6 ways a womans body will change when she turns 50

For many, 50 is the new 40. It’s a time of life when we mellow, become more content, have more of life under control. However, when it comes to your health, there are always things to rein in, especially if you’ve acquired some bad habits over time. Read on as our experts direct you to six things you should do during this decade to improve your health.

 

1. You’ll need a colonoscopy.

 

Provided you don’t have a family history or personal risk of colorectal cancer (in which case you’ve probably had a colonoscopy already), regular screening beginning at age 50 is recommended to prevent colorectal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, preventing colorectal cancer (and not just finding polyps and cancer early) is a major reason for getting tested at this age. Talk with your physician about screening options.

 

2. You may need some vaccines.

 

While you may think things like the pneumonia vaccine are reserved for the elderly, think again, says Kathryn Boling, MD, a family medicine physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, who suggests you get this vaccine every five years starting at age 50 if you’re at high risk — meaning you have asthma or diabetes. At 50, be sure to get the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) booster vaccine, which you need every 10 years. If you’ve never had the chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you can get the vaccine as an adult. And the CDC also recommends getting a flu shot.

3. Women will go through menopause.

 

During this decade you’ll experience lengths of time without your period or your period will end, Bitner says. Expect to experience symptoms such as vaginal dryness, low libido, consistent hot flashes, night sweats, belly fat weight gain and fatigue. “You may also start to deal with wrinkles, hair loss and pelvic prolapse,” she adds.

 

4. Your risk for heart disease may increase.

 

“In the first five years after menopause, the risk factors for cardiovascular disease escalate quickly if you aren’t living a healthy lifestyle and/or on menopause hormone therapy,” says Diana Bitner, MD, a physician at Spectrum Health Medical Group in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Even if you don’t have a family history of heart disease, at 50, ask your physician for a baseline electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), which can help detect heart problems, Bitner says.

 

5. Expect aches and pains.

 

“At 50, all the folks who were lucky enough to get good genes from their folks begin to suffer from what others started noticing at 40,” says Barbara Bergin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Austin, Texas. “I never hear anyone say, ‘Everything went downhill at 60,’ because by then no one is surprised by the sudden onset of pain.” At 50, it’s likely you’ll notice that your knees and back feel tight if you’re been sitting for a while. “Your back and knees may feel painful when you stand up, too,” she says.

 

6. Your emotional health may suffer.

 

As your hormone levels fluctuate during menopause, your mood may be affected. It’s not uncommon for women going through menopause to feel depressed and have mood swings from happy highs to teary lows. Plus, getting a poor night’s sleep (or several of them) due to hot flashes would put anyone in a bad mood. Which is why it’s all the more important to find a way to cope. “Forming and/or using existing social networks and talking to friends will help you stay emotionally healthy,” Bitner says. Time to phone a friend.

 

 

Anti-aging pill could allow everyone to live over 120 years old

Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León famously journeyed to the Americas in search of the Fountain of Youth. If he were still alive today, he might have been able to simply visit his pharmacist instead.

A potential anti-aging drug that is already commercially available for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, called metformin, is soon set to begin clinical trials to see if it can also expand the human life span, reports the Express.

Initial tests on some animals, such as one study of the drug’s effects on worms, suggest that humans could live healthily well into their 120s if the effects are shown to be similar. Metformin could literally be a miracle drug– the Fountain of Youth in pill form. It could change medicine in a way not seen since the discovery of antibiotics. That is, assuming the trials are a success.

Early optimism is high. Since metformin is commercially available for the treatment of diabetes, several extensive studies about its effects are already available; the hype is not merely based on a simple worm study. For instance, last year a study of more than 180,000 people showed that those being treated for diabetes with metformin lived longer than a healthy control sample. That is worth reiterating: Patients being treated for diabetes lived longer than otherwise healthy people.

Other research has shown that metformin could also help to directly treat conditions such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease and even cancer.

“I have been doing research into aging for 25 years and the idea that we would be talking about a clinical trial in humans for an anti-aging drug would have been thought inconceivable,” said Gordon Lithgow of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in California. “But there is every reason to believe it’s possible.”

The clinical trial is called Targeting Aging with Metformin (TAME), and it will be conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Researchers are looking for 3,000 people in their 70s and 80s who either have or are at risk of having major diseases, and the trial should last from 5 to 7 years.

The drug has already been in use for over 60 years for diabetes patients, so scientists have a pretty good idea of how exactly it works. For instance, metformin is known to make our cells better oxygenated, and its easy to imagine how better oxygenated cells can have a positive effect on the body.

“We lower the risk of heart disease, somebody lives long enough to get cancer. If we reduce the risk of cancer, somebody lives long enough to get Alzheimer’s disease. We are suggesting that the time has arrived to attack them all by going after the biological process of aging,” said Stuart Jay Olshansky, one of the researchers involved in the project.

If all goes well, then age 70 could soon become the new 50. Age 100 could be the new 80, and so on. Better yet, we can age in a healthier fashion, free from many of the debilitating diseases that make living to older ages undesirable. It won’t be an immortality pill, but it might be the next closest thing.

credit: Bryan Nelson

Why can we sense when people are looking at us?

If you’ve ever felt like someone was watching you, you may have attributed that awareness to a sense of unease or a prickling on the back of your neck. But there’s nothing psychic about it; your brain was simply picking up on cues. In fact, your brain is wired to inform you that someone is looking at you — even when they’re not.

“Far from being ESP, the perception originates from a system in the brain that’s devoted to detecting where others are looking,” writes social psychologist Ilan Shrira. This concept may sound confusing, but it actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it as a survival instinct.

Many mammals can tell when another animal is looking at them, but the human “gaze-detection system” is particularly good at doing this from a distance. We’re able to easily discern where someone is looking.

This system is especially sensitive when someone is looking at you directly, and studies have found that particular cells fire when this happens.

“Gaze perception — the ability to tell what someone is looking at — is a social cue people often take for granted,” Colin Clifford, a psychologist at the University of Sydney’s Vision Center, told the Daily Mail. “Judging whether others are looking at us may come naturally, but it’s actually not that simple as our brains have to do a lot of work behind the scenes.”

When you catch someone looking at you, what is it that clued you in? Often, it’s as simple as the position of the person’s head or body.

If both the head and body are turned toward you, it’s clear where the person’s attention is focused. It’s even more obvious when the person’s body is pointed away from you but their head is facing you. When this happens, you immediately look to the person’s eyes to see where they’re looking.
Human eyes are different from those of other animals in this regard. Our pupils and irises are darker from the white part of the eyeball known as the sclera, and this contrast is why you can tell when someone’s looking at you or simply looking past you.

Other species have less visible sclera, which is advantageous for predators that don’t want their prey to know where they’re looking. However, human survival is more dependent on communication, which is why we evolved to have larger, white sclera, which help us make eye contact.

But when head and body positions don’t provide much information, research shows that we can still detect another person’s gaze extraordinarily well because of our peripheral vision.

We evolved to be this sensitive to gaze to survive. Why? Because every look someone throws your way is a potential threat.

Clifford tested this by asking study participants to indicate where various faces were looking. He found that when people couldn’t determine the direction of a gaze — because of dark conditions or the faces were wearing sunglasses — people typically thought they were being watched.

He concluded that in situations where we’re not certain where a person is looking, our brain informs us that we’re being watched — just in case there’s a potential interaction.

“A direct gaze can signal dominance or a threat, and if you perceive something as a threat, you would not want to miss it,” Clifford said. “So simply assuming another person is looking at you may be the safest strategy.”

credit: Laura Moss

What is genetically edited food?

The USDA says this method of tampering with a food’s genes is not the same as genetically modifying it.

I wasn’t familiar with the term “genetically edited” food until I read an NPR feature last week about genetically edited mushrooms. While it may seem like genetically edited is another way to say genetically modified, editing is not the same as modifying, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Genetically modified foods (GMOs) have had their genes altered in some way. Genetically modified salmon, for instance, has had its genes modified to grow faster than natural salmon. GMO salmon can grow to full size in 18 months. Non-GMO salmon take three years to grow to full size. The purpose of genetically modified food, whether it’s an animal or plant, is to introduce a new, desirable trait to the organism. (And yes, what’s desirable depends on who you talk to.)

A genetically edited organism does not have a gene altered to introduce a new trait. Instead, it has a gene taken away using a four-year-old technology called CRISPR. In the case of the mushroom mentioned earlier, Yinong Yang, a Penn State researcher, snipped out “a tiny piece of DNA from one particular gene in a white button mushroom,” NPR reports. With that gene gone, the mushroom produces less of the enzyme polyphenol oxidase, making the mushroom brown more slowly. An undesirable trait was removed from the organism.

Yang asked the USDA if his genetically edited mushrooms would be regulated as a GMO. The government agency said since no new DNA was introduced, and there is no evidence the edited white button mushrooms would bring any problems with weeds or become a pest to other plants, the USDA does not need to regulate them.

I’ve seen several headlines since the NPR report last week that claim genetically edited foods will not be regulated. That’s inaccurate. The USDA said it would not regulate these mushrooms, but the agency ended the letter to Yang with the following statement: “Please be advised that your white button mushroom variety described in your letter may still be subject to other regulatory authorities such as the FDA or EPA.”

Whether some form of government regulation will happen for genetically edited foods hasn’t been decided. This mushroom is the first food created using this technique, according to The Washington Post. The company that paid for the mushroom research has no immediate plans to sell the mushrooms. There’s a lot more work and government scrutiny before a genetically edited food comes on the market — regulated or not.

At least, let’s hope much more government scrutiny will be done on genetic editing for food. CRISPR can be used for more than simply keeping fruits and vegetables from browning quickly. The method is also being considered as a way to remove undesirable traits in human beings, like the ability to inherit a devastating disease — something that should come only after years of testing for safety and side effects, and necessary regulations.

credit: Robin Shreeves

Mysterious alignment of black holes in deep space hints at cosmic pattern

Researchers conducting a three-year deep radio imaging survey of a particular region of distant space known as ELAIS-N1 have discovered that the black holes there are doing something very, very peculiar: They’re all tilting with the same alignment and spitting out radio waves in the same direction, a finding that is far too improbable to be attributed to mere coincidence, reports Phys.org.

The discovery, made by South African researchers using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), hints at an unexplained cosmic pattern. It might mean that primordial mass fluctuations in the early universe caused this particular volume of space to spin as one, a profound possibility that could allow scientists to map out how the universe structured itself.

“Since these black holes don’t know about each other, or have any way of exchanging information or influencing each other directly over such vast scales, this spin alignment must have occurred during the formation of the galaxies in the early universe,” said professor Andrew Russ Taylor, principal author of the study.

Radio jets such as those measured in the study are produced by supermassive black holes that sit at the heart of ancient galaxies. Scientists are considering a number of different factors that could have forced so many of them into alignment, such as cosmic magnetic fields, or possibly fields associated with exotic, theoretical dark matter particles. Even cosmic “strings” could be the culprit, hypothetical 1-dimensional topological defects which may have formed in the early universe.

There are certainly a number of exciting hypotheticals to sift through. A large-scale alignment like this has never been predicted by current leading theories.

“[The alignments are] not obviously expected based on our current understanding of cosmology. It’s a bizarre finding,” said professor Romeel Dave, who leads a team developing plans for universe simulations.

Bizarre findings are healthy for science, however. They allow scientists to refine their theories to better account for a deeper pool of observations, and ultimately give us a grander and more precise understanding of the cosmos.

“We’re beginning to understand how the large-scale structure of the universe came about, starting from the Big Bang and growing as a result of disturbances in the early universe, to what we have today,” said Taylor, “and that helps us explore what the universe of tomorrow will be like.”

Credit: Bryan Nelson

This simple sitting test could predict how long you will live

It’s a question we often ponder, especially as we age: How many years do I have left? Well, thanks to Brazilian physician Claudio Gil Araujo, there’s now a simple test you can perform right at home, in just a few seconds, that could predict how many years you have left to live, according to Discover.

Araujo came up with the test after noticing that many of his patients, especially older ones, often have difficulty with simple feats of balance and strength, such as picking up something off the floor or getting up out of a chair. Since balance and conditioning problems are known to increase the risk of dangerous falls and accidents (and can also harm cardiovascular health), he wondered if a patient’s flexibility, balance and strength could be used as a measure of life expectancy.

His idea was that patients might be more motivated to get in better shape if they had a more tangible way of conceptualizing how their overall health was being affected by their conditioning. If a patient is simply told to get in shape, they’re not likely to change their behavior. But if they’re told “if you don’t get into better shape, you could be dead in five years,” they’re apt to take notice.

Of course, the test also needed to be simple. If it required expensive equipment or measuring devices, the test probably wouldn’t be accessible to many people. So Araujo and colleagues developed the sitting-rise test, or SRT. It requires no equipment whatsoever and can be performed in seconds.

Sit and stand test
In fact, you can grab a friend try the test out yourself right now. A simple illustration (at right), provided by Discover, can help you to visualize the steps. It’s recommended that you wear loose or comfortable clothing.

Begin by standing upright in the middle of a room. Without using your arms or hands for leverage, carefully squat into a cross-legged sitting position. Once you’re comfortable, attempt to stand back up from the sitting position — again, without using your arms for help.

The test is scored on a point scale between 1 and 10 (5 points for sitting, 5 more points for standing back up). Each time you use an arm or knee for help in balancing during the test, you subtract one point from 10 possible points. Half a point is subtracted each time you lose balance, or when the fluidity of the feat becomes clumsy.

It seems like a pretty rudimentary test of conditioning, but Araujo found that it could predict life expectancy with alarming accuracy. He tested it on more than 2,000 of his patients aged 51 to 80, and found that people who scored less than 8 points on the test were twice as likely to die within the next six years. Those who scored three points or less were five times more likely to die within that same time period. Overall, each point achieved in the test accounted for a 21-percent decrease in mortality.

Araujo’s study was only performed on patients older than 50, so the results won’t mean the same thing for younger individuals taking the test. But regardless of your age, the test should provide a useful benchmark for your overall health. If you’re younger than 50 and have trouble with the test, it ought to be a wake-up call. The good news is that the younger you are, the more time you have to get into better shape.

Credit: Bryan Nelson

Why lack of sleep gives you the munchies

Looking for a better way to lose weight? Maybe it’s time to stop counting calories and start counting sheep. A new study has found a link between poor sleep and the marijuana-like “munchie” cravings that may be causing Americans to pack on the pounds.

The study, published recently in the journal Sleep, was a small but intense experiment that carefully controlled the sleep and diet of 14 20-somethings who agreed to spend several days at the University of Chicago’s sleep lab. On some nights, participants were allowed to sleep for 8.5 hours, while on others they were only allowed to snooze for 4.5 hours. Each day, the participants were given a large meal at 3 p.m. and allowed to snack from then until their next meal at 7 p.m.

Researchers found that all of the participants binged at that afternoon meal, consuming roughly 90 percent of their caloric needs at one sitting. But it was the participants who were deprived of sleep who continued to snack right up until their next meal, consuming as many as 1,000 additional calories, primarily from low-nutrient, high-reward foods (i.e. junk food.)

Blood tests revealed that the sleep-deprived participants had higher levels of a chemical called endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) in their bloodstream than those who got a full night’s sleep. 2-AG is a chemical made in the brain that resembles chemicals found in marijuana. It affects pain, pleasure and appetite and has been linked to the “munchies” that pot smokers report feeling after getting high.

Typically, blood levels of 2-AG bottom out overnight but slowly build throughout the day before peaking in the late afternoon and early evening. For the sleep-deprived volunteers, 2-AG levels rose higher than they did for their well-rested peers and stayed high through the evening. This is the same period in which sleep-restricted participants noted feeling hungrier and having a stronger desire to eat. When given snacks at this time, they ate nearly twice as much fat as when they had slept for eight hours.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of Americans are sleep deprived, defined as getting less than seven hours of sleep each night. Guess how many Americans are also considered obese? One-third.

Coincidence? Maybe not.

Of course, diet and exercise are critical components for maintaining a healthy weight. But as this research points out, a good night’s sleep may play an even bigger role in the weight loss equation than previously thought.

Bottom line: If you’re trying to lose weight, get to bed at a reasonable hour. You’ll be more likely to resist that late afternoon junk food binge if you’re not fighting the sleep-deprivation munchies.

Credit: Jenn Savedge

What gut bacteria can teach us about cancer treatment

At one time, the role of gut bacteria in human health was marginalized as a side note that health experts found interesting but not integral. But as more and more research has made clear, the number and diversity of bacteria in the gut can often make the difference between health and disease. Two new studies have found that gut bacteria can also determine the effectiveness of the treatments that are used to fight cancer, forcing doctors to take a closer look at the lessons they can learn from this once overlooked aspect of human health.

In one experiment, researchers at the University of Lille in France looked at ipilimumab — a cancer drug used to treat advanced melanoma — and found that not only did the medication affect the amount of bacteria that was in the gut, but its own effectiveness went hand-in-hand with the level of bacteria trial participants had in their intestines. So the very drug that needed gut bacteria in order to work was the thing that was destroying participants’ gut bacteria levels. Researchers found that when they gave participants supplemental levels of bacteria along with ipilimumab, they responded better to treatment.

A second study — conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago — confirmed the importance of gut bacteria in cancer treatment. For this study, researchers looked at the growth of tumors in two sets of animal subjects and compared that to the profile of bacteria in their intestines. Researchers found that mice who had the bacteria Bifidobacteria in their guts had slower tumor growth than those who did not. When the team transplanted this bacteria into the intestines of the mice that did not have it, they too experienced slowed tumor growth. And this was without any additional drug or treatment.

The takeaway from these two studies is that gut bacteria is very important in the treatment of disease. Of course, both of these studies were conducted on mice, so more work needs to be done to further define the role of gut bacteria in human health. But even at this stage of the game, many health experts are recommending that health care providers evaluate gut bacteria for their patients before beginning any type of treatment and replenish bacteria as necessary to improve the effectiveness of treatment.

credit: jenn Savegde

Turn cremated remains into a vinyl record

Death is a bit of a morbid topic, but let’s face it, we’re all going to die someday and it’s okay to think ahead about how we want our remains handled. Are you going the burial route or the cremation route? If you’re planning on cremation but don’t want your ashes sitting around in an urn on a mantel for decades, check out And Vinyly. The company turns ashes into vinyl records, and these vinyl records will play, if you happen to have an old turntable lying around.

From the And Vinyly homepage, “When the album that is life finally reaches the end, wouldn’t it be nice to keep that record spinning for eternity? We offer you the chance to press your ashes in a vinyl recording your loved ones will cherish for generations. Record a personal message, your last will & testament, your own soundtrack or simply press your ashes to hear your pops & crackles for the minimal approach.”

The British company offers several packages, starting with the basic package that comes with up to 30 discs with 24 minutes of total play time, 12 minutes on each side, for £3,000. At today’s exchange rate, that’s about $4,667.

If you’re looking for something a bit more over the top, then you can purchase one of the many add-ons including music written and produced specifically for you (£500 per track and up), record distribution through vinyl stores around the world (undisclosed price) and the ultimate package, the FUNerals.

For £10,000, the team at And Vinyly will dedicate a team of event organizers to your final sendoff, including speaking to your guests and of course, playing your cremated remains during the party.

Is cremation not in the cards for you? Don’t worry; And Vinyly will take cremated body parts. I’m not joking. If you prefer to be buried, you can cremate a body part and turn those remains into an album. Do you really need all 10 toes to be buried with you? Probably not. The team at And Vinyly has thought of everything!

While this sounds a bit cheeky, it’s a serious business and the website even features a disclaimer that reads, “Please note: Despite the site’s lighthearted tone, all of our services are carried out with the utmost respect & care.”

I have to admit, I love this idea. I grew up with vinyl, and my dad’s record collection was huge. My first record was “Sesame Street Fever” with a John Travolta-esque Grover on the cover.

Credit:Mellisa Ownby

Easy vegetable lasagna

PREP TIME
15 minutes
TOTAL TIME
1 hour
YIELD
6-8 servings
EQUIPMENT
Lasagna pan Foil Cutting board and knife Mixing bowl Large saute pan
INGREDIENTS
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
1.25 cup Ricotta cheese
.5 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella
COOKING DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large sauce pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 4-5 minutes or until the onions become translucent.
Add the vegetables and stir to combine. Cook for 3-4 minutes more until the vegetables just begin to soften.
Add the marinara sauce and stir to combine. Let the mixture come to a simmer, then remove from heat.
In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan and eggs. Stir until creamy and completely mixed together.
Place a little of the vegetable mixture on the bottom of a lasagna pan. Place a layer of no-boil noodles. Dollop about 1/3 of the cheese mixture on the noodles and spread it evenly. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the mozzarella over the cheese mixture. Spoon another layer of the vegetable mixture over the cheeses, add a layer of noodles, a layer of cheese spread, and a layer of mozzarella.
Repeat this once more and you’ve reached the top of the pan, ending with a sprinkle of mozzarella.
Cover the lasagna loosely with foil. Place the lasagna pan on the center rack of the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake another 10-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown.
Remove the lasagna and allow to cool in the pan for about 5-10 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!

credit: Jaymi Heimbach