As you reach middle age, you’re more confident, more secure, and you have more freedom to do the things you love. But hitting 50 may also bring some not-so-welcome changes. A shift in hormones may be to blame for some of these changes, but many of the side effects that come with aging — weight gain, chronic disease, injury — can be attributed to lifestyle choices.
In the video below, UVA Health System cardiologist and UVA Club Red clinical ambassador Brandy Patterson, MD, shares five things you can begin doing now to help ensure your 50s are your best decade yet.
5 Changes You Can Make Today
- Mind Your Heart
Your risk for heart disease increases as you get older, starting at age 45 for men and age 55 for women. Be sure that you are keeping tabs on your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and treating both appropriately as needed to reduce your risk.
- Tweak Your Diet
Metabolism begins to slow over time and your body responds to insulin differently, so your blood sugar levels often remain higher. This can lead to weight gain and even Type 2 diabetes. So now more than ever, it’s important to make smart food choices: cut back on refined carbs like white flower and sugars. Enjoy more fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy instead.
- Build Mass
Muscle mass declines as you age by as much as 3 to 5 percent per decade after age 30. Genetics, hormones, illness or injury can hasten the loss of muscle tissue, but the biggest contributor to this decline is a sedentary lifestyle. If you don’t use it, you lose it. But it is possible to rebuild muscle mass even in your later years. The key is to incorporate resistance exercises like weight training into your regular routine. This boost in muscle mass will not only keep you strong, it will help increase your metabolism and limit bone loss.
- Maintain Flexibility and Balance
Exercises like yoga and pilates help strengthen your core and improve flexibility. This is important because it will help reduce stiffness that can lead to joint pain and keep you balanced, so you’ll be at less risk for injury.
- Be Proactive
You are your own best advocate, so speak up and seek out the care you need. Stay on top of your health screenings and talk to your doctor about any symptoms you may be having, including those you assume are just part of aging.