It seems to happen all of a sudden. One day you wake up and you're 50 years old. How did that happen? All of those things you've put off doing are catching up to you. You've started to notice some achiness, some stiffness, or perhaps the loss of muscle tone. You find you get tired easily or that you have trouble sleeping. Your body is not the one you remember.
You've raised a family and/or built a career. You've worked feverishly all the while knowing you'd like to do a few things for yourself to keep things in working order. But, you've been busy. Now, at age 50, it's time to really take stock of things. It's time to take some control over how you will spend the rest of your life.
I'm not talking about making a bucket list or identifying life goals that put you on a course to new and exciting things, although that's a great idea as well. I'm talking about taking stock of your physical well being, taking a critical look at those little signs that say problems may be headed your way if you don't act now.
To get you started, here are a few things to do in the coming weeks:
1. Consider having a colonoscopy.
Some people have these screening procedures done earlier in life, but many of us don't. Generally a colonoscopy is covered by insurance as a routine preventative measure. It can identify early signs of colon cancer and other colon problems that can create significant digestive problems as well. Of course if you have a history of colon cancer in your family, having a colonoscopy shouldn't wait until you're 50 years old.
A colonoscopy takes only 15 minutes or so to complete and is painless. The only difficult part is the preparation prior to the procedure that requires you to cleanse the colon so that the physician can view it well.
2. Consider having a bone density scan.
Osteoporosis is a common problem for many older women. The problem may begin in childhood if our bones fail to develop well due to dietary reasons, low activity levels, and so forth. However, as we age we need to discover if we are developing problems so that we can do all that is possible to slow the progression of this debilitating disease.
Increasing calcium and Vitamin D intake can help, as can other dietary changes and increased weight bearing exercise. In addition however, there are a number of medications available that can aid in this fight. However, to identify the most effective intervention, you need to have a bone scan to identify whether the problem exists and how severe it may be.
In most instances, insurance will cover a bone density scan as a routine preventative measure for most women.
3. Consider having your cholesterol levels checked.
Even if you have had your cholesterol levels checked previously, it's a good idea to have it done again. You LDL, triglycerides, Total Cholesterol, and so forth can be fine at one point in your life, but become problematic later. Our diet changes and our level of activity changes as well.
Knowing your cholesterol levels can help give you the information you need to thwart a number of heart and vascular problems that could derail all of your other plans. Heart disease and stroke are increasingly common in women. Simple dietary and lifestyle changes are often all it takes to get things back in line, but the longer you wait the more damage can be done. In more extreme cases, medications can provide the remedy needed.
4. Keep up with your annual mammograms and Pap Smears.
Just because you are aging and going through menopause, doesn't mean that you are excluded from the risk of the various cancers that affect women in alarming numbers.
5. Consider adding appropriate strength training and cardiovascular exercise to your routine.
While some women remain very active throughout their lives, many do not due to the pressures of work and family. Now is the time to place some priority on your own physical well being if you haven't done so already. For those who are active, you may want to consider whether or not you need to add other components to your workout routine.
Consulting with your physician is important. In general however, women lose a great deal of muscle mass after the age of 40 if they do nothing additional to slow this decline. For this reason, basic weight lifting and strength training may be a good thing to consider. Weight bearing exercise is also beneficial for maintaining healthy bones. Cardiovascular exercise, like walking, bicycling and so forth, helps you maintain a healthy weight, improve heart and lung function, and reduce cholesterol as well.