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Can Turning 50 Save Your Life?


As a new columnist for AARP, I wanted to introduce myself and share a little background about why I wrote   "The Best of Everything After 50" and have become a very loud supporter of embracing your age . . . whatever it is. I look forward to having a lively dialogue with all of you in the months ahead!

Is this your story, too? Five years ago I turned 50 and everything seemed to change overnight. "¨In my 20s, 30s and 40s, I charged ahead with life, throwing myself into work, family, friends and community."¨Those busy years were like one long decade, during which I didn't feel any different about how I looked, acted or dressed."¨I never stopped to think about what impact the way I was living now might have down the road. By the time I hit 50, my energy was lagging and the post-menopausal pounds were starting to creep up, but worst of all, I didn't feel ready for life after 50.

I knew that if changes weren't made -- and fast -- I'd be heading into my 50s at a terrible disadvantage. Wanting to stay healthy, fit, energetic and productive for the rest of my life, I was ready to change -- and possibly save -- my life."¨ I didn't simply want to think, 'I'm 50 now, that's it, my life is over,' I wanted to be fearless after 50. Like many women, I had gone a long time without doing simple things that could positively affect my health. "¨Many of us are part of  the 'sandwich generation' -- looking after our children and caring for elderly parents -- and I realized life had kept me too busy focusing on others, without taking the time to do the right things for myself. "¨Sleeping enough, exercising daily and eating well had come to seem like an indulgence, even as I made sure my family was well fed and well rested.

So I embarked on a quest to discover how ordinary women could look and feel their best in their 50s and beyond. "¨I contacted some of the best health, fitness, beauty, fashion and financial experts in the country, seeking their advice on how to be best the best I could be after 50. "¨I talked to renowned hairdresser Frederic Fekkai, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg  and financial expert Jane Bryant Quinn (an AARP contributor)."¨ I tracked down women's health specialists and exercise gurus, nutritionists and make-up experts, and took their advice.

I started going for slow runs with breaks for walking every day and learned how to do push-ups  and other strengthening exercises to prevent osteoporosis. "¨I scheduled annual health checks, and kept up on the latest health information specifically geared to women over 50. I changed the way I ate and dropped the bad habits I'd slipped into, helping me to shed the 15 lbs. I had gained after menopause. I even accepted the fact that my hair, which I had spent decades straightening with a blow dryer, was naturally wavy and looked its best that way.

I gathered all this incredible information, wrote about it in my book, and took my message on the road starting with the Today Show. Here's a short clip from the interview:

A few years later, I feel fitter then I have at any time since I turned 30, and am ready for what's next. "¨More importantly, I found that I don't only feel better and stronger, my key health check numbers have improved dramatically.

While I loved the earlier decades of my life, too, I recognize that-like many young women--I was more insecure then and less happy about how I looked and felt and sought approval from everyone except myself. Now, when I look in the mirror, I see a woman who is brimming with confidence, enthusiasm, and energy. I am happy with who I am and with how I look -- including my crow's feet, which are a part of the story of my life.

The greatest lesson I've learned so far is this: embrace your age, whatever it is. Whether you are 49, 62, or 75, you need to decide that you are going to be the fittest, healthiest and best looking 49, 62, or 75-year-old there is. For too long, women have been tricked into seeing 50 as the end of the road when, instead, we should be viewing it as the start of a new life, one in which we are truly comfortable with who we are. Instead of retreating from the world, let's embrace our place within it.

Turning 50 did more than save my life. It put me on the path to a new one.

How did you feel when you turned 50?

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