For women, turning 50 is a milestone. Society tells you it's a crossroads. Your body underscores the point. Every woman over 50 feels it.
"The kids are going to college, parents are aging. There may be marriage problems, job challenges. It's definitely a stressful time," says Jennifer Zreloff, MD, an internist with the executive health program at Emory University School of Medicine. "You also find that you can't abuse your body as much as when you were younger. Your body just isn't as resilient as it used to be. It's a time when women need to seriously take stock of their lifestyle habits, and make some changes."
For many women over 50, it's also a time of self-reflection, says Cynthia Barnett, EdD, a retirement lifestyle specialist in Norwalk, Conn. "You begin thinking about your purpose in life, about finding what makes you happy and fulfilled. You may be ready for something new, work you love to do."
To keep mind and health in optimal shape, here's your to-do list:
___Get lots of sleep. Maybe you got along with four hours a night when you were 40, but your body can't take that abuse when you're older.
___Set aside quiet time every morning. Meditate, pray, visualize your day. Read something that inspires you. Focus on self-renewal.
___Be optimistic. Take time to understand what you want out of life. Find purpose and meaning. Then spread the joy to others.
___Get cancer screenings. Colon screening begins at 50. Mammograms should be annual. Pap smears continue every one to three years if you are sexually active.
___Check your bones with a bone density scan. Talk to your doctor about calcium and vitamin D. Get at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily.
___Get an annual checkup. You need blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, and thyroid tested. Also, talk to your doctor about any symptoms of depression, which can be common for women over 50. These include: persistent sadness or pessimism, feelings of worthlessness, loss of hope, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and insomnia.
___Get plenty of aerobic exercise (like walking). It builds strong bones. It also reduces heart disease risk. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women.
___Take up yoga. Yoga is a great stretching exercise and enhances flexibility. Flexibility gives you better balance, so you don't fall -- which avoids fractures.
___Have fun. Go bungee jumping, rock climbing, backpacking, skiing, dancing -- whatever makes you happy. Act like you feel, and you'll feel youthful.
___Eat colorful foods. It's important for women over 50 to get plenty of fruits and vegetables. And eat more fatty fish (like salmon) to get heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Learn to love whole grains, lentils, and skinless lean protein. Treat yourself to sweets, but only occasionally. When you use oils, lean toward the good ones, like extra-virgin olive oil.
___Drink sensibly. For all women, not just women over 50, one alcoholic drink a night is plenty.
___Find a creative outlet. It helps prevent depression -- and depression affects memory. Having a creative outlet helps stimulate your mind. Take up painting. Create a wonderful garden. Engaging your creativity stimulates your brain more than reading, and certainly more than TV.
___Make your home an oasis. Eliminate clutter. Fill your home with great music, books, and friends. Withdraw and recharge when you need to.
___Associate with positive-focused people. They will not drain your valuable energy with complaints. They will help you pursue the best that life has to offer.
For women over 50, that pursuit can take any form and take a woman anywhere. Make now the very best time of your life.