Lit match with dancing flame against a moody background
September 2021 Elena Frankel

Burning down the house

Every day, a new fix.

Every day, a new fix. The body past 40, 45, 50 is much like a house that needs repairs and renovations. Regardless of how active and healthy you are, you might be plagued, as I am, with issues like psoriasis, MTP synovitis, metatarsal bursitis, osteopenia, or tinnitus. The body just doesn’t work or recover as it used to, even if the mind feels sharp as a tack. This is one of the hardest parts of the aging process.

Hand holding smoldering sage bundle
Confident woman with feet up on table and hands linked behind head

I admit to feeling disheartened when my doctor counseled, “You might want to bring down that BMI,” even though I know menopause is causing insulin resistance, making weight loss a Sisyphean battle. I’ve also been told, “You need to do weight-bearing exercises to prevent further bone loss,” which seems impossible when I can’t put much pressure on my feet without pain. (Note to doctors everywhere: simply throwing an orthotic insole in our shoes doesn’t cut it.) New day, new problem, new doctor. Tamp down one problem, and another pops up. There has to be a better, more holistic approach than playing Whac-A-Mole with our bodies.

 

As our bodies undergo various “assaults” in a short amount of time, they start to fight back. Add in the stress of a global pandemic, and it might seem like our bodies are actually attacking themslves. The culprit is inflammation, and it’s something I’ve been looking into to treat many of the issues that have cropped up since I crossed the magic threshold of 40. The Integrative Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston specializes in bridging Eastern and Western medicine, and I’ve relied on them to help diagnose and treat my inflammation-related issues.

 

I’ve been plagued with orthopedic issues my entire life: bunions, thumb dislocation (surgery), and a ligament tear in the elbow (surgery). Over the past decade, I’ve also developed bursitis and synovitis in my feet. Sure, these kinds of ailments are nothing new for me. But that doesn’t make them any less frustrating. Fifteen years ago, I barely thought about aches or pains. These days, I sometimes feel like I need constant, head-to-toe attention and the screenings (and possibly medications!) to stave off further problems.

 

I’m not the only one. Many of my close friends are dealing with chronic pain, whether in the neck, back, hips, or other joints. Some struggle with weight gain, thinning or drying hair and skin, waning eyesight, decreased hearing, or autoimmune flare-ups. But when I look at them, this isn’t what I see. Instead, I see vibrant, modern women pushing through all the challenges of aging. They’re seeking new and better opportunities for wellness, trying to keep themselves healthier, so they can handle whatever life throws at them.

 

So when you start to feel like the house is burning down, know that a new one can be built with a bit more targeted self-care and self-awareness. Seek out friends, family members, and doctors who support you and don’t brush off your issues as the product of anxiety or stress.  It’s time we move past the era of doctors telling women they need to better manage their anxiety, rather than uncovering actual diagnoses. Here’s a thought. Perhaps if patient care for women past 45 was more about educating them on the many changes they face, and less on telling them to calm down, women would have a greater sense of control over this physically and emotionally jarring phase of their lives.

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