Healthy Breasts at 40, 50, and 60

Nervous about breast cancer? Make each decade worry-free with our comprehensive guide to breast health.

By Bari Nan Cohen and Cathy Garrard

Stave Off the Sag

It is a truth universally acknowledged that over time, skin loses elasticity and gravity takes its toll. "When you’re menstruating, the glands in your breasts are stimulated by hormones, and that’s what gives breasts their firmness," Willey says. So when hormone production slows, breasts become slack. Short of plastic surgery, is there anything you can do? "I tell my patients to buy bras that will work for them," Minkin says.

The best approach is to find a specialty store or a department store that’s known for great customer service. "Those are the places most likely to have someone on staff who’s trained in bra fitting," says Sonja Winther, president of Chantelle North America, a manufacturer specializing in bras for women over 40. "Don’t be surprised if the fitter can judge your size without even measuring. They can see the shape, the type of tissue you have, how broad your shoulders are — and know what you need."

A good fitter will have you bend over, let your breasts fall into the cups and then stand up straight before she fastens the strap in the back (always on the middle hook; if you have to fasten yours on the last hook, the bra is too big). "What’s really important is distribution of support: The band that goes around your body gives 70 percent of the support, the cups give 20 percent, and the straps only 10 percent," Winther says. The bra fitter should be able to determine whether the distribution is correct. She’ll make sure the underwire rests against the rib cage, not the breast, and that the center of the front of the bra lies close to your breastbone. Finally, when you raise your arms, the bra should not lift up at all.

Originally published in MORE magazine, September 2008.

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