Turning 50: A Guide To Feeling Your Best  

Hitting the half-century mark is a great excuse for throwing a fabulous birthday party—and making a fresh commitment to your health.

By taking a balanced approach to handling the changes that come with age, you’re likely to feel better all over.  Exercising, eating well, keeping your brain active and seeing your doctor regularly for blood pressure checks, mammograms and other routine screenings can help lessen the effects of aging.

Eating right

If it seems like every cookie and chip you eat goes straight to your waistline these days, you might not be imagining it. Research shows fat does tend to accumulate around the waist for many women in middle age, sometimes creating the dreaded “muffin top.” But it’s not just a matter of zipping up those jeans: Having the willpower to say no to junk food like chips, desserts and sugary sodas is good for your health too. Women whose waistlines measure more than 35 inches are at greater risk for heart disease and other health issues, according to research from the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease.

Exercising your options

Moving your body as you move through the menopause years can help alleviate some of the aches and pains of middle age, even if it’s tough to get started.

Even a little movement is better than none, and you don’t have to train for a marathon. Make gradual changes to add exercise to your routine instead of being overambitious and falling short of your goals.

Ideally, you should exercise at least three times a week and incorporate strength training along with aerobic activity. If you can get in five days of exercise each week, better still. And it’s never too late to start: Even couch potatoes can reverse muscle loss.

Facts of life

For most women in their 50s, menopause is a fact of life.

With the changes in hormone production, watch for emotional issues that can crop up, such as anxiety, irritability and depression. Your risk of diabetes and bone loss also increases.

Hormone treatment can help, but should be tailored to the individual and checked after six weeks to make sure it is appropriate. In proper balance, hormone treatment can improve your mood, energy and sleep and help eliminate incontinence and aches and pains.

Staying young at heart

There’s strength in numbers, and aging is no exception. Cultivating a circle of friends for support, people who will understand what you’re going through, who can commiserate and offer emotional support..

Aging gracefully often depends on your mindset, agrees Colin Milner, chief executive officer at the International Council on Active Aging in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Staying engaged in life, whether by working, volunteering or maintaining social ties, can prevent the feeling of lethargy that works against an active lifestyle, he says. Help out in a school, join a book club or start a new hobby, preferably one that will engage your mind.