A Guide to Healthy Living in Your 50sBy Carole Anderson Lucia Reviewed by Monica Ropar, Certified Nutritionist Science-Backed
If you’re like many women, turning 50 may have been a bit of a shock for you, maybe even downright difficult as you contemplated the inevitable passing of time and eyed some surprising changes to your body. This milestone — half a century on this earth! — certainly is momentous, but that doesn’t mean it can’t bring a renewed commitment to your health and well-being.
In fact, now may be the perfect time to dedicate some well-deserved time and attention to yourself. After all, you may have fewer work commitments, children who are more independent or perhaps out of the house, and more freedom to do what’s right for you. Why not use this opportunity to commit to self-care, to give yourself the same nurturing that you’ve been giving to others for all these years?
So get in the habit, starting today, of putting yourself at the top of your priority list. We’re here to help, with four tips for aging well and staying healthy in your 50s.
1. Still having menopause symptoms? It’s not uncommon.
Even if you’ve already gone through the three stages of menopause, prepare yourself: You may have symptoms for a while longer. A small study of postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 70 found that those aged 50 to 55 had more severe hot flashes and night sweats than women who were 60 and above.1 Women in younger age groups also had mood and memory changes that were more intense than the older set, the researchers found. The good news: The severity of these symptoms declined with age.
Photo by yacobchuk on iStock
If you, too, are still experiencing menopausal symptoms, the Cleveland Clinic recommends the following to help with hot flashes and night sweats:2
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods. Doing so can decrease both the number and severity of hot flashes.
- Reduce your sugar intake. Eating too much sugar might induce hot flashes. Use these 10 tips to cut sugar out of your diet.
- Incorporate plant-based foods into your diet. Plant estrogens, naturally found in certain plants, may help reduce hot flashes. Chickpeas, lentils and soybeans are good sources; so are beans, crushed or ground flaxseed, fruit, grains, red clover and vegetables. (If you're following the Jenny Craig program, check with your coach before making any swaps or changes to your plan to ensure you stay on track!)
- Reduce the temperature in your home. Also, use a fan while you sleep.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight. Women who are overweight tend to have worse hot flashes.
- Stay active. Women who are sedentary seem to suffer more hot flashes, so aim to get regular exercise, preferably in a cool environment.
- Try diaphragmatic breathing. Practice slow, deep abdominal breathing in the morning and evening, and whenever you feel a hot flash coming on.
To help with mood swings, regularly practice a self-calming activity, such as yoga or meditation. Another tip: Make an effort to stay connected with your friends, family and community, even if it is virtually.2
Here are a few more tips to keep yourself healthy during menopause.
2. You may need to modify your workouts
There’s no way around it: Our bodies change as we age, and that may make it prudent for you to switch up your exercise routine from what you did when you were younger, especially if you’ve been less active or sedentary. According to Harvard Health, we lose muscle mass and strength as we get older, and our muscles become less flexible.3 This can set you up for relatively minor injuries if you overdo it, such as torn or strained muscles and joint pain.
If you have been less active of late but want to start exercising again, be sure to get your doctor’s OK before starting. Once you’ve been given the all-clear, start slowly; try doing 20-30 minutes of low-intensity exercise at the outset and building up from there. Don’t forget to warm up your muscles before exercising to increase blood flow to the muscles and make them more pliable. Walking briskly for five minutes, or spending five minutes on an elliptical machine, are good examples of warm-up activities you can do. Cool down after you finish exercising with gentle stretches.3
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As you work toward your fitness goals, aim to eventually get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, or a combination of both). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also advises practicing muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week.4
New to exercise? It’s never too late to start! Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Exercise for everything you need to get going.
3. See your doctor regularly
Even if you’re healthy and aging well, it’s important to have regular checkups with your doctor not only to catch any potential problems that may crop up, but to be sure you’re getting necessary tests and screenings. Following are some recommendations from the National Institutes of Health for people in their 50s:5
- Have your height, weight and body mass index (BMI) checked at each visit. Check your BMI here with our free tool.
- Your blood pressure should be checked yearly.
- Depending on your risk factors, you should have a mammogram every year or two; talk to your doctor.
- You should be screened for diabetes at least every three years.
- Your cholesterol should be checked at least every five years.
4. Consider tweaking your diet
The Cleveland Clinic recommends the “50 and over” diet to help keep your heart healthy, maintain your weight and stay strong. Elements of the diet include:6
- Get plenty of B12. As you age, your amounts of stomach acid decrease, making it more difficult to absorb nutrients such as vitamin B12. Since this vitamin helps support healthy nerve and blood cells, focus on eating foods that are naturally high in it, such as fortified breakfast cereals, eggs, tuna fish and salmon.7
- Cut back on sodium. You’re more likely to develop high blood pressure as you get older because your blood vessels become less elastic with age. Since sodium can increase blood pressure, it’s wise to cut back, especially as you get older.8 To decrease your intake of sodium, make sure to read nutrition labels carefully and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables which are naturally low in sodium. Try to get in the habit of using herbs and spices to add flavor to your food instead of table salt. Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium or less per day. Here are 7 more tips to reduce your sodium intake.
- Load up on fruits and veggies. Focus on eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Doing so will increase your fiber intake, which can help you stay full longer.
- Boost your calcium. After the age of 50, your body breaks down more bone than it builds, which increases your risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures. To complicate matters, your body’s ability to absorb calcium starts to decline in your 40s, as do your levels of vitamin D (which is needed to absorb calcium). To help your bones stay healthy, focus on getting plenty of bone-building calcium every day; good sources include broccoli, kale, low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt, sardines and spinach. Vitamin D-rich foods include salmon, mushrooms, carrots, apples and chicken.9
- Eat a Mediterranean-style diet. Studies have found that diets high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, with moderate amounts of wine and olive oil, bring numerous benefits, including lower risk of heart disease and protection against some chronic diseases.
Photo by Foodie Factor on Pexels
Did you know? Jenny Craig incorporates elements of the Mediterranean diet. Learn the differences between Jenny Craig and the Mediterranean diet here.
In addition, if your blood pressure is above 120/80 and you are otherwise healthy, the American Heart Association (AHA) advises increasing your potassium levels through your diet.10 This mineral can help manage blood pressure by reducing the effects of sodium; it also helps ease tension in the walls of your blood vessels, which can in turn help lower blood pressure.
Good food sources of potassium include apricots, avocado, bananas, cantaloupe and honeydew melon, fat-free or low-fat milk, fat-free yogurt, grapefruit, greens and sweet potatoes. Find out more ways to naturally lower your blood pressure.
Turning the big 5-0 certainly is a momentous milestone — and we’d like to encourage you to view your fifth decade as an opportunity. An opportunity to continue to live in vibrant health, to appreciate all of the love and accomplishments you have enjoyed so far, and to look ahead to the wonderful experiences your life will continue to bring. Here’s to healthy living in your 50s and beyond!
Have you noticed some extra pounds starting to creep on? Do you need help tweaking your diet now that you’re getting older? Jenny Craig can help! With delicious balanced meals and dedicated coaching, our plans are designed to help you reach your goals. View our plans and get started today!
Carole Anderson Lucia
Carole is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California who specializes in health and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, Yahoo News, Viv magazine and Lifescript. She's won several national awards for her work including a National Science Award and two National Health Information awards. A frequent contributor to Jenny Craig’s Blog, Healthy Habits, she enjoys gardening, spending time at the beach and adopting far too many rescue animals in her spare time.
Favorite healthy snack: jicama dipped in homemade hummus
Monica Ropar, Nutritionist
Monica has over 15 years of experience with Jenny Craig, as an expert nutrition and program resource. She develops content, training, tools and strategies for the program to support clients throughout their weight loss journey, and offers inspiration, weight loss tips, lifestyle strategies and motivation. Monica holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Dietetics and Exercise, Fitness & Health from Purdue University and continues to stay current on weight management research, consumer trends and healthcare developments.
Favorite healthy snack: raw veggie sticks with homemade hummus
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and reviewed by certified professionals.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on the topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
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Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig