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Changing Minds, Transforming Lives - Life Can Work When You Get The Right Support


Wednesday, July 24, 2013



Many adults in their 40's and 50's become increasingly aware that their body is aging. Often men start to worry about their physical performance in athletics as well as their sexual performance. Middle-aged men also become more concerned about their physical health and wellness, especially as they learn of events like a friend’s unexpected heart attack or prostate cancer. A lot of women also worry about their physical performance and appearance in middle age, but women often are more concerned with their husband’s welfare than with their own physical health. The fact is that men have a notably shorter life expectancy than women (approximately 7 year shorter on average). Thus, even as women encourage their husbands to follow good health practices, many middle-aged women begin a mental rehearsal for widowhood.

The next 30 years will probably be the time of your life’s greatest productivity. It’s not that you did not accomplish a lot when you were in your 20’s, or that you won’t make a contribution in your 60’s and 70’s, but middle adulthood is prime time for making the contribution of our life. This means most of us should be doing the right thing by the time we enter middle adulthood.
Studies continue to support that exercise at any age provides multiple benefits way beyond weight control and weight loss, from preventing osteoporosis to relieving many forms of stress and promoting heart health. It's never too late to start, according to a report from the Mayo Clinic. “Even moderate physical activity, such as walking or raking leaves, can help prevent or delay age-associated conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.” In addition, it's been found that exercise also may help improve memory problems. According to the American Medical Association (AMA).

 Menopause, the stopping of menstruation, is an important physical focus for middle-aged women. Many women in the United States have their last period at approximately the age of 51 years old, although menstruation typically is erratic for two or three years prior to its complete cessation. Many women experience physical symptoms such as hot flashes during menopause, and some experience emotional swings as well. For example, women may find themselves crying for no apparent reason. Episodes of depression also increase during the menopause cycle.

There are psychological adjustments to aging and the loss of fertility contribute to extreme emotional and uncontrollable mood swings during menopause, but so do the physical symptoms that result from fluctuations in the female sex hormone estrogen. In fact, hormone replacement therapy, the administration of artificial estrogen, alleviates many of the adverse physical symptoms of menopause. This eases some of the psychological strains associated with the symptoms. Hormone replacement therapy also reduces the subsequent risk for heart and bone disease, but it is a controversial treatment because it may simultaneously increase the risk for cancer.

Many women struggle with the challenges to identify that accompany the very real changes in their lives at the time of menopause. Still, I should note that menopause is not a trying time for other women. There are many women that find a new freedom from fear of pregnancy very liberating. Moreover many middle-aged women enjoy the empty nest - they value the increased time they have for themselves as children move away from home and start their live journey as adults.

The concerns and awareness about physical health increase for both men and women as they age into their 60's, 70's, and 80's. Chronic diseases such as hypertension become common, all five sensory systems decline in sharpness, and some cognitive abilities can also decline with advanced aging. Major social transitions also typically occur during these years. Most people retire from lifelong occupations in their early to middle 60's, a transition that is eagerly anticipated by some people and dreaded by others. Whether retirement is seen as the end of a valued career or to beginning of a new life, it requires a revaluation of family roles as husbands and wives. You have more time and expectations for each other. Another family change is that parent-child relationships begin to reverse later in life. Children increasingly find themselves worrying about and caring for their older parents.

Older adults, are more likely to suffer from chronic illness and impairments in function, are more likely to take multiple medicines, and, on average, are more likely to die than younger adults. Because of these factors, health promotion and disease prevention activities often are forgotten or overlooked.

Staying active throughout your advanced years can help you feel and look younger. Many recreational facilities, community centers and elderly care centers offer physical activity programs that allow you to meet others your age and stay active via low-impact exercise such as walking or swimming.

Physical activity is good for people at any age. Among older adults, falls are a common cause of injury and disability. Physical activity makes your bones and muscles stronger. When your muscles are strong, you're less likely to fall. If you do fall, strong bones are less likely to break.

Regular physical activity is also good for your brain. Studies have shown that people who do simple exercises (for example, walking briskly) on a regular basis are better able to make decisions than people who aren't physically active.

Senior and elderly wellness programs are put in place on a national, state and local level to help the elderly maintain the best quality of life possible during the changes that take place through aging. Most programs are free and give the elderly resources such as disease screening, diet and exercise support, and even help with prescription medications and doctor's appointments. By understanding what's available to you, you can better take advantage of the programs designed to keep you healthy.

For most people, walking is one of the easiest activities to do. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week, but you don't have to do all 30 minutes at once. Try walking for 15 minutes twice each day or for 10 minutes 3 times each day.

People who have started being physically active later in life say that exercising with a partner is motivation to stick with it. Some suggest starting or joining a walking group with friends or neighbors. Others suggest getting a dog that needs to be walked.

Talk with your doctor about your plans before you get started. Your muscles will very likely be sore when you first increase your physical activity, but don't consider that a reason to stop. Mild soreness will go away in a few days as you exercise more.