Hitting your mid-century milestone is something to celebrate—and can require changes in your health routine. Along with eating right, keeping tabs on your blood pressure and staying away from tobacco smoke, these steps may make this your healthiest decade ever and keep the mojo going.
Your doctor should be asking "Can you hear this?" at your next physical. Donna Grant, Au.D., an audiologist at Signia, says turning 50 marks an ideal time for a test to determine the status of your hearing. "From there you should have annual checkups to track any changes that occur, in order to preserve your quality of life should you experience any hearing loss."
Dips in estrogen after age 50 sap your skin of the collagen needed to maintain that dewy glow and wrinkle-free appearance. Slow time's attempt to tack years on your face. Before makeup, apply a mineral-based sunscreen followed by retinoid creams that stimulate collagen production, says dermatologist Michelle F. Henry.
Embrace This Season
A stressed-out state of mind can leave you at a 65 percent greater risk of a heart attack, says 2015 research from the American Heart Association. Seek joy as you enter a new period of life. "I've survived child-rearing, marriage, divorce and those wasted opinions on whether people know that I have a denture," says Arlinda McIntosh, 59. "If you live long enough, you're going to experience something. I love my fifties and the freedom of aging, from graying hair to AARP senior discounts. I am uninhibited and unapologetic, and I spontaneously dance in public." The New Jersey fashion designer and creator of Sofistafunk, the Skirt Co., says there's significant peace of mind knowing your legacy is a trail of your knowledge, generosity and kindness. Be inspired by her adventures on Instagram at @funkingafter50.
Take a Shot
You're already getting an annual flu shot, right? If not, make that a priority this year—and each one after—because the flu hits our community hard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more Blacks die from influenza than any other race. And the risk of dying from the flu inches upward with every birthday. When you turn 60, expect to have a shingles vaccine, and start a pneumococcal vaccination at age 65.
Follow Your Passion
You can significantly lower production of the stress hormone cortisol with a little creativity, suggests research from Drexel University. Coloring with the grandkids, taking a ceramics class or even drawing your dream dress for your family reunion can cut cortisol by a whopping 75 percent. That's a good thing, because having a beehive of emotional stress can leave you more vulnerable to type 2 diabetes, according to a Rice University study. Mental tension and turmoil triggers an inflammatory chain reaction in the body that's associated with a greater risk of diabetes and high blood-sugar levels. Sustained stress beats up on your brain too, says data from Ohio State University. It can erode your memory and your immune system, upping the odds you'll have trouble navigating your local streets or remembering where you left your car keys. After raising her son, Lisa V. Arrington, 53, decided it was time to pursue her interest in modeling. "Being brave enough to explore my potential and expand myself led me to enter the world of modeling as a mature, curvy model," she says.
Check Your Colon
Ninety percent of colon cancer diagnoses come after age 50, says Tanya R. Gure, M.D., chief of Geriatric Medicine at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Cut your odds of getting this deadly disease by scheduling your colon cancer screening as soon as you reach this milestone. Gure agrees that early detection can increase survival as well as discover benign polyps that could turn into cancer down the road.
Amp Up Your Workout
It's time to add strength and resistance training to your daily routine, says Robert Williams, a strength and performance coach at Abbott's EAS Sports Nutrition. "You'll improve the look and performance of your muscles, which enhances the strength and density of your bones, because your muscles attach to your bones." Start with squats, lunges and planks, using only your body weight to refresh and prime your muscles. After a few weeks, progress to using dumbbells while doing two to three sets of 6 to 12 repetitions. "The exercise and weights should require your full attention, make you sweat and slightly elevate your heart rate," says Williams.
Strengthen your muscles with a regular fitness regimen.
Fill Up On Fiber
Research says eating 30 to 35 grams a day can lower your risk of bowel disease, colon cancer and even rheumatoid arthritis. New data from Purdue University suggest that women 50 and older should focus on foods that list soluble corn fiber as an ingredient to help prevent postmenopausal bone loss and the risk of fracture.
"What are my health goals this year?" is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself. Once you arrive at your answer, share it with your doctor at your next physical. "Your doctor needs to know if you want to lose weight or run a marathon," says Steven Wilson, M.D., a family practitioner and longevity specialist in Redlands, California. "That information can help the two of you formulate a health plan tailored to both your health needs and goals for the second half of life."
"I love my fifties and the freedom of aging, from graying hair to AARP senior discounts. I am uninhibited and unapologetic."
—ARLINDA MCINTOSH, @FUNKINGAFTER50
"Being brave enough to explore my potential and expand myself led me to enter the world of modeling as a mature, curvy model." —LISA V. ARRINGTON, ESSEX COUNTY, NEW JERSEY