5 Tips for Women to Stay Fit After 50

Women: cut the salt, eat a Mediterranean diet and watch your vitamins

Salt shaker

As the years pass by, many women find that the lifestyle that worked in their 20s and 30s fails to achieve the same results in their 40s and 50s. As women reach their 50s (the average age of onset for menopause), they’ll have to compensate for hormonal, cardiovascular and muscle changes.

Weight gain in aging women is common because of decreases in muscle mass, the accumulation of excess fat and a lower resting metabolic rate. Hormonal shifts can cause a range of symptoms and increase overall risk for heart disease and stroke. And absorption of certain nutrients may decrease because of a loss of stomach acid. Clearly, your diet at 50 should look a bit different from your earlier diet.

The goal of the “50 and over” diet is to maintain weight, consume heart-healthy foods and, above all, stay strong! Use the following 5 tips to live your 50s in fabulous shape.

1. Add B12 to your daily supplements 

B12 supports healthy nerve and blood cells and is needed to make DNA. B12 is primarily found in fish and meat. It is bound to a protein in food and must be released from it by digestion in the stomach. As we age, our stomach acid decreases, making it more difficult to absorb nutrients such as B12.

Older adults are at a greater risk for B12 deficiency, but adding the vitamin to your diet in a supplemental form (either by pill or shot) can help prevent symptoms — which can take years to appear — well before they start.

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2. Really cut back on salt

The older we get, the more likely we are to develop hypertension (high blood pressure) because our blood vessels become less elastic as we age. Having high blood pressure puts us at risk for stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease and early death.

About 72 percent of salt in the American diet comes from processed foods. You should significantly decrease and ideally forgo your consumption of processed foods (chips, frozen dinners, canned soup, etc.) and aim for 1500 mg or less sodium per day, which is about ½ tsp. You can start adding flavorful herbs in place of salt when you cook at home. Many herbs provide anti-cancer benefits as well; oregano, thyme, and rosemary are all high in antioxidants. Ditching processed food also means consuming more whole foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. This will increase your fiber consumption. Fiber helps you stay fuller longer, meaning you’ll eat less throughout the day and be more likely to maintain your weight.

3. Check your multivitamin for Iron — and toss it if it has it

The average woman experiences menopause and the cessation of her menstrual period around age 50. After menopause, the need for iron decreases to about 8 mg of iron a day. While the body can’t live without iron, an overabundance can be dangerous as well. Iron toxicity can occur because the body doesn’t have a natural way to excrete iron; too much can cause liver or heart damage and even death. Postmenopausal women should take iron supplements only when prescribed by a physician. If your multivitamin has iron in it, replace it.

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4. Pay more attention to calcium and vitamin D

Due to gastric and hormone changes, D levels and calcium absorption tank around age 40. Furthermore, evidence shows that postmenopausal women have an increased risk of osteoporosis because of their lack of estrogen. To make matters worse, after 50, the body will break down more bone than it will build. This puts women over 50 at risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures.

It’s ideal to consume adequate calcium before age 30, but it’s never too late to increase rich calcium sources in your diet. Fabulously delicious sources of calcium include sardines (a double dose of omega 3 through the fish and calcium through the bones), spinach, broccoli, kale, and low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt. In addition, your physician should test your vitamin D levels and provide additional supplementation as needed (vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium).

5. Eat like a Greek!

As we age, our blood vessels become less elastic, and the force of blood moving through our veins gets stronger. This puts women in menopause at an increased risk of heart disease. But there is a diet to help decrease our risk — and it’s delicious!

When researchers looked at the populations in the world that had the most people over the age of 100, they noticed these individuals shared a few common themes in their lives. The most prevalent commonality was their consumption of a Mediterranean diet. A 2000 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that a diet that adheres to the principles of the traditional Mediterranean diet (which includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, moderate wine consumption and olive oil) was associated with longer survival. Further, a 2004 study in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention found that a Mediterranean diet was associated with lower risks of cancer and heart disease. And a 2010 review of studies in the American Journal of Clinical Research affirmed the diet’s powers to protect against major chronic diseases.

Taking a Mediterranean cruise when you retire is a great stress reliever, but switching to a Mediterranean diet may be an even better idea!

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Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD

Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1128697655 Eleni Mayoglou

    Love this article…especially the part were taking a Mediterranean cruise can be beneficial…

  • awatson

    Have been an ardent Cleveland Clinic fan the past 2 years! Thank you for this wonderful brief tip which I will take to heart as I journey into my 50s. And yes, Ms Mayoglou that includes a Meditterranean cruise. – Mike’s wife.

  • HBJ

    Have been a vegetarian for over 40 years and have been following the Mediterranean diet for most of that – having lived many years in Israel. Can’t stress how wonderful you feel and look with this eating lifestyle.

  • Bob Spencer

    These are good suggestions. But, how about a few lessons about integrating exercise and diet? Along with those critical parts, I seldom see much discussion about attitude and how that fits into ambitious health goals. How often do we meet over weight and weak people over 50 that have very little motivation to improve and retain their health?

    • TJMJ

      Sometimes people just get to the point where they don’t care any more; I have now become one of those folks who have very little motivation to exercise (and to think I used to be a competitive runner and an exercise fanatic). I am not over weight, but I am guilty of no longer engaging in exercise. I still eat a heart healthy diet, as I have done for over 30 years.

  • tim hrimnak

    Thank you Cleveland Clinic for taking care of my polio problem in the fifties ! No problems since !

  • Bob Spencer


  • jojo

    Great tips! Thank you, as I approach 55 years old, I need all the advice I can get. I also have incorporated Bikram Yoga into my lifestyle! I lost 15 pounds in a year!

    • lonnie

      Love Bikram Yoga

  • L. Stanley

    Being fit & healthy at the age of 78, I feel I can speak for older women. Never neglect exercise, both weights and aerobic. Your diet suggestions are right on as I am also a nutritionist. AND- keep smiling!

  • Sue Hutchings Spurrier

    My mother is 91 and still drives and is very active. She never eats olive oil, fruits or anything good for her. She thrives on sweets, gravies, horrible things like vienna sausages and came home yesterday eating pork rinds. She never has exercised yet she goes to the doctor and her cholesterol is perfect and he tells her she’s in fantastic health. She is a medical wonder. She was adopted and I’m starting to believe she’s an alien. lol I just don’t get it!

    • Dr_Venture

      Your mother is an Alien spore creature.
      She is not human.

    • ruby

      …so imaginethe number of years she could have added on with a good diet!

      • Susan

        At 91, if she’s still driving and enjoying life, I’d say more power to her!

  • RNstef

    At 63 yrs young I eat very healthily and in small amounts that fit on a snack plate. I have snacks twice aday and sometimes a bedtime snack. My weight is normal. I eat just real food. I look younger than my age I’m told, now if only I didn’t have to color my hair…lol

  • bill

    reading your different 5 articles its all for women what about men. what should they follow.

  • Jackie Utley

    Ian 74 hard to get weight off atlround middle going to try this

  • Pam Grant Bilfeld

    Nice list. Need to add in: exercise, sleep, stress reduction techniques