Keep Your Breasts Healthy: Your 50s


Your breasts now:
You may notice some slight shrinkage. As you get older, hormonal changes cause body fat to accumulate in your lower regions—fat often decreases in the face or breasts and increases in the butt or thighs, explains Shirley Archer, a health-and-fitness educator at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Youll also notice more sagging because, as menopause approches, fat (which is more gravity-prone) replaces almost all breast tissue, and skin loses elasticity. Age also stretches out the Coopers ligaments. These fibrous, semielastic bands of tissue are found in breasts, and “theyre like rubber bands that get stretched over time,” Archer says.

Your most common concern:
Breast cancer. Your risk of developing the disease is now 1 in 38, the NCI says. So in your 50s, its more important than ever to get to a healthy weight. Several major studies have found a link between postmenopausal weight gain (especially if you tend to gain around the waist) and breast cancer. “I recommend that every woman in this age group measure her waist, which should be less than half her height in inches,” breast specialist Holly Smedira says.

Best breast-cancer-screening strategy:
Annual mammograms. These are a must, as are physical examinations by your doctor and monthly self-exams.

Best breast-saving move:
Chest exercises. While nothing will magically save you from sagging, doing chest moves two or three times a week will pump up breasts temporarily (by increasing blood flow to the area) and tone underlying muscles. Heres a good exercise to try before a big event: Lie on your back across a bench with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. With both hands, hold a dumbbell directly over your chest. Inhale as you lower the weight in an arc past your head, going as far as shoulder flexibility allows. Pause, then exhale as you lift the weight overhead in an arc until your hands are above your torso. Start with 8–12 reps; work up to 1 minute.

Good news!
Since your breasts are fattier now,
mammograms can better detect cancer: The false-negative rate drops from about 25 percent under the age of 50 to about 15 percent, Brem says.

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