Age is relative – to a point. And, by that, we mean that no matter how young you feel mentally, emotionally and even physically – the human body cannot defy the aging process. While healthy diet and regular exercise are essential to living a long and healthy life, we’re increasingly aware genetics and environmental factors play integral roles in an individual’s health, including the diseases or conditions you’ll develop as you age.
As the folks at WebMD put it, “More than 9 in 10 older adults have some type of chronic disease, and almost 8 in 10 have more than one. So chances are, you’ll have one sooner or later. But there are things you can do to live a healthier life.”
Pay attention to common health conditions affecting women 55+
After crossing the half-decade marker at your 50th birthday, you are at higher-risk for the most common women’s health issues.
Your awareness, commitment to observing routine wellness and health checkups and adherence to your doctor’s recommendations and treatments are essential to minimizing the effects of (or avoiding) the following health conditions.
In addition to being the most common type of cancer found in women, breast cancer is also the leading cancer-related death for women. The American Cancer Society warns that 1 in 8 women (30%) will experience breast cancer in her lifetime. Mortality rates for women with breast cancer increase with age.
Routine screening (including self-examining your breasts each month) and catching breast cancer early increase your chances of treating and surviving it. Read, breastcancer.org’s page on breast cancer symptoms and diagnosis.
The hormone restructuring that triggers menopause is also responsible for physiological changes that require attention. One of these is the decrease in bone mass that leads to osteoporosis. In addition to a healthy diet and a doctor-approved calcium supplement, weight bearing exercises help to increase bone mass.
Read, Exercise for Osteoporosis Prevention, for specific examples.
High blood pressure and elevated cholesterol
Typically, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol go hand-in-hand – and lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD). Women are now just as likely as men to die from a heart attack, the result of the blocking and/or narrowing of blood vessels all around your body.
Diet and exercise are key to preventing and treating heart disease, but stress reduction is critical as well. Haven’t found your idea route to a more calm and centered self? Start exploring your options and it could save your life.
Type 2 Diabetes
You may have noticed it’s harder to maintain your target weight after menopause. In addition to a slower metabolism, older women tend to move less and this leads to decreased muscle mass, which leads to muscles converting to fat; before you know it, you’re caught in a vicious cycle.
Genetics play a strong role here; if you’re immediate family members have type 2 diabetes, you’re more likely to develop it too. Start using diabetes diet guidelines to shape how you eat. Again, those weight-bearing exercises help – building both muscle and bone mass – a win-win.
Osteoarthritis often crops around the mid-50s. There are a combination of factors involved, repeat joint use due to occupation, hobbies or sports being some of them. Genetics are a factor, as is inflammation.
Systemic inflammation is the enemy of vulnerable joints, increasing joint swelling, pain and discomfort. If you have arthritis, we recommend trying an anti-inflammatory diet. Many patients find switching over notably relieves arthritis pain (as well as the symptoms of other health conditions) and eliminates or decreases their need for over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatories/pain relievers.
Genetics are the #1 indicator of whether a person will develop dementia; lifestyle is the immediate second. The cleaner your lifestyle is, the less likely you are to develop dementia. Studies also show cleaning up your lifestyle (no smoking, no drinking, anti-inflammatory diet, regular physical and mental exercise) slows down the onset of dementia and dementia-related conditions.
However, we’d like to place an emphasis on healthy sleep habits. Recent research by Alzheimer’s expert, Dr. Dale Bredesen and the Buck Institute show a correlation between individuals with healthy circadian rhythms and uninterrupted sleep habits and reduce plaque in the brain. Menopause doesn’t help the sleep cause so check in with Healthy Sleep Habits & Good Sleep Hygiene and practice their recommendations for a good night’s sleep.
The all-women’s team at Women’s Health Associates celebrates what it is to be a woman, and we make it our mission to support women’s physical, emotional and reproductive health at all ages. Contact us to schedule your consultation.