Four health mistakes women in their 50s need to stop making

Change your bad habits now and it could mean you live a longer and healthier life

Taking care of our health becomes even more of a priority as we get older. While some aspects of ageing are inevitable, there are things you can do now to help ensure that you live a long and healthy life. Here are four health mistakes you need to stop making now.
BA9GBE Doctor with a blood pressure monitor
See also: Three things NEVER to do if you think you're having a heart attack

Mistake 1: You don't know your blood pressure numbers
The risk of cardiovascular increases significantly with age, and it's even more important to start thinking about the health of your heart and circulation once you get into your sixties.

According to Age UK, around half of over-65s in the UK have high blood pressure, but because it generally doesn't produce any symptoms it often goes unnoticed. Left untreated, hypertension can weaken the heart and damage the walls of the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

If you haven't had your blood pressure checked for a while, make sure you see the doctor or think about investing in a monitor to use at home. A normal reading would be 130/80mmHg.

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Mistake 2: You slow down
If you don't make exercise a regular part of your life, it's easy to slow down as you get into your sixties. Yet not exercising combined with a slower metabolism, means you're likely to gain weight, which is bad news for your health.

Thanks to a natural drop in metabolism, a woman in her sixties needs around 250 calories less per day than in her thirties in order to maintain body weight. In addition, older women need to eat more protein in order to maintain the same muscle mass as a younger woman.

Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity every day, anything that gets the heart pumping. Women should also do strength training with weights to increase muscle mass and help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, which increases with age.

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Mistake 3: You put up with menopause
Most women suffer with problems associated with the menopause, from hot flushes to vaginal dryness and itching, but that doesn't mean you have to put up with them. There are lots of self-help tips to try, from changing your diet to having cognitive behavioural therapy.

If menopausal symptoms are a real problem for you, speak to your GP. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is effective in treating a number of the most common symptoms, including hot flushes, cystitis and vaginal discomfort.

HRT can be used as a cream, gel, tablet, skin patch of implant but should only be used in the short term, i.e., no longer than five years. Like all medications, there are side effects. HRT is associated with is a slightly increased risk of developing breast, endometrial and ovarian cancer for instance, so you'll want to talk things over with your doctor before going ahead.

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Mistake 5: You forget to exercise "down there"
When was the last time you gave your pelvic floor muscles a work out?

Childbirth, hormonal changes and even constipation can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, increasing the risk of incontinence and bladder problems.

It's easy enough to exercise down there – you just have to remember to do it! Simply squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles as strongly and as quickly as possible then let go. Do this 10 or 20 times, or until you feel your pelvic floor muscles fatigue, three times a day.

Or consider investing in a pelvic-floor exerciser, which you can buy from Amazon UK from around £15.

Mistake 4: You don't exercise your brain
Just like the body, there's truth to the "use it or lose it" adage when it comes to maintaining cognitive function. Reading, playing games, solving crossword puzzles and doing Sudoku will all help to keep your mind active.

Consider taking up something new – whether that's a hobby, language or a musical instrument. Research suggests that learning something completely new helps to increase the number of connections in the brain – so it pays to challenge yourself once in a while!

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