If you’re 40, 50, or even heading towards 60, you might not have given much thought to the health challenges of aging. Hopefully, you’ve gotten this far without any major health scares. But, just as planning ahead for your future financial needs is important, so is planning ahead for your future health. As our population ages and our life expectancy increases, it becomes more and more important to make sure that we age with vitality and good health.
Aging well does not mean that you have to be 100% disease-free. Instead, it means managing any illnesses you may have and reducing your chances of getting the illnesses that you don’t have. While some diseases, such as Parkinson’s and certain cancers, may not be preventable, a large number of other diseases can be stopped or halted. This can be done by adopting a healthy lifestyle, going for regular health screenings, and staying engaged with your health. Here are some of the top health issues women face as they age:
1- Maintaining a healthy body weight
About three-fourths of adults aged 60 and older are overweight or obese. Obesity is related to conditions like
- Type 2 diabetes,
- cardiovascular disease,
- breast and colon cancer,
- gall bladder disease, and
- high blood pressure1.
Maintaining a healthy body weight can reduce your risk of getting all these illnesses along with many others.
The best way to maintain a healthy weight is to make exercise a part of your weekly routine. Reduce your alcohol intake and of course, stick to healthy foods. All these may require a bit of a lifestyle change, but the key is to start small and set realistic goals.
Although osteoporosis occurs in both men and women, women are four times more likely to develop the disease than men2. Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become so brittle that a simple fall can result in things like a
- broken hip,
- fracture or,
- serious spinal injury.
It goes without saying that such accidents can be life-changing events so staying on top of your bone health (especially as a female) is one of the most important things you can do.
Osteoporosis is NOT a normal part of normal aging so there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing it. For example:
- Eating foods high in calcium and vitamin D or taking supplements to make sure you get your required intake of these vitamins and minerals.
- Strength building exercises like walking, running, or light cardio will help build muscle strength which supports your bones.
Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when you no longer have your periods. Because your hormone levels are fluctuating, you may suffer from things like
- hot flashes,
- night sweats,
- mood changes, and
- difficulty sleeping.
Every woman has a different experience of menopause. Some are lucky enough to breeze through it with no problems while others have a more difficult time. For those going through menopause and suffering from difficult symptoms, remember that there are many medical and non-medical treatments that can help. Be sure to speak to your OBGYN to find something that works for you.
Arthritis affects nearly half of the elderly population and is a leading cause of disability1. As we age, our bones naturally start to decline, and we’re much more susceptible to getting injured. The keys to prevention are what you would expect – steady, regular exercise, and having a well-balanced diet. If you have arthritis, consider different joint supplements that can help ease your pain and inflammation.
5- Breast cancer
The risk of getting breast cancer increases with age3. The American Cancer Society recommends that all women should begin having yearly mammograms at age 454. The reason is simple: mammograms save lives. Although they won’t stop cancer from coming, they can catch it at an early stage which gives you a better chance of survival. Be sure to speak to your doctor about when it’s appropriate for you to start your screenings.
6- Heart disease
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States1. It affects more than one-third of men and women in the 45- to 54-year age group1 and includes problems like
- high blood pressure,
- irregular heartbeats,
- coronary heart disease, or
- arteriosclerosis (when plaque develops in the arteries of your heart and clogs them up).
The risk of developing cardiovascular disease is increased by things like smoking, alcohol intake, high-fat diets and lack of exercise –things that are all within your ability to control. Taking steps to moderate all these factors can help prevent this disease.
7- Your eyesight and hearing
With age, both your eyesight and hearing begin to decline. You might notice that you have
- difficulty focusing on objects that are close up,
- become more sensitive to glare, and
- trouble hearing low-pitched conversations.
Make sure you go for regular eyesight and hearing tests, take vitamins like beta-carotene and vitamin A that can help preserve vision and consider precautions like sunglasses and ear plugs when appropriate.
1- WebMD. 7 health challenges of aging. http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/aging-health-challenges#1
2- Cleveland Clinic. Osteoporosis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Osteoporosis. Accessed 10/9/2015 http://www.clevelandclinic.org/health/health-info/docs/0500/0590.asp?index=4443
3- National Institute of Health (NIH). National cancer institute. Breast Cancer Risk in American Women. Reviewed: September 24, 2012. https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/risk-fact-sheet
4- Cancer.org. American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Screening Guideline. https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/special-coverage/american-cancer-society-breast-cancer-screening-guidelines.html