In a game of test cricket, when a batsman reaches his half-century, it’s lauded as a milestone. But for some women, the very thought of reaching their 50s is nothing to cheer about. As someone who has been through the troubling thirties and the fabulous 40s, I can say with unabashed self-righteousness that life just keeps getting better. Unlike my eyesight, hindsight is 20/20 and if I had even an inkling of how liberated and content I would feel at this age, I wouldn’t have worried so much.
Fortunately, times are a changing, and turning 50 these days is not the same for us in the 21st century as it was for women 50 years ago. Let’s take a look at how far we have come since the 1960s:
- It was unheard of for women to earn the same money as men even when they did the same work (as well as running a household and raising a family)
- Women were not encouraged or allowed to attend law school, medical school, be airline pilots, movie directors, TV presenters or any other career deemed a ‘male only’ domain.
- The contraceptive pill became widely available, and along with the recognition of the right to abortion, they were not as tied to the home as they had been.
- Child care became a big issue, and with new government funding and initiatives, this allowed women to enter the workforce without bearing the stigma and guilt of leaving their children
- Women had very little available in the way of education about their bodies, and how to look after them
- Women command the same pay rates and even higher than men. They hold positions of power, including prime-ministers, high court judges and governor generals
- The advent of anti-ageing treatments and cosmetic enhancements, both surgical and non-surgical have given women the opportunity to stay looking more youthful
- Medical science has come a long way in the provision of information and education about detecting and preventing diseases and conditions such as cancer, osteoporosis, dementia, and menopause, so we are living longer, healthier, more fulfilling lives.
- There is so much more emphasis on natural health, nutrition and exercise and many options to achieve it, such as health clubs, spas, gyms, yoga classes, naturopathy etc.
If you are a woman in your 50s, your family is probably well and truly grown, and you may even have added ‘grandma’ to your long list of achievements. It’s a time when options as to how you live your life suddenly appear as if by magic. You may be able to travel on a whim, give up work, or change your career if you so desire, take up a hobby or passion you’ve always wanted to follow but never had the time. You become more self assured, philosophical and accepting of the fact that ageing is a natural part of life. But (there’s always a ‘but’…), it’s also more important than ever to be aware that statistically, women who have reached this level of maturity are also more susceptible to age-related diseases and conditions. The good news is that it’s more possible now than ever to keep your health and wellbeing in check, and under control.
For me, the realisation that I’m not invincible came quite abruptly earlier this year. On my 56th birthday, I suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, (bleeding in the brain) most likely related to very high blood pressure. Even if you loathe visits to doctors, as I do, I cannot stress highly enough how important it is to at least have your blood pressure monitored regularly. It really is true what they say. It is a silent killer, and I had absolutely no warning whatsoever that I was about to have my world rocked.
Not all women are the same, and there are scores of varying factors that can influence your health. Lifestyle, genetics, diet, age, pre-existing ailments or conditions, stress levels…the list goes on.
But if you love your life and want to keep living it to the max, then there are some simple ways to stay on top of your health and make it all the way to that magical century.
1. Get enough sleep
If you are going through some of the unpleasant symptoms of menopause, getting enough sleep is easier said than done. But if you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases hormones that affect your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. A good 7-9 hours sleep per night helps your brain store memories, keep your mood high and may even promote higher levels of human growth hormone, helping safeguard against loss of bone and muscle mass. If you are having trouble then here are 20 ways to help you sleep better every night.
2. Eat more salad
According to research at Harvard School of Public Health, dark lettuce, Swiss chard, and spinach can effectively lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Eating these vegetables are part of what doctors call a ‘prudent pattern’ of eating, which also includes lots of fruit, legumes, fish, poultry, and whole grains. Women who eat the most of these foods have a third fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease than those who eat the least. If this sounds a little boring, here are 14 ways to make veggies a more exciting dietary option.
3. Start a multivitamin routine
Getting enough of a wide variety of nutrients—including zinc, iron, betacarotene, folic acid, and vitamins B6, B12, C, D, and E—boosts immune response in older people. Natural multivitamins are best, as many laboratory manufactured supplements contain fillers, preservatives, colourings etc. Bee pollen is 100% natural, and is considered one of Mother Nature’s most powerful superfoods, containing every vital nutrient known to man. Here’s where you can get the best pollen available.
4. Exercise both your body AND your brain
Giving your body a regular workout is a no-brainer. This simply means regular movement, not necessarily enrolling in a gym. Gentle aerobic exercise like walking, swimming, gardening, yoga, or Pilates are all ways to keep your body fit and your bones healthy. But when it comes to your brain, top scientists agree that the more you exercise it, the sharper you’ll be. Playing regular brain games can help significantly. It has been proven that Omega 3 is good for your brain. This important element can be found in certain nuts, oily fish and some vegetables. But if you prefer, a daily Omega 3 supplement can take the guesswork out of whether you are getting enough.
5. Give Something Back
The act of helping others can really reinforce that you are a valuable person. If you have given up work, or are thinking of retiring, then this would be a perfect opportunity to offer yourself for some occasional (or regular) volunteer work. If you are feeling really adventurous, and free to travel, you could even volunteer overseas. Studies undertaken at the University of Ulster have shown that people aged 55 and older who undertook regular volunteer work had a 44% lower risk of dying over 5 years, than those who were not involved. Volunteering counteracts the effects of loneliness, depression and feelings of isolation, and can have a positive effect on overall health.
From personal experience, I can confirm that enjoying life in your 50s is much easier than in the previous two decades. You can let go of the anxieties that have plagued you for the last twenty years and accept that you are who you are.
If, like many women you’ve been a bit lost for a few years, I can say with enthusiasm and conviction that now is the perfect time to go and find yourself. Enjoy your journey.