Turning 40 need not signal the start of the road going downhill. Middle-aged women can be far more charming, confident and classy than they ever were. All it takes is some practical care.
If current observations are anything to go by, famous personalities who have stepped over the 40-year threshold far outshine their younger counterparts when it comes to looking and feeling like a million bucks. Think Julia Roberts, Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep…it’s a lengthy list of divas who have shunned the surgeon’s knife, but still manage to toss age out of the window.
Woman This Month has gone the extra mile to round up experts around the island for first-hand information on how to best enjoy your body and mind when you’re 40 and beyond. The bonus? They know exactly what they’re talking about — they’re all women.
Our Expert: Nada Jawahery, nutritional therapist and dietician
“Menopause brings about significant changes in a woman’s hormones and body composition. After menopause, fat deposits tend to accumulate more around the abdominal area and waist circumference increases,” says Nada.
So if that muffin top doesn’t budge easily, you know why. These changes in metabolism cause women over 40 to be at risk of heart disease, bone fracture and dry skin. Regular blood tests during and post menopause help track changes in blood chemistry.
Your cholesterol and blood lipid levels should get the doctor’s ‘OK’. BMI and waist-hip ratio measurements provide an estimate of one’s body fat. A low BMI and waist-hip ratio indicates good health.
Diet and exercise: A woman’s caloric needs tend to decrease over her life cycle, especially after menopause. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources and healthy omega 3-rich fats go a long way to maintain great health. Fibre, calcium, and vitamins A, C and D are some of the most beneficial and essential nutrients that shield women against macular degeneration, heart disease, colon cancer and osteoporosis.
Unfortunately many people don’t consume the minimum recommendation of five servings of fruits and vegetables per day to gain the benefits of a balanced diet.
Super foods and supplements: There are numerous super foods that health experts and celebrities swear by. Our expert simplifies the concept for us.
“For those without medical problems, dark leafy greens are the best super foods. Spinach, watercress and parsley are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals that can prevent cancer. They are also high in heart-healthy folate. Two cups of these vegetables in salads or smoothies give over 200 per cent of your vitamin C and K needs,” Nada says.
Don’t tear your hair over which supplements to swallow. Nada believes that a well balanced diet is usually more than enough for individuals over 40 to get all they need for good health.A suitable form of exercise is important too. According to studies, fit and active people tend to live longer and healthier than their sedentary counterparts. It’s not too late. A change for the better can help repair previous damage to a certain extent and improve health.
Looking Good to Feel Great
Our expert: Dr Samira Almatrook, consultant dermatologist at Dr Samira Almatrook Skin and Laser Centre
Face: Fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration and skin laxity rapidly progress through the forties. Facial skin can develop both dryness and acne at the same time. This occurs due to many physiological changes inside the body that manifest on the skin. Sun exposure, genetics, skincare routines and general health contribute to graceful ageing.
A consistent regimen: Now is the time to take the cleanse-tone-moisturise routine very seriously. Hormonal changes after 40 can cause even the oiliest skin to become dry.
Therefore, deeper moisturising products should be used. Dr Samira advises using anti-ageing products once you are 30 as prevention is easier, and better, than cure.“Cleansing is the key to remove make-up and dirt that clog up the pores causing blackheads and acne. It clears the skin from dead cells, making it smoother and fresher.
Toning finishes the cleansing process and hydrates the skin. Finally, moisturising is
the most important step to prevent wrinkles,” says Dr Samira.
Anti-ageing: For sceptics of anti-ageing products it is vital to understand that they do work. Their alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) and anti-oxidants along with deep hydrating agents prevent dryness and wrinkles. AHAs, found naturally in fruits, remove the top layers of dead skin cells.
AHAs can treat acne and acne scars, in addition to improving the appearance of photo-aged skin, firming and smoothing skin. Antioxidants like vitamin E and C counteract free-radicals, minimising damage and ageing of skin. If you are over 20 years, an eye cream should be a staple of your skin care routine.
“Skin around the eyes lacks oil glands and wrinkles easily. Eye creams with peptides work to boost collagen production, making the skin firmer,” says Dr Samira.
Never undermine the power of sunscreen. It helps prevent skin cancer and breakdown
of collagen by minimising exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays. It is a must for older women, who have thinner and looser connective tissues.
The earlier you start using sunscreen, the better. Remember to slather it on 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. Any sudden change in the skin, the size or colour of moles and lesions could reflect an underlying disease. This should be checked by your doctor immediately.
Hair: A single hair strand lives between two to six years. Exposure to heat from styling tools and chemicals from dyes cause cuticle cells to undergo wear and tear, leaving the hair rougher and more prone to breaking.
A decrease in melanin causes greying of hair. The growth of new hair is impaired with age. Moreover, some follicles stop producing hair resulting in the thinning of hair. These changes are greatly influenced by genes.
Treatments, such as mesotherapy, and nutritional supplements have proven to decrease hair fall and promote its growth. Our expert suggests minimal use of styling tools to keep hair healthy.
Nails: Supplements can rectify a nutritional deficiency which may cause brittle or thick nails.
“Keep nails strong and healthy by protecting your hands with gloves whilst working around the house and applying moisturiser or Bepanthen ointment regularly,” suggests Dr Samira.
Mind over Matter
Our Expert: Dr Farzana Alsayed, consultant neurologist and clinical neurophysiologist at Gulf Neurology Centre
“Mental health is the way you think, feel and create good relationships around you. Good mental health helps you enjoy life and cope with day-to-day problems,” says Dr Farzana.
She sees women over 40 complain mainly about tension-related headaches, vertigo, numbness and weakness. Some of these may be due to multiple sclerosis or disc prolapse in the neck or back regions.
“Difficulties in memory and concentration are usually due to vitamin deficiency, thyroid dysfunction, or stress or depression,” Dr Farzana explains.Neurological disorders, such as stroke, dementia and peripheral neuropathies, usually strike those over 50 years. They are mostly related to diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
Mental wellness: A healthy diet providing omega 3 acids, vitamins B12, E and C, antioxidants as found in raspberries and blackberries is primary to the prevention of mental illness. Exercise comes next. Regular physical activity helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of strokes, dementia and other neurological disorders.
The third important step is good sleep. Sleep heals the body, reduces anxiety and migraines, and improves memory and concentration. Lastly, avoid stress. Prolonged stress and anxiety can disrupt internal systems and exacerbate mental conditions like depression. It can raise blood pressure, blood sugar and suppress the immune system, leading to strokes, infections and memory impairment.
“As women, we juggle many roles and though it may seem impossible to de-stress, remember to always make time for yourself.
Think of this as an order from your doctor, so you will not feel guilty. Set aside at least 15 minutes daily to do something for yourself, like going for a walk, calling a friend or enjoying a hobby,” Dr Farzana adds.