Health in Your 50s

woman in her 50sTake the Time to Stay Healthy Through Menopause

You may be 50 or older, but you don't have to feel like you're over the hill. Many women enjoy this special time of life and feel renewed. You have decades of life experience and may have achieved many of your goals. Your children are probably grown—or getting there—and now you have more time to devote to your own interests.

Giving more time and attention to your health needs is especially important at this stage in life. This is the decade of the hormone—specifically, estrogen. Your estrogen level has been declining gradually as menopause gets closer. The average age of menopause for U.S. women is 51, with most women reaching this milestone somewhere between ages 45 and 55. You're considered "menopausal" when you haven't had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.

While menopause signals the end of the menstrual cycle and your reproductive years, less estrogen also means major changes for your body in other ways, too.

One of the first changes you're likely to notice if you've reached menopause is that you aren't having menstrual periods anymore. Or, if you're not quite there yet, periods may be few and far between. Hot flashes, one of the most common menopausal symptoms, may be making you uncomfortable. And you may notice that your skin is thinner and dryer now.

While sun exposure over the years is mostly responsible for changes in your skin's appearance—more wrinkles and brown spots, for example—declining estrogen levels can cause the lining of your vagina to be thinner and drier as well. That's why sexual activity for some women at this life stage can be uncomfortable or painful. Your skin care regimen should include moisturizing creams to prevent dry, flaky and sometimes itchy skin. Lubrication products can help with vaginal dryness, especially if sexual activity is painful.