Living Up to Your Age
With each generation living longer and women outliving men by several
years, a woman’s quality of life depends on how well she feels. So
women need to start managing their health at a younger age.
“Age-related conditions - high blood pressure, diabetes, physical
aches and pains, obesity, cancer and heart disease - can be minimized by
eating heart healthy and getting enough exercise,” says Susan Murrmann,
M.D., an obstetrician/gynecologist who works with Baptist Memorial
Hospital for Women in Memphis, Tenn.
The choices women make in their 20s and 30s can affect them as they
age. Simple things, such as diet and exercise, regardless of how many
times you put them off or tell yourself they don’t matter, really make a
“It boils down to eating right and exercise – two main things,” says Murrmann.
That means eating less dessert and maybe changing the way you eat
altogether. Murrmann recommends a diet that includes more protein and
fewer carbohydrates, especially as you get older. Plus, women need to
add other nutrients to their diets.
“The basic dietary things women need to do include watching fats and
adding soy, vitamin E and a multivitamin to their daily regimen,” says
Melvinie Seymore, M.D., obstetrician/gynecologist who also works with
Baptist’s Women’s Hospital.
A sensible diet and exercise, coupled with regular visits to your
physician and appropriate health screenings, can help prevent diseases
and lead to early detection and treatment. Seymore also recommends women
do preventive things, such as keeping a family history.
“I tell my patients that’s their legacy – leave that information for your family,” says Seymore.
Knowing your family history allows you and your children to know your
health risks and what to avoid. Another factor that affects women as
they age is stress.
"The older you get, the more stress you have – relationship stresses,
financial stresses, technological stresses,” says Murrmann. “People get
overwhelmed by it.”
“We live in such a fast-moving society – taking care of families and
children. For many us, we’re also taking care of parents,” says Seymore.
“The best way to take care of these things is to take care of yourself.
Take a half a day of downtime for yourself. Most of the time we’re so
busy reacting to the needs of others that we don’t assess our own
Because stress is an inevitable part of life, especially for women,
the key is learning how to deal with it. Murrmann recommends that women
choose role models to help them manage the stresses of life and to guide
them through the years as they age.
“Overall, set goals for each decade of your life,” says Murrmann.
“Choose role models and mentors, several different ones – someone that’s
in good shape, eats well or is a good mother to their family.”
Having a picture of good health and well-being clearly in mind can
help women stay focused, make wise decisions and plan for the rest of
their lives, especially as they age.
“I recommend women plan for retirement – think about what you want to
do for your second job, the second half of your life,” says Seymore.
“Most people are living into their 80s – 20 to 30 years after their
children are gone. This is the time to turn a hobby into a moneymaking
venture. Take stock of what you want to do. People who have no plans
tend to sit down and wait to die.”
Another thing that can help women make wise health decisions as they
age is gaining as much knowledge as they can about themselves and their
bodies. This is especially helpful for women facing menopause.
“As far as menopause is concerned, knowledge is power,” says
Murrmann. “If you know and research what is going on and discuss that
with your physician, you can make better choices of how to navigate
change. Have a good attitude about change, eat right and exercise.
You’ll have a better time navigating change.”
Women can find health information and other lifestyle tips at their
local library, bookstores or hospital libraries, such as the Dr. Sam P.
Patterson Library at Baptist’s Women’s Hospital. The Patterson library
also offers free seminars on health and wellness issues that affect
every aspect of a woman’s life.
Also, both Murrmann and Seymore recommend that patients develop a
relationship with their physicians. While most women start out with an
obstetrician/gynecologist, they also need to have an internist as they
The key to staying healthy as you age is pretty simple – live for
tomorrow today. Eat right. Exercise. See a physician regularly. Reduce
stress. Just be proactive about your health. If you do these things, you
will age gracefully and more importantly, happily.