Things women should know about using lube

Lube can fill a myriad of needs—whether that’s keeping the engine revving a little longer during a marathon sex-binge, making things a little bit more slippery, or introducing you to some new kinds of fun. Bottom line, lube is pretty fantastic. If you haven’t yet stocked up on a bottle but are in the market, here are some things you might want to know.

>>Everything You Need to Know About the Abortion Pill

You are not broken if you use lube (and neither is your partner)

It drives me crazy that some women really feel that way. I don’t get it! Using lube doesn’t mean that you’re not functioning. If anything, using lube makes you a connoisseur of sex and the ambassador of your own pleasure! So if anyone tells you that something is wrong with you or your body because you love lube, then they – not you – have some other issues going on.

You are not broken if you use lube (via Good Clean Love)

Don’t use oil-based lubes with condoms

Want to use baby oil or petroleum jelly? In the Guide to Getting It On, author Paul Joannides, PsyD, instructs readers to Not. Do. That. With. Condoms. It can deteriorate the latex in a condom and cause it to break. Not good. So if condoms are your only form of birth control, think wisely.

Don’t use silicone lubes with silicone sex toys

They can cause your silicone toy to break down. That said, silicone lubes are great for water play, as water-based lubes obviously wouldn’t work with that.

But silicone works with condoms

Silicone-based lubes last longer than water-based lubes (which work with both condoms and sex toys). Water-based lubes seem to a popular type of lube, but they also have a tendency to dry out more quickly, so you might need to reapply it during your sex-a-thon.

Silicone-based lubes work with condoms (via USA online news)

Popular forms of lubes could cause infections

If you are prone to yeast infections or any other non-fun infections down there, pay heed: A 2013 study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology revealed that women who used products that aren’t really supposed to go in their lady parts (like some oils or Vaseline) had higher rates of yeast and various bacterial infections, most probably because these products messed with their pH.

Oh, you might want to stay away from glycerin, too, which is found in a handful of popular ingredients, including many water-based lubricants — because nothing can put the brakes on your sex life like a nasty yeast infection or a case of bacterial vaginosis, a smelly infection, and Dr. Mary Marnach of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told Reuters glycerin can lead to both. So if you want to use a slippery friend during sexy time while using condoms, read the ingredients.

Oh! And fun fact from The Guide to Getting It On: Glycerin is also an ingredient in laxatives, which means lubes with that ingredient may not bode well with anal sex.

Popular forms of lubes could cause infections (via cattitude & co.)

When all else fails … just spit

Spit is relatively cheap (free), organic, and always ready at a moment’s notice. However, spit will dry out quicker, so it’s not the best option if you’re looking for a longer, uninterrupted frolic.

There’s no catch-all for what lube works for you

Of course, when it comes to your body and your orgasm, research (and trial and error) is key, but remember: Everyone’s experience is unique. One woman may be into Uberlube, but maybe you’ll prefer Astroglide. All you can do is try and see what puts you on the fast track to crazy pleasure.

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Everything You Need to Know About the Abortion Pill

The full breakdown on where to get abortion pill, when to take it, and how safe this first-semester abortion procedure is.

>>6 Answers to Your Most Important Penis Questions

What it is

A medication abortion is not just one “abortion pill,” but a combination of two medications prescribed by a physician that work together to terminate a pregnancy and shed the uterine lining. The two medicines used are mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone, which is taken first, works by blocking progesterone — a hormone necessary to sustain pregnancy — and causing the embryo to detach from the uterine wall. Misoprostol is taken within a day or two after taking the first pill, usually at home, and works by causing cramping that empties the uterus, kind of like a period.

According to stats from Planned Parenthood, a medication abortion is 98 percent effective up to eight weeks into a pregnancy. From 8-9 weeks, it’s about 96 percent effective, and then 93 percent effective from 9-10 weeks.

Abortion Pills (via Toronto Star)

Who can use it

Medication abortion is a safe (and common) procedure for terminating first-trimester pregnancies. In 2016, the FDA extended the window of approval for medication abortions from seven weeks to 10 weeks, or about two months after the first day of your last period. After 10 weeks (or on day 71 after the first day of your last period), you can opt to have an in-clinic abortion. People under 18 are able to have medication abortions, though most states require some sort of parental consent (in some cases, you need consent from two parents).

What to expect

Your physician will give you a pregnancy test and, in some states, perform a mandatory ultrasound to determine how far along you are. You’ll get written instructions from your physician on how to take the pills. Most people don’t experience any side effects after taking the first pill, mifepristone, but it’s not unusual to feel nauseous or start bleeding. Because its job is to cause the uterine lining to shed, misoprostol should cause a lot of bleeding and cramping within one to four hours of taking the first dose. Some people say this cramping feels “like normal period cramps” and don’t experience intense bleeding, but you may feel nauseous and experience intense cramping and heavy bleeding (think, soaking through a maxi pad).

Everything You Need to Know About the Abortion Pill (via blogger)

It’s not abnormal to see large clumps of tissue or blood clots after taking the misoprostol. The bleeding should start to subside after a few hours, usually around four to five, but can take longer. Cramping will continue for a day or two and decrease in intensity with time. If you’re feeling pain or nausea, your doctor can prescribe an anti-nausea medication and you can take ibuprofen — just don’t take aspirin, which is a blood thinner and can cause more bleeding.

Bleeding and spotting might continue for two to three weeks after the abortion. Your doctor will have you come back in for a follow up, where you’ll get a blood test and possibly another ultrasound to make sure the abortion was complete and you’re healthy.

What the side effects are

Other side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue, and a mild fever (via www.self.com)

Most people compare medication abortion to the feeling of an early miscarriage — so the primary physical effects are bleeding and cramping. But other side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, fatigue, and a mild fever up to about 100 degrees. If you have a fever higher than that, or the day after you take the misoprostol, you should call your doctor immediately. The risk of infection with a medication abortion is very low but not totally impossible. You doctor can prescribe antibiotics if you have an infection.

How safe it is

An oft-cited Princeton study from 2012 found that less than 1 percent of people who got medication abortions at Planned Parenthood from 2009-2010 had a serious side effect or incomplete abortion. The most common adverse outcome is that the abortion is incomplete, and patients can then decide between taking more medication or having an in-clinic abortion.

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The Key to Better Sex Is All in Your Breathing

A few secrets of yoga can help rev up your love life.

You’ve probably considered a yoga class once or twice — maybe a friend tried to convince you — but for one reason or another it never stuck and you’re still skeptical. Consider, then, one huge bonus of the practice you may not be aware of: It can improve your sex life.

Here’s how it works: The key to yoga’s claim on your sex drive is in the breathing technique used during yoga, pranayama. It releases the same chemicals in the brain as sex does, meaning you can leave the studio post-yoga with enhanced sexual desire. Plus, during your practice, certain postures increase blood flow to the pelvic region, lighting up your sexual response. The heart rate of yogis in deep meditative states can even mirror that of frenzied lovers.

You don’t even need to go to a class to reap the benefits, either. Here are five poses you can do anywhere to get you started — in more ways than one.

>>Food is officially the way to a woman’s heart

Chair Pose

Chair Pose

Chair pose engages your pelvic region by forcing you to lift your pelvic floor as you lower your tailbone. It’s the same muscles that are used in Kegel exercises and it leads to more intense control of sexual organs.

Do it: Start with your feet together, toes touching. Sit your hips back and reach your arms alongside your ears, like you are about to sit in a chair. Lengthen your tailbone down to keep from crunching in the low back, lifting the pelvic floor to elongate the spine.

Seated Wide-Legged Straddle

This wide-legged forward fold increases libido by releasing tension in the groin muscles and heightening energy levels by signaling blood flow to the pelvic region.

Do it: Extend each leg to a 45-degree angle from your hip joint and flex your feet. Take a deep breath in, lengthening the torso. On the exhale, fold forward, reaching for your toes. Keep the spine lengthened as if someone is pulling the crown of your head forward. Breath deeply into the crease created at your pelvis.

Cobra Pose

Cobra Pose

Cobra pose stretches out your sex organs and increases blood circulation to the reproductive organs.

Do it: Lie on your stomach, feet together and pointed to the back of the room. Place your hands alongside your ribs for stability, press your pelvis into the mat, and use your back muscles to lift your chest off the mat. Gaze just six inches in front of you to keep from crunching your cervical spine in your neck. Try lifting your hands off of the mat to lift higher. Lower slowly.

Breathing Techniques

Fast breathing shuts down the cortex of the brain, which controls higher thinking, and allows your primitive brain and limbic system, responsible for sexual responses, to activate and release sex hormones.

Do it: Take a deep breath in, and exhale through the nose in short, sharp breaths, pumping the diaphragm as you count to 50. Take a deep breath in and out. Repeat. You can do this in a seated position, such as lotus, where you are seated with your legs crossed, or while holding other positions.

Squat Pose

Squat Pose

This deep squatting pose keeps pelvic joints healthy by forcing you to work your inner thigh muscles, pull up the pelvic floor, and engage your abdominals. It’s also thought to stimulate your sex glands and spleen.

Do it: From a standing position, place your feet hips-width distance apart with the toes turned out. Bring palms together in front of your heart, and slowly lower down toward the mat to come to hover just above the floor. Place your biceps just behind your knees to spread them wider and to help lengthen your spine, reaching your chest up to the sky.

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Food is officially the way to a woman’s heart

There’s about 546 reasons why food is everything, and now scientists have found another big benefit to keeping a woman well-fed. (Listen up, gentlemen!)

In a study recently published by the journal Appetite, researchers found that there was a very close correlation between a woman’s appetite and romantic desire.

Food is officially the way to a woman’s heart

Researchers looked at the brain’s reaction to hunger in 20 healthy, young women. They were asked not to eat for eight hours before the experiment. First, the participants were shown romantic images, such as people holding hands, while their brain’s activity was scanned. The women were then fed a liquid meal-replacement drink. Afterwards,  they were asked to look at the same romantic images again, now with a full stomach, as their brains were scanned once more.

food
There’s about 546 reasons why food is everything

The findings showed that the women were much more open to romance after they were satiated, based on the activation levels in the brain scans. In other words, a woman is more likely to, ahem, get in the mood after she enjoys a good meal.

“They were more responsive to romantic cues,”author Alice Ely, now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego told Time.com.”Instead of being anxious and annoyed and irritable when you’re hungry…once we’re sated, then we can get on to better things.”

heart
Food is officially the way to a woman’s heart

The study’s authors note, though, that more research needs to be done on the subject.”It’s all very speculative, but it’s still very interesting and a sort of unexpected finding,” said Ely.

Still, you now have the best excuse ever for your partner to take you out to dinner or cook you an amazing dish: science!

When sex hurts

When sex hurts

Between 25 and 45 percent of postmenopausal women find when sex hurts, a condition called dyspareunia. While there are many causes, the most common reason for dyspareunia—painful sex—in women over 50 is vulvovaginal atrophy, a fancy name for a vulva and vagina that no longer have the beneficial effects from estrogen that they did prior to menopause.

As discussed earlier, lower estrogen levels significantly affect your vagina, impacting its ability to secrete lubricant, to expand and contract and to grow new cells. Over time, blood flow diminishes, and the vagina and vulva can atrophy, or shrink as cells die off and aren’t replaced.

pain
Deep belly pain when having sex

The good news is that vuvlovaginal atrophy is very treatable. One of the best treatments doesn’t involve medicine! Turns out that the more often you have sex, the less likely you are to develop atrophy or, at the very least, a serious case of it. That’s because sex increases blood flow to the genitals, keeping them healthy.

Other treatments  for sex hurtful include

Estrogen. As you might expect, if lack of estrogen is behind vulvovaginal atrophy, then giving back estrogen should help. Both systemic estrogens (oral pills and patches) and local estrogens (creams, rings and tablets applied to the vulva and/or vagina) work. However, most major medical organizations recommend starting with the local approach first.

hurt
When sex hurts women

Studies on the estrogen ring, cream and tablets find extremely high rates of improvement in dyspareunia, with up to 93 percent of women reporting significant improvement and between 57 and 75 percent saying that their sexual comfort was restored, depending on the approach used.

Side effects vary. Most estrogen products applied locally are associated with minimal side effects. However, each woman’s response can differ. When using estrogen creams, pills or rings, it is important to talk to your health care provider about any symptoms, such as: headache, stomach upset, bloating, nausea, weight changes, changes in sexual interest, breast tenderness, abdominal pain, back pain, respiratory infection, vaginal itching or vaginal yeast infections.

6 Secrets of Women Who Never Get Sick

Those lucky people who seem to avoid colds altogether…how exactly do they do it? Are they just blessed with superhuman immune systems? Not quite—it’s likely they’ve picked up some easy, everyday habits that protect them from illness. Use them to help your body fight off intruders and stay sniffle-free this year.

1. Have a Set Bedtime

Research shows that those who sleep 8 hours or more per night are three times less likely to develop a cold compared to people who snooze for less than 7 hours. One reason why: At night your body repairs itself and regulates stress hormones that can make you more susceptible to infection.

Have a Set Bedtime
Have a Set Bedtime

“I instituted a strict sleep/wake schedule in my house that applies on weekdays and weekends. At a recent doctor’s appointment for physicals, he said that we hadn’t been there for sick visits in over a year—quite a feat for a mom and three kids ages 5 to 16!” —Mikita Burton, Lenexa, KS

2. Eat Colors

Filling up on antioxidant-rich foods like sweet potatoes (beta-carotene), citrus and bell peppers (vitamin C), almonds (vitamin E), and red grapes or red wine (resveratrol) replenishes the cells that are damaged in the fight against germs and bacteria.

Eat Colors
Eat Colors

“I used to get bad sinus infections regularly, but I cleaned up my diet— eating more whole foods like fruits, veggies, nuts and lean protein—and I haven’t been sick in two years.” —Susan Robertson, Knoxville, TN

3 Shape Up Your Gut

You bring the outside world into your mouth every day, and though most bacteria and germs are harmless, some can make you sick. That’s where your gut gets in on the action. Good bacteria can enhance your immune system, so you may want to consider taking a probiotic supplement—which contains helpful bacteria—during cold and flu season. Try a multi-strain formula (find in your local health-food market or grocery store). If you want to skip supplements, eat more fermented foods, like sauerkraut.

Shape Up Your Gut
Shape Up Your Gut

“My kids were constantly ill when we moved to a new town a few years ago and we decided to give probiotics a go. Almost immediately, my family’s health improved. So long, sick days!” —Alison Schoonover, Columbus, WI

The Six Biggest Health Mistakes Women Make in 50s (Part 2)

Turning 50 (or more) is the time to put all of your hard-earned, healthy-living knowledge to work.

You know when you should get screened. You know the importance of exercise and good nutrition. You probably feel and look amazing.

weight gain is inevitable
weight gain is inevitable

But midlife will bring some special health challenges to women. The good news is that none of those challenges have to stop you from living a vibrant and productive life — for decades to come. To keep yourself in the best of health, avoid these six common health mistakes at midlife and beyond.

4. You believe weight gain is inevitable.

Here’s the real story: The risk of weight gain rises due to advancing age, but it does not mean extra pounds are inevitable. But you do have to work harder to maintain your weight and to lose weight, says Rush Medical Center’s Soltes.

That’s because so-called energy expenditures decrease during menopause due to loss of muscle and hormonal changes. “If you eat the same things and exercise the same amount as you did in your thirties, you could potentially still gain weight,” says Soltes. “Women don’t want to hear that, but it is biology.”

A good starting point is the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week, broken into 30 minutes, five times a week, or smaller increments such as 15 minutes twice a day, says Cho, of the Cleveland Clinic.

While exercise is great, you have to eat a little smarter, too. A study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion followed nearly 200 middle-aged women for three years, tracking eating patterns, overall health and lifestyle. The researchers found women who did not change their eating habits as they aged were 138 percent more likely to put on 6.6 pounds or more during midlife.

The fix is to eat more fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, and be aware of what you are putting on your plate, says Soltes.

5. You lose your sense of “purpose.”

sense of “purpose.”
sense of “purpose.”

“Purpose” provides structure to our lives, says psychiatrist Niranjan Karnik, M.D. of Rush University Medical Center. And when retirement or other age-related challenges loom, some individuals may lose their sense of “purpose” and positivity, leading to poor health and poorer sense of well-being, he adds.

Having “purpose” in midlife and beyond doesn’t mean you have to strive to change the world — although if you think you can, why not try? Rather, “. . . it’s simply finding meaning in the day to day,” whether that’s gardening, learning a new language, volunteering at a local pet shelter, or even starting a new career if you want, says Karnik.

It’s these small things that can pay some big dividends. A study of some 6,000 people, who were a part of the Midlife in the United States study, found a lower risk of mortality during the study’s 14-year-follow-up among participants who had a sense of purpose in life and maintained good social relationships.

A study at Rush University showed having “purpose” later in life slowed cognitive decline by about 30 percent. Other studies show “purpose” reduces your risk of heart failure, Alzheimer’s disease, and may even make an individual more likely to follow a healthy lifestyle.

6. You skip those new screenings.

new screenings
new screenings

By now, certain screening tests — think PAP, blood pressure, cholesterol — are part of your healthy living routine. But once you hit 50 (and beyond), your doctor will recommend others, such as colorectal cancer screening (starting at age 50) and bone density screening (at age 65). If you decided not to have a mammogram in your forties, start now. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends women ages 50 to 74 have a mammogram biennially starting at age 50. The American Cancer Society recommends women start mammogram at age 45 and and have them every year until age 55, and then start having them every other year.

34 Things Your Breasts Say About Your Health (Part 3)

Your breasts can communicate a lot about what’s going on inside your body. Use these signs to learn what your breasts are telling you — and see your medical care provider if you suspect something is up.

25. You could have a non cancerous tumor. Also known as a papilloma (an overgrowth of milk ducts), it warrants a visit to your health care provider for investigation — especially if you notice this symptom in only one breast, which isn’t a great sign, Dr. Weintraub says.

34 Things Your Breasts Say About Your Health
34 Things Your Breasts Say About Your Health

26. It might mean you’re aroused. Nipple firmness rarely has anything to do with breast tissue abnormality unless there’s some sort of asymmetry, Dr. Weintraub says. It’s just a contraction of the small muscles around the nipple and is associated with stimulation before or after sex.

27. It might mean you’re cold. When sex is the last thing on your mind and your headlights are on, the simplest explanation is that the heat is off.

28. There could be breast cancer behind your nipple. Any kind of dimpling in the nipple or breast can indicate a cancer is growing back there. So if your first impulse is to see a doctor ASAP, you’re right on the money.

34 Things Your Breasts Say About Your Health
34 Things Your Breasts Say About Your Health

29. You don’t really have dense breasts. Most women who think they have this condition are sorely mistaken: The lumpy tenderness you feel during certain weeks of your cycle is very different from having “dense breasts,” a clinical diagnosis that can only be detected through a mammogram.

30. You might have a greater risk of undetected breast cancer. But this is pretty controversial: Some doctors say it’s more difficult to detect tumors through dense breast tissue — it’s why many prescribe ultrasounds to double-check. The problem is that it’s all too easy to get a false positive cancer diagnosis via ultrasound — which can trigger unhealthy amounts of anxiety all for naught.

31. You may be more susceptible to skin cancer. Pale, translucent breasts are a predictor of fair skin, which makes you especially susceptible to sunburn. But as long as you don’t worship the sun and apply sunscreen liberally to exposed skin, you shouldn’t have any major problems.

32. You could have breast cancer. If your formerly smooth breast starts to feel rough (like an orange peel), with a hardened areola and nipple, cancer could be present, and you should definitely get it checked out, Dr. Weintraub says.

34 Things Your Breasts Say About Your Health
34 Things Your Breasts Say About Your Health

33. You could have a benign cyst. If it feels round and smooth, and it wiggles, it’s probably a benign, fluid-filled cyst. (Not a tumor.) Take the vitamin combo suggested in no. 21 and wait one cycle to see if it goes away. If it persists, your doctor can do an ultrasound to check out things.

34. It could be breast cancer. While the vast majority of breast pains and masses are a normal result of fluctuating hormones, “whenever you notice a breast mass, the question is always: Is this cancer or could it turn into cancer?” Dr. Minkin says. It’s a question your health care provider is best suited to answer — so make an appointment to get checked out if you’re concerned.

34 Things Your Breasts Say About Your Health (Part 2)

Your breasts can communicate a lot about what’s going on inside your body. Use these signs to learn what your breasts are telling you — and see your medical care provider if you suspect something is up.

11. It’s probably NBD. “This is not related to breast cancer,” Dr. Weintraub says. “Different women just have different pigmentation patterns.”

12. It’s probably NBD. Dr. Minkin chalks this up to normal variation.

34 Things Your Breasts Say About Your Health
34 Things Your Breasts Say About Your Health

13. It’s probably NBD. The breast is designed for milk production, and those bumps are just the ends of milk ducts. They sometimes puff out a bit, so it’s normal to have small, pimple-like bumps on your areolas.

14. You could have a benign cyst or cancerous tumor. Calmly call your health care provider to schedule a screening as soon as you can. She can tell you whether you’re feeling normal breast tissue or have cause for concern.

15. It could mean you’ve been exposed to testosterone cream or gel. Some guys use the stuff to boost sex drive — but rubbing up against said guy can expose you to the hormone and its side effects, Dr. Minkin explains. This could include hair growth in random places.

34 Things Your Breasts Say About Your Health
34 Things Your Breasts Say About Your Health

16. You could have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). If you find yourself suddenly sprouting chest hair, your testosterone levels might be elevated due to PCOS, a condition where your ovaries or adrenal glands produce excessive amounts of male hormones, resulting in cysts (fluid-filled sacs) on the ovaries, and other symptoms such as acne and irregular periods. Because PCOS can result in infertility if left untreated, see your doctor for a formal diagnosis if these symptoms sound familiar.

17. It might mean you left shampoo or soap residue on your breast. Just rinse off with water and apply hydrocortisone cream for some sweet relief.

18. Or you’re allergic to your clothing. A new bra can contain dye or other compounds that elicit a reaction — and the same goes for a wooly sweater. Apply hydrocortisone cream and change clothes or bras to see if the itch goes away.

19. Or you’re getting your period. Sometimes changes in your hormones (the ultimate scape goat!) can trigger itchiness leading up to your period.

20. Or you could have Paget disease. ​It’s also known as nipple carcinoma, a very rare form of breast cancer. Look for itchiness around the nipple and areola; flaky, crusty skin; a flattened nipple; and yellow or bloody discharge — and see your health care provider ASAP if any of these symptoms sound familiar.

21. It might mean you’re getting your period. It’s pretty common to experience changes in your breasts — from the texture to sensitivity — in the days leading up to your period. And it’s normal to wonder whether these changes signal something more serious (like a cancerous tumor)

To find out whether your symptoms are related to your cycle or are cause for concern, Dr. Minkin recommends taking a tried-and-true combination of vitamins on days when you’re uncomfortable: 200 milligrams of vitamin B6, 300 milligrams of vitamin E, and two 500-milligram capsules of evening primrose oil. Then wait one menstrual cycle. If the soreness and lumpiness doesn’t go away, see your doctor, who can confirm whether you’re feeling normal breast tissue or something off. (Most of the time, tumors don’t cause pain. So breast pain can actually be a good sign — even if it only occurs in one breast as opposed to both.)

22. It might mean you’re OD-ing on caffeine. Caffeine can sometimes aggravate breast soreness — so cutting back on coffee and sodas (in addition to taking the supplements listed above) can help bring your breasts back to baseline.

34 Things Your Breasts Say About Your Health
34 Things Your Breasts Say About Your Health

23. It could mean you’re feeling stimulated. The breasts are designed for milk-making, so a little leakage that resembles milk just means they’re just doing their thing. It can happen in response to physical stimulation — and you don’t have to be pregnant or nursing to experience it, Dr. Minkin explains. If the odd drop bothers you, there are some medications that can help.

24. It might be because you’re taking an antidepressant or antipsychotic. Some prescription meds elevate your levels of prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production. The vast majority of the time, this isn’t dangerous — it’s just a pesky side effect.

The Six Biggest Health Mistakes Women Make in 50s (Part 1)

Turning 50 (or more) is the time to put all of your hard-earned, healthy-living knowledge to work.

You know when you should get screened. You know the importance of exercise and good nutrition. You probably feel and look amazing.

But midlife will bring some special health challenges to women. The good news is that none of those challenges have to stop you from living a vibrant and productive life — for decades to come. To keep yourself in the best of health, avoid these six common health mistakes at midlife and beyond.

1. You ignore heart health.

ignore heart health
ignore heart health

Heart disease is the number one killer of women, and risk rises as women age. Menopause doesn’t cause cardiovascular disease. Rather, it’s those bad habits earlier in life, such as smoking, obesity, and lack of exercise that can begin to take a toll on heart health in the 50 and over woman, according to the American Heart Association.

A September 2015 report issued by the CDC on so-called “heart age” versus biological age shows women, on average, have hearts that are five years older than actual chronological age. If a woman has high blood pressure (140 mm Hg or more), her heart’s “age” is 18 years older than she is, according to the report.

But the good news is that it’s not too late to change habits that increase your risk of heart disease, says Leslie Cho, M.D., director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Cardiovascular Center.

“Although some damage may already be done, the evidence points to the fact that changes you make in terms of getting more exercise, eating smarter, losing weight, and quitting smoking, no matter what your age, will benefit your heart,” says Cho.

In fact, a study by the German Cancer Research Center of nearly 9,000 people between the ages of 50 and 74 showed that heart attack and stroke risk can be cut by some 40 percent within the first five years of tossing those cigarettes.

This is also the time to make sure you keep up with heart health tests such as blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol testing. “Prevention or early detection, when problems can be easily treated, will help keep a woman active and healthy,” says Cho.

Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. “If you are having problems with exercise or weight loss and blood pressure control, don’t think you have to do everything on your own,” she says. “Talk to your doctor. He or she can help you.”

2. You put up with menopause miseries.

Woman with headache pain
Woman with headache pain

One of the biggest mistakes women make during this time is thinking they have to learn to live with menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, sleeping difficulties, and vaginal and urinary problems.

Although short-term use of hormonal therapy has been shown to help many women who deal with some of the most severe problems of menopause, not every woman is a candidate or may want to take hormones, says reproductive endocrinologist Barbara Soltes, M.D., of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “But that doesn’t mean they have to suffer since there is other help available,” she says.

For example, if hot flashes are causing difficulty, the North American Menopause Society just released findings on what really works to cool the heat. According to their report cognitive behavioral therapy (including relaxation techniques, learning how to feel more positive about menopause, and sleep strategies) can reduce hot flash severity. Clinical hypnosis has some good evidence, too.

Bladder issues like stress or urge incontinence can also be helped with medications, devices, and behavioral changes, says Soltes, who advises women to see a doctor with a special interest in menopause if they are having any menopausal difficulties.

3. You think sex is over.

Sexual frequency can decline with age, but a survey published in The New England Journal of Medicine shows even 75- to 85-year-olds had sex two to three times a month, with more than 20 percent reporting sexual relations at least once a week.

However, sex can change due to hormonal upheavals at menopause, which can cause vaginal dryness and potentially painful sex. But over-the-counter lubricating products can help, as can prescription topical estrogen, says Kat Van Kirk, a licensed family and marriage therapist and board-certified clinical sexologist in Lihue, Hawaii. (Yoga, Kegel exercises, and pelvic floor physical therapy may also help some women improve sexual function, according to The North American Menopause Society.)

sex is over
sex is over

It’s important for women to remember that sex “. . . can be hugely beneficial to our bodies, minds and spirits,” says Van Kirk, often resulting in improved pelvic muscle tone, healthier vaginal tissues, and better psychological well-being.

Despite the challenges, sexual relationships can actually improve as people age since women no longer fear pregnancy and couples have less stress about careers or financial situations, she adds.