50s & 60s — Activity, attitude are key

50s & 60s — Activity, attitude are key

For 62-year-old Susan Gold, looking forward to her golden years is all about eating healthy, keeping active – and, perhaps most importantly, maintaining a positive outlook.

“Attitude makes so much difference in living a healthy life,” said the Biddeford-based author. “You can deal with almost anything if you have a positive attitude.”

And post-menopausal women like herself have a considerable amount to deal with as they age. According to health writer Diane Atwood, women age 60-plus should get regular physicals, mammograms, dental exams, diabetes screenings, pelvic exams, urinalysis and electrocardiograms, as well as hearing, blood pressure, thyroid, glaucoma, cholesterol and bone density tests. Women should begin many of these measures, in fact, in their 50s.

Additionally, staying mentally active and protecting against falls is crucial for the 60-plus set, according to health experts, as is regular exercise and healthy eating (both of which should be a lifelong practice).

Gold, for her part, keeps up with regular physicals and mammograms (which she does “religiously,” she said), and also sees several specialists each year – including an endocrinologist, rheumatologist and an orthopedic surgeon – because she had thyroid cancer and suffers from rheumatoid arthritis.

Still, because she and her husband are self-employed, health care is a concern. They pay more than $10,000 a year in premiums, and each have a $3,000 deductible.

So in some ways, she said, they have to “ration” their health care, although they are very aware of preventative medicine. But those concerns should ease for her, at least, in 2014, when, she said, she’ll be eligible for Medicare.

In the meantime, exercise has been a particularly important piece for Gold – she’s trying to walk three days a week, or, when the weather is lousy, ride a stationary bike. She also keeps busy with her grandchildren, as well as with regular travel, home repairs, and volunteer work with her husband.

Regular activity is key for maintaining her health, she noted, but also, because she’s had a couple of nasty falls – breaking both her arms as a result – she’d like to build up strength and stamina.

As for diet, she and her husband grow their own vegetables, bake their own bread, and buy most of their dairy goods from a local farmers market.

“My motto is pretty much moderation,” said Gold, who runs Custom Communications, which has offices in Biddeford and Portland. But also, “it’s really important is to be active and stay happy.”

Looking to the future, meanwhile, Gold is readying for a formal retirement about four years from now (although, she says, she’ll always write), and noted a particular concern around breast cancer (which took her mother at age 61), and Alzheimer’s, which her father had, and which is “such a burden on the family,” she said.

Ultimately, though, “I feel like I’m healthy,” Gold said, and re-stressed the attitude piece. “You can still live a very worthwhile life even if you are not physically healthy.”


Health Screenings

(UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES)

• Physical every one to two years

• Height and weight at each physical

• Diabetes screening every three years

• Mammogram every one to two years

• Breast self-exam monthly; clinical exam by provider yearly

• Pelvic exam yearly

• Pap test every three years

• HPV test every three years

• Blood pressure every two years

• Dental exam every six to 12 months; floss daily

• Colonoscopy or other colorectal cancer screening every five to 10 years

• Glaucoma test every three years

• Vision test every two to four years until 55, then every one to three years

• Hearing test every three to five years

• Cholesterol screening every four to five years

• Chlamydia test if you have new or multiple partners

• HIV or other STD tests, discuss with your health care provider

Immunizations

  • Flu shot every flu season
  • Shingles vaccine
  • Tetanus booster every 10 years

Health tips

After 50 the risk of heart disease and stroke goes up.

Heart attack risk factors

(from American Cancer Society)

Family history

Previous heart attack or stroke

Smoking

High cholesterol

High blood pressure

Physical inactivity

Obesity

As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

Menopause

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – not as widely prescribed because of concerns about breast cancer and other possible side effects, but still used short term to help with serious menopause symptoms such as hot flashes or mood swings.

The risks and benefits of HRT change depending on a woman’s health status, age, and they type of hormone replacement being used.

Ovarian cancer is most common in woman 50 and older, although it can strike younger women.

Symptoms are subtle: bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, frequent urination.

Susan Gold

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