April 23, 2024


Great Health is a Choice

40 Tips for Women Over 40

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Step up your training

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Try a new veggie every week

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Declare Sunday (or any day) New Veggie Day by incorporating Jerusalem artichokes, kabocha squash, dinosaur kale, and others in place of your usual broccoli or green beans. On top of all the good reasons to eat more veggies, a healthy diet rich in plant foods lowered the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women by 14% in a large French study. Make it easy for yourself: Order in from a plant-forward restaurant that can bring new veggie dishes to your doorstep, suggests Rebecca A. Seguin-Fowler, Ph.D., R.D., a professor of nutrition at Texas A&M in College Station.


Cut your cancer risk

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Try a “no-pee” pose

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Research has found that women 40 and older who participated in a specialized yoga program two days a week for six weeks saw a 70% improvement in urinary incontinence symptoms. You may get a nice mood boost too.


Skip fad diets

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Forget impossible-to-maintain regimens or expensive meal-replacement plans. If you’re concerned with midlife weight gain, Kimberly D. Gregory, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, suggests that you consider talking to a behavioral therapist, who can help you make lifestyle changes that can actually last.


Picture a positive future

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Get out in nature

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Nature is good for the brain—living in areas with lots of green space is linked to faster thinking, better focus, and higher cognitive function in midlife. “But you don’t need to live in Yosemite to get the benefit,” says study author Peter James, Sc.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of environmental health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Walks in the park or even tending houseplants or a garden can help you stay sharp.


Pump up your protein

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“Protein needs increase starting around age 40, because the body’s ability to process it becomes less efficient with age,” says nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.N. Add more fish, lean poultry, lean beef, dairy, eggs, soy foods, nuts, and legumes to your meals; getting enough protein from a variety of sources is associated with greater muscle mass and function in people 40 and older.


Take up tai chi

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This practice of graceful, meditative movement helps improve sleep, quality of life, and physical performance among working women in menopause, according to the latest evidence. As a group activity, tai chi can expand your social connections to boot.

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Don’t fear HRT

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Hormone therapy can relieve some of the most debilitating menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, and painful sex, but many women are still wary of trying it. “Estrogen actually does not increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer,” says Prevention columnist Lauren Streicher, M.D., founder of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause in Chicago. “Developing a blood clot, not cancer, is the primary risk of taking estrogen, but use of a trans dermal estrogen rather than oral estrogen appears to eliminate that risk.” It’s always best to discuss the pros and cons with a doctor who specializes in menopause.



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Vaginal moisturizers can help you avoid painful sex due to the dry, thinning tissues associated with vaginal dryness, says Susan Loeb-Zeitlin, M.D., an ob/gyn at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. While lubricants are great for avoiding friction during sexual activity, vaginal moisturizers help produce and lock in moisture just like facial moisturizers do. Look for a product with hyaluronic acid—some studies found it as effective as vaginal estrogen for improving dryness.


Keep your coffee

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Two to three cups a day of your favorite brew (including decaf) can fight inflammation and lead to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and early death. If you like the taste, go for espresso—it boasts more antioxidants (which may help stave off dementia) than any other beverage, says Lisa Mosconi, Ph.D., director of the Women’s Brain Initiative at Weill Cornell Medicine. Just make sure you sip it early enough to fall asleep at night.

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Lift some weights

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After 50, age-related declines in muscle mass accelerate and can contribute to frailty and loss of function. While cardio workouts are still important, “strength training should absolutely be part of your fitness routine now,” says Will Freres, P.T., of Carolinas Rehabilitation in Charlotte, NC. Lift weights at a local fitness facility or use elastic bands, dumbbells, and weighted balls at home two to three times a week to stay strong.


Grab a vibrator

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Your favorite vibrator doesn’t just help with sexual arousal and satisfaction—it can also improve urinary incontinence and vulvodynia (pain around the vaginal opening), according to research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.


Power yourself with prunes

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Postmenopausal women who munched about five prunes a day preserved bone density in their hips, according to a recent study. Blend them into smoothies for sweetness instead of bananas, or stir them chopped into cereal or oats, suggests Seguin-Fowler. Introduce prunes into your diet slowly (start at one per day), as they can have a laxative effect.

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Make mammograms easier

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To make your annual mammo a little less unpleasant, call around to local imaging centers to find one that uses a system called SmartCurve. The compression surface is curved like the shape of a woman’s breast, which reportedly decreases underarm pinching and pain compared with a traditional machine.


Check your shoe size

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Women’s feet tend to get bigger in midlife, especially after pregnancy, says Brad Schaeffer, D.P.M., a New York foot surgeon and the owner of Sole Podiatry NYC, who adds that most women he sees are wearing the wrong shoe size. “This can have a ripple effect on your body and affect your knees, hips, and lower back,” he says. Hit up an old-fashioned shoe store, a running store, or a podiatrist to get properly measured.


Kick up your calcium

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Your body isn’t as good at absorbing calcium as you become older, so be sure to get plenty of calcium-rich foods such as dairy and leafy greens, and ask your doctor or dietitian if you should take a supplement for bone health, says Blatner, who points out that you need around 1,200 mg of calcium a day starting at age 50.

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Grab a paintbrush

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To help midlife stress, set your inner Frida Kahlo free. Mindfulness-based art therapy may help ease menopausal stress and give you a boost in other areas like eating well and relationships, recent research suggests.


Eat healthy fats

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Beth Howard writes about health and psychology from North Carolina. Her mother is among the 44 million caregivers in this country.

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