Our bodies don’t come with an extended warranty.
The good news is they can last quite a while, but keeping the parts moving smoothly, and warding off the natural effects of aging, is the owner’s responsibility. Each decade of a woman’s life brings forth new challenges and work-arounds to maintain the best possible health.
The overall message?
“Good nutrition and good movement and good calories and making sure people are moving, staying agile, flexible and strong,” said Dr. Judi Woolger, medical director of executive medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Exercise is a key component of living well, into the 90s and beyond.
“The teens and 20s, those are the ages that will play a big role later in life, that’s when women reach their maximum bone density and that starts to taper down with age,” says Dr. Luis Roca, a gynecologist with South Miami Hospital’s Center for Women and Infants.
Dr. Vivian Birnbaum, internal medicine specialist at Mount Sinai Medical Center, recommends that women exercise five days a week for 30 minutes apiece with a mix of cardiovascular activities like walking, swimming, dancing or biking, along with stretching such as yoga or Pilates, and strengthening exercises of the arms, shoulders, legs and abdominals.
“And that’s a minimum, ideal would be more than that,” she says.
Haven’t started yet? Don’t fret.
“The biggest change anyone can make in life is changing from non-exercise to exercise,” says cardiologist Dr. Adam Splaver, director of echocardiography for the Memorial Cardiac and Vascular Institute at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood. “I tell my patients all the time: if you’re not exercising, try once a week. You kept your appointment with me, now put an appointment on the calendar to exercise for 15 to 20 minutes, for a month. At the end of the month, put the appointment on twice. And then three times. And when you are done with that, increase the intensity.
“Crawl before you can walk, walk before you run and it’s the same with exercise.”
Here, then, is a guide to dancing through the decades.
• Girl, you’re a woman now: “Before 20, patients should have all of their vaccines. It’s important women get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to prevent sexually transmitted diseases related to cancer in the uterus and cervix and vagina and genital areas,” Birnbaum says.
Once sexually active, check for cervical cancer via a pap smear test every two years unless abnormalities are detected, upon which testing should be more frequent.
• Watch for the Freshman 15: ““We break our routines, some women are a lot more active in high school and athletics and get to the collegiate level and may not want to, or have the ability to, compete at the higher level and they become more sedentary,’’ said Roca. “Diet becomes an issue ... a lot of women are now away from home and have to determine what they’ll eat.’’
Avoid processed foods, simple sugars and empty carbs, Splaver adds.
During annual check-ups have your lipid profiles checked, meaning tests for cholesterol, blood pressure. Begin performing breast self-exams.
• Forbidden fruit: If you haven’t begun smoking as a teenager, don’t start now. Seek counseling if using tobacco, recreational drugs or abusing alcohol.