Beyond 40: Health Risks for Women & How To Avoid Them


older black womanIt seems that most of what we hear about women’s health beyond the age of 40 years old is not good; you will get an ever-increasing waistline, your bones will start to become brittle and don’t forget, you’ll probably be approaching menopause so you can expect a list of uncomfortable symptoms.

As if that were not enough, women are also told that no matter how hard they try, it will progressively get harder to stay at their ideal weight because their metabolism will start to slow down. Well, we can’t refute all the information about what happens beyond 40 but we can offer some information about how to avoid being vulnerable to the health risks.

Below are the top health risks for women Over 40:

Dieting (or not)

You are what you eat. Unfortunately, many American women don’t eat the right things, and their unbalanced diets backfire into obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, anorexia, heart disease, and other health problems. At one extreme, more women than men exclude even nutritious foods in pursuit of a diet that emphasizes one goal (usually calorie restriction or fat restriction). Others go the other way — ignoring all sense of food planning, which leads them to over-consume processed foods, animal fats, and sugars.

Oops: More than 60 percent of American women are overweight, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. More than one-third are obese.

Silver lining: The middle ground — a healthful diet that doesn’t skimp on nutrition or overdo empty calories — doesn’t require much planning or thinking and helps stabilize a healthy weight. Nutritionists emphasize focusing on a mainly plant-based diet featuring whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables, healthy oils, and fish — what’s become known as the “Mediterranean diet.” Its anti-inflammatory, high-antioxidant benefits include a 33 percent reduced risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

 Caregiving stress

The average caregiver in the U.S. is a woman in her late 40s. Many are “sandwichers,” looking after both children and aging parents. With little time or opportunity for adequate self-care, they’re prone to “caregiving stress syndrome,” a condition linked to a medical chart full of health woes, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, dementia, and back strain. More than 70 percent of family caregivers show signs of depression.

Men care for loved ones, too, of course. But women tend to have more negative experiences as caregivers than men, who focus more on problem-solving and less on emotional nuances, says I-Fen Lin, a sociologist at Bowling Green State University. Wives caring for husbands report the highest stress load, her research shows.

Oops: Caregivers are twice as likely to manage stress by smoking, according to the American Psychological Foundation’s 2012 Stress in America report. And they’re 25 times more likely to binge drink. Emotional eating is another common coping strategy that backfires on health.

Silver lining: When stress is managed with good self-care and time off, many caregivers report a deeply enriching experience. Some caregivers even show improved longevity, better memory, and better physical strength, as well as a sense of meaning and purpose, say Boston University researchers.

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