mayo Clinic points out.
"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. Yet, 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.
Settling for a boring sex life
A natural decline in estrogen beginning in perimenopause can lead to changes that make sex painful, but you don’t have to put up with that. “Vaginal dryness is totally treatable,” Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of ob-gyn at Yale School of Medicine, previously told Health.
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)."
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