Somewhere between Madonna and the famously dowdy, Oprah-described schlumpadinka, she exists: the woman at peace with her age but certainly not surrendering to it. Call it the difference between getting older and just plain getting old.
Most of us don’t aspire to hold on to 29. By mid-life, we’re all too happy to say good-bye to the insecurities of our 20s or those sleepless years of parenting young children. We’d trade our 20-something midriffs for the hard-earned grace and wisdom of a little age any day. But we still want to feel beautiful. We still want strong bodies to carry us through our next life adventure.
The pressing question today isn’t how to stay young and avoid the inevitable, it’s how to look great and feel vital as we age.
To kick off the New Year we’ve pulled together some of Northern California’s best doctors and lifestyle educators to give their take on the matter. From dermatologists to oncologists, our Sutter Health online medical experts tell us what we can do to stay vibrant and well, inside and out. Read on to learn why the basics -- don’t smoke, exercise, eat in moderation and laugh well -- will always top their lists.
The #1 thing we women can do to look and feel our best as we age is to have enjoyable habits that happen to be healthy. Stop for a minute and think of all the enjoyable activities that are healthy: a walk in the park, ballroom dancing, or fresh fruit as dessert. Try sneaking in a few healthy pleasures every day. Before long these healthy pleasures can add up to happiness -- and a healthier life.
Yuwen Liao, RN, Mills Peninsula Health Services
To age gracefully, live authentically. Live a life full of passion and purpose, and devoid of regrets. Love freely, forgive quickly, and open your eyes to the magic in life. Have you ever seen someone "glowing with good health"? That is because they are living in balance with their mind, body, and spirit. So to look your best as you age, bring out that inner glow by living a balanced life; the minor wrinkles will cease to matter.
Kay Judge, M.D., Sutter Medical Foundation
To look and feel their best as they age, women should not smoke and should keep fit through regular exercise. In addition to the well-known risks of smoking, such as lung cancer and heart disease, smoking impairs fertility and increases the risk of a miscarriage. Women who smoke are less likely to conceive with in vitro fertilization. Obesity is often associated with irregular ovulation as well as endometrial hyperplasia which, over a period of time, can lead to endometrial cancer. While general physical fitness does not automatically confer high fertility, treatments such as IVF are easier and more successful in normal-weight individuals.
OB Gyn Richard Chetkowski, M.D., Alta Bates InVitro Fertilization Program
Stop smoking, eat sensibly, and exercise moderately five days a week. Smoking prematurely ages the facial skin and causes the voice to deepen and sound coarse and masculine over time. It's never too late to quit. Skin changes which are already present may not resolve, however quitting tobacco will decrease any further tobacco-related change. Vocal changes may resolve partially or completely in many patients after quitting tobacco.
Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist Colleen Lennard-Love, M.D., Sutter North Medical Group
There are two bits of advice that tie for #1 in looking and feeling your best as you age: be adaptable (many changes are beyond your control) and keep a sense of humor!
Suzanne E. Pertsch M.D., Mills-Peninsula Health Services
For the body, eat a healthy diet and exercise. For the mind, good conversations and good books. For women in particular: A healthy pelvic floor is essential. Pelvic floor dysfunction is associated with urinary incontinence, vaginal prolapse and defecatory difficulties. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles can improve pelvic floor health. However, just telling someone to “do their Kegels” is not enough. As a urogynecologist, I try to help women understand the relationship between the pelvic muscles, nerves and connective tissue, as well as the surrounding organs (bladder, vagina and rectum). The function of these organs can change with different stages of their life such as childbirth or menopause. When it comes to Kegels, it is not uncommon for women to contract their pelvic floor muscles incorrectly or not at all. They typically do not know they are doing their “Kegels” incorrectly. Proper assessment and structured training of the pelvic floor muscles (pelvic floor therapy) can help women regain control of these key muscles and prevent or overcome common pelvic floor complaints, such as urinary incontinence and vaginal relaxation. In addition, Pilates, an exercise that focuses on core muscle strengthening, has been shown to also help strengthen pelvic floor muscles.
Urogynecologist Wesley Hilger, M.D., Urogynecology Consultants, Sutter Independent Physicians
Avoid weight gain. People often gain weight as they age, which harms our health and changes the way we look and feel about ourselves. Being overweight or obese has been attributed to an increase risk for heart problems, joint problems, diabetes, and even cancer.
Sue Hazeghazam, RD, Sutter Medical Center
Women should seek out yearly cancer screenings, making sure that mammograms and pap smears are up to date. There is a great deal of data showing that early detection leads to the best outcome. Smoking cessation at any age will help decrease the risk of lung cancer. Screening colonoscopies will help decrease colon cancer deaths. Thus with prevention, we would cover the top three cancers that afflict women.
Oncologist Michael Wu, M.D., Palo Alto Medical Foundation
Exercise makes me feel good about myself, and I think it helps our bodies deal with the changes that come with aging. Women should eat a balanced diet and make sure exercise is part of their daily routine. By eating a "balanced diet,” I mean eating what you want in moderation, making sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Nutritionist Deborah Kurzock, RD, with Women's Center at Mill-Peninsula Health Services
The #1 thing women can do to look their best as “time goes on” is to protect their skin from sun exposure -- with clothing. Sunscreen helps, but can't give the protection of long sleeves and a big hat. Sunscreen provides a false sense of security that leads to accumulated sun damage, wrinkling, blotchy coloration and thin skin. If you want to see what your skin 'should' look like, check out your derriere which is always (?) covered in the sun. And don't worry about vitamin D...take a 1000 unit vitamin D pill daily instead of getting vitamin D from sun exposure.
Dermatologist Peter Webb M.D., Mill Peninsula Health Services