Book Excerpt: Joan Collins on Staying Young

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HRT isn't a magic pill that will turn you into a young girl again, but it can most certainly improve the quality of your life in many ways. So run, don't walk to your nearest physician. If he turns out to be one of the nonbelievers, find a doctor who is a believer. But, and I cannot stress this enough, HRT must be prescribed in the correct dosage for you and that usually starts with the minimum amount. Also, although research is inconclusive, there are reports of an increased susceptibility to breast cancer. So if you do decide to take it, it's essential to have a yearly mammogram just to play it safe. My doctor has assured me that the benefits far outweigh the risks but, before you make up your mind depending on your own circumstances, seek professional medical advice.

Prime time

Once the kids have flown the nest (or you've retired), it's time to achieve your private ambitions, and even if these are not so ambitious as piloting planes or writing bestsellers, there's a whole world of things to do and achieve out there. Don't write yourself off simply because you've had a milestone birthday that ends in a nought. This may have been understandable at the beginning of the last century when the sands of time were definitely running out for a woman who reached forty, but today there are decades ahead for you to do so many things. Write, paint, sculpt, learn the piano, take up dancing, start a university or college course, fall in love all over again -- the possibilities are limitless.

Now is the time to be a little selfish. Many of today's older women have devoted their lives to a man, perhaps children or maybe to caring for elderly parents, so it's fine, when the big five- or six-0 hits, to take some time for yourself, to pamper yourself in every way. You've sure earned it, girl. After all, if you won't do it, who's going to do it for you?

I believe that to help keep bones strong and healthy in later life, HRT is essential. To this end, I also recommend you take the following:

1. A daily dose of vitamin E capsules.

2. A fish supplement, such as Maxepa or cod-liver oil.

3. Antioxidant vitamins to prevent the free radicals, which cause aging.

4. Calcium pills.

5. Vitamin A— -- which is a great healer -- and vitamin D to promote absorption of calcium into the bones.

6. MSM (Methyl Sulphonyl/Sulfonyl Methane). Essential for people over fifty with incipient arthritis or osteoporosis.

7. Plenty of the following foods: sardines in olive oil and other fatty fish such as tuna, smoked salmon, and haddock; milk, cheese, and eggs (but don't overdo the dair -- too much builds up cholesterol). To maintain healthy bones, it's as essential for older women as it is for infants and young children to get that calcium.

8. Beta-carotene. After vitamins E and C, it's the most powerful antioxidant. Not only does it fight free radicals, it also slows down and can prevent skin cancer. To boost your intake, eat as much as you can of the following: beetroot, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, papaya, watercress, tomato sauce, cantaloupe, plus at least one 85g (3oz) serving of green, red, or yellow vegetables a day.

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