Men and women face some common health concerns as they age, and conditions such as heart disease and cancer are issues for everyone. Women face other illnesses that have a pronounced effect on them over men, and they have several other health worries that concern only their gender.
Women’s health issues across this broad range can weigh heavily as age advances. Women live longer on average than men but are far more affected by chronic conditions, such as arthritis and osteoporosis, in their senior years.
Understanding the differences in gender as they age and how to manage those changes is crucial when health care isn’t always a given. This guide explains women’s most common wellness concerns as they age and some healthy ways to address those concerns.
7 Most Common Health Concerns for Senior Women
Women face many changes through life, from menstruation through maternity to menopause. Each stage brings new challenges and hurdles, not only from within their bodies but from their environment, culture, and society. Let’s take a look at the most common health concerns for aging women in America.
Urinary Tract Infections
Weakening muscles in the bladder can make it difficult for some women to empty their bladder after age 65. Bacteria build up when urine remains in the bladder too long, making infection likely. The resulting urinary tract symptoms are painful and lingering. They can include:
- Cloudy urine
- Burning and painful urination
- Increased frequency and urgency
Other symptoms, such as confusion, irritation, and restlessness, are signs of infection in older adults over 65.
Immune systems weaken as people age, and that means they catch germs and viruses faster and suffer the resulting illnesses longer. The flu is a major culprit in the over-65 crowd, who are at an elevated risk of flu-related disease and death as they age. Age also raises the risk of complications to the flu, such as sepsis, pneumonia, and worsening of heart and lung disease.
Bodies lose bone density as they age. Osteoporosis happens when women’s bodies don’t replace as much bone as they lose, resulting in bones that become brittle, weak, and break easily. Women over 50 are at a much greater risk of developing osteoporosis than men of the same age. All people lose bone density faster as they age, but women’s bones are smaller than men’s, making it harder to replace bone at a sufficient pace.
Gout is a type of arthritis caused by high levels of uric acid, which damages joints. It typically starts in a big toe and causes pain, swelling, and tenderness. High levels of urate in the blood turn to crystals that settle in the joints. Estrogen usually protects women from gout, because it flushes uric acid from the body faster. Estrogen production slows after menopause, though, making it easier for women to get gout.
Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a significant health concern among all seniors. Type 2 occurs as blood sugar levels rise over time to an uncontrollable level because the body can’t produce enough insulin to break down the sugars. Women who experienced gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at an even higher risk for type 2 diabetes.
Women over 50 years old tend to experience more sleep apnea and insomnia than in earlier years. They may also get restless leg syndrome, which also interferes with sleep. It can be difficult for women to get the recommended eight hours of sleep a night.
Age is the single most significant risk factor in developing some type of cancer. The risks for breast cancer jump dramatically after 50 years old, and the median age for a lung cancer diagnosis is 70.
The risk for these age-related maladies increases with certain lifestyle choices and environmental factors. Women can help their chances further by taking proper preventive measures. Genetics and hereditary factors also play a part in which health issues become problematic in later years.
Reducing the Risks of Common Health Concerns Over 50
Healthy living is vital if you want to age gracefully. It’s important to treat your body well to give it what it needs to take care of itself throughout your life. There are also various preventive measures and healthy activities that go a long way to combat these over-50 health concerns.
Exercising helps the body as it’s growing, but it’s just as helpful in later years. Weight training helps add bone density, and training with some resistance helps slow down the process of osteoporosis. Older women who are active are also less likely to develop diabetes, gout, or heart diseases.
Eating right is always important, and the golden years aren’t any different. Women need plenty of calcium to fend off osteoporosis and bone issues. Vitamin D is also essential for aging women to reduce the risk of cancer.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is the body’s time to restore itself so the mind can reset and be ready to take on the new day refreshed. It’s easy to get away with a few short hours of sleep when you’re younger, but after 50, your body revolts by feeling sluggish, foggy, and even nauseated. Your immune system is weakened, and concentration levels drop when you’re tired.
Use Caution With Medicines
Many people take several medications a day, and it can be harder to manage all those pills when you’re over 65 and your memory and eyesight are sometimes foggy. Taking medication the wrong way or not taking prescribed medication can have serious detrimental health effects.
Aging gracefully and healthfully takes wisdom and determination, but it can be done. Arm yourself with the knowledge you need to enjoy your later years in comfort and style.
A Women’s Holistic Health Professional at Your Service
There are myriad ways to enjoy life after 50 while still following a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Karen Threlkel is a naturopathic doctor serving primarily women (and women’s health concerns) in the Greater D.C. area. She provides a holistic approach to medicine (mind-body-spirit) and natural-focused remedies for treating symptoms and underlying conditions. Contact Dr. Threlkel today to schedule a consultation for more information about a health topic or to learn more about natural remedies or treatments.