That hair salon was good for something: At least for WVFC, since that’s where a new copy of Self magazine winked at us until we paged through the Inspiring Women spread. We were pleased to see right next to the likes of Diablo Cody and Serena Williams, a proud team of midlife women — and not just Ellen and Senator Clinton, either. Two less-expected heroines: Avon CEO Andrea Jung, 50 (seen with Charlie Rose), and designer Vera Wang, who wins our Making Lemonade Award:

Say hello to the world’s most powerful Avon lady, a CEO who uses her status for causes far greater than the bottom line. Perhaps that’s because of what Andrea Jung, 50, learned from her father and her mother. “My family constantly reminded me, ‘Have pride in who you are, no matter what you think business demands of you.'” Clearly, Jung listened. Under her purview, the Avon Foundation has raised more than half a billion dollars to fight breast cancer, and last spring Avon pledged $1 million to end domestic violence, which affects one in three women worldwide. “It’s important to have a sense of purpose, something you feel passionate about. Knowing that you’re doing your small part will end up making a huge difference in how satisfied you’ll feel at each stage of your life,” Jung says.

Much of Vera Wang’s life has been based on not getting what she wanted. The 59-year-old designer was a nationally ranked figure skater who didn’t make the Olympic team and so turned her eye to fashion. She spent 16 years at Vogue, where she never realized her aim of becoming editor-in-chief. So she left and created her own fashion line, all after age 40.

Below, Wang talks to reporters in October 2006: “There are so many variables you never hear about,” she said. She should know:

Before you have to stop: Remember all those aches that pop up after we work out as we get older? how heartbroken we were to hear our “bone spurs” termed osteomas or arthritis? Welcome to osteoarthritis,which affects nearly half of those over 65,  Now, a new screening method unveiled  at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society promises to make it easier to detect osteoarthritis earlier, rather than waiting till you’re a candidate for hip replacement. Researchers Alexej Jerschow, Ph.D., and Ravinder R. Regatte say that by tweaking MRIs to detect thinning glycosaminogycan (GAG), which keeps cartilage elastic, the new screen may save a lot of pain:

Advanced osteoarthritis is very easy to diagnose, Regatte points out. By then, however, joint replacement may be the only option. With early detection, physicians could prescribe dietary supplements, medication or other measures to ward off further cartilage damage.

“Given the lack of knowledge about OA, I think any method that is noninvasive and relatively easy to apply will be quite valuable. Not only do you address diagnosis, but you address how we can understand OA’s mechanism,” says Jerschow. The test could also be used to improve existing cartilage-boosting drugs.

Obese or unfit? What’s worse?: Given all the concern about midlife weight gain, with Menopause: The Blog interviewing experts this week about progesterone and belly fat, we looked with extra concern at two somewhat-conflicting stories this week about weight and overall health:

  • A new British study
    in the August 2008 edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics
    Society was reported with the perhaps-inflammatory headline: “Obesity
    in elderly a ticking time bomb for health services.”  And their initial
    survey was indeed worrying: after 4,000 participants in the English
    Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) aged 65 and older, who had provided
    their body-mass index, were followed up for five years. The researchers
    compared people with BMI of 20 to 24.9 (i.e. those of recommended
    weight), with those who had a BMI of 25 to 29.9 (‘overweight’), 30 to
    34.9 (‘obese’), or 35 or over (‘severely obese’). And as we all might
    expect, “the higher an older person’s BMI, the more likely he or she
    was to develop mobility problems.. or to develop difficulty carrying
    out everyday tasks.”  The chief researcher warned that since in
    middle-aged and elderly adults are more
    likely to be obese, their status “will inevitably lead to a greater
    burden of disability and
    ill health and place an immense strain on health and social services.”
  • However, in that same study, “the results also showed that, in
    older people, the link between higher BMI and the risk of death is weak
    – only severely obese older men seemed to run this increased risk.” The
    seeming paradox could be linked to the other major finding this week,
    from the Archive of Internal Medicine: that
    “half of overweight people and one-third of obese people are
    “metabolically healthy.” That means that despite their excess pounds,
    many overweight and obese adults have healthy levels of “good”
    cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose and other risks for heart
    disease. At the same time, about one out of four slim people — those
    who fall into the “healthy” weight range — actually have at least two
    cardiovascular risk factors typically associated with obesity.”

None of which will get us into those skinny jeans, but perhaps that’s what Vera Wang is for.

By Chris Lombardi

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