Four O.C. medical experts offer advice and suggest preventive measures for taking care of body, mind, and spirit in every decade. Here they focus on specifics for those in their 50s.
“During this time, the default social network used to be meeting the parents of your children’s friends. That doesn’t happen anymore. Now you just text each other. We’re isolated from the families. I never meet the parents anymore; I used to know the parents of all my kids’ friends. This might also be the sandwich generation, where you’re in a dual caretaking role. People are starting families later in life now. Career-oriented people are delaying having families. Then they have elderly parents, too, so they’re taking care of children and parents. That absorbs a lot of time. You need to take care of yourself. People think that’s selfish, but it’s necessary, both physically and for your social needs. As we see in the surgeon general’s report, being lonely and not having enough social life can be the equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. It’s equally destructive. Maybe make an informal dinner night. Everyone has to eat, so maybe do a Wednesday night dinner group. Rotate houses, and whatever you’re cooking, you make more. It’s short and casual, lasting from 6 to 8 p.m., but you’re making a routine. This is what humanity has done for generations. It’s not that much more work to make food for twice as many people. It gives you a way to break up the week.”
Dr. Jody Rawles, psychiatry & human behavior professor at UCI School of Medicine
“Menopause and the changes it brings are factors for women in their 50s. Post-menopausal women experience reduced skin elasticity and a loss of collagen. Patients might notice a return of their acne and more discoloration—more brown spots—when they reach middle age. It’s important to keep the skin hydrated; this is when it’s really prone to dryness. If they’re using an exfoliating scrub, I recommend switching that for a mild cleanser that cleans without stripping the skin of its natural oils. This is also the age when we start to address any signs of aging the patient is concerned about such as fine lines around the eyes or a loss of elasticity in the skin. Some women notice less definition in their jawline. If someone has been using retinoid products, they can continue to, but for loss of volume in the face, patients might consider fillers, which usually contain hyaluronic acid to help add volume. Beyond that there are chemical peels for cell repair, laser treatments to reduce redness, and microneedling to help produce collagen. I always advise that cosmetic procedures have their benefits and limitations. It depends on what the patient is comfortable with and what goals they want to achieve. Before we begin any treatment, I educate patients about the procedure and inform them of the risks and benefits involved.”
Dr. Azin Meshkinpour, dermatologist at Saddleback Dermatology Laser + Cosmetic Center in Lake Forest
“There is a significant physiological change in your 50s. You’re not able to gain muscle as easily. Your flexibility decreases. We know that for people with osteoporosis, we really want them to do weight-bearing exercises. So it’s really important in your 50s to be more conscious of having a strengthening program to build muscle. Exercise becomes more critical. In your 30s and 40s, you can almost get away with not working out so consistently. In your 50s, you have to work harder to see the benefits. And you start seeing decreased balance. You start noticing that your endurance isn’t as great as it used to be. For people who were athletes, now there’s wear and tear on your joints. You might have been a runner, and now you’re feeling … increased pain and discomfort. And that’s natural. It’s helpful to mix up your routine. Maybe if you’re running five days a week, you might start mixing in some other activities. Consider biking or swimming. In your 50s, you really have to start pacing yourself. How much can you do without discomfort? Listen to your body—that’s the key. It’s not a set formula. You have to pay closer attention to what your body is feeling.”
Dr. Van Thi Nguyen, physical therapist at Kaiser Permanente Orange County
Diet and Gut Health
“When we hit 50, sometimes we start to see the development of GI distress that might manifest in constipation or diarrhea—not always, but there can be changes to the way your gut is working. Some of it can be hormonal, especially with women, but there is no clock that ticks and the next thing you know you have constipation or diarrhea. The focus needs to be on maintaining a healthy microbiome because the bacteria in our gut largely stays pretty constant until something happens that changes it. When you’re on antibiotics, you can really demolish the microbiome of the gut and it can take months if not years to repair that.
In regard to probiotics, the most important thing is probably not taking probiotics that are capsules or pills but rather imbedding probiotic foods into your diet. … When you eat foods that have probiotics within them, the likelihood of them getting to where they need to get is higher. This includes yogurt, kimchi, tofu, tempeh, kefir, kombucha, and fermented vegetables like sauerkraut. A lot of it is just being mindful that you need to eat live cultures that come in this kind of food. Put in the right things and hopefully the function will follow.”