A Guide to Healthy Aging for Women

Aging women and men differ in the diseases they face and their exercise and health needs. For women around the world the leading cause of death is heart disease, followed by breast cancer. Most medical conditions and ailments that women face can be controlled and sometimes treated, so there is a possibility of reducing the number of deaths attributed to these illnesses. As research has shown, a healthy diet, exercise and regular medical checkups are the key ingredients for healthy aging for women.

In the infographic below, the University of Florida Online took a closer look at the health issues facing women as they age and the strategies for the prevention of diseases and illnesses they may face:

Related program: B.S. in Health Education

UF Online Infographic: Health Aging for Women

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Major Health Problems Afflicting Women

The number one cause of death in women in the country is heart disease. It is interesting to note that more women than men die of stroke every year. Furthermore, twice as many women die of stroke than breast cancer. At 21%, cancer is the leading cause of death in women, with breast cancer having the highest number of fatalities. An estimated 34 million people have osteoporosis, osteopenia and osteoarthritis. Fortunately, the condition is not life threatening, but may affect mobility. The number five leading cause of death in women is Alzheimer’s Disease. The disease is estimated to affect 5% more women over 71 years than men. It is also estimated that 18% of women aged over 65 years are affected by depression. 50 million Americans suffer from different types of autoimmune diseases, 75% of them are women. While arthritis may not be a life-threatening disease, it can make life difficult as it causes back and joint pains as well as mobility problems. Unfortunately, 55% of women aged over 65 years have arthritis, making it one of the most common ailments in women.

Contributing Factors

A whopping 82% of women in the country struggle with inactivity. This is a recipe for disaster, as lack of physical activity is known to contribute to heart disease and obesity among other types of illnesses. This is largely to blame for the 67% of women who are overweight as well as the 58% who struggle with hypertension, or high blood pressure.

Healthy Aging and Disease Prevention Strategies

Three things can contribute to healthy aging and keep diseases at bay. They include; a balanced diet, regular exercise and maintaining good mental health. To improve physical health, women should try to eliminate fats and sugars from their diet. This will help to prevent amyloid beta proteins from accumulating in the body. This protein is known to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. Women should also reduce their intake of animal proteins and consume plant proteins, such as nuts, legumes and soy, instead. A Mediterranean diet, consisting of low dairy, plant based foods, whole grains and lots of fish, is also recommended.

An active lifestyle is a basic necessity for healthy living. Ideally, women should exercise for a minimum of 2.5 hours per week. This should consist of resistance training and aerobics to develop new brain cells, improve memory and learning ability. Regular exercise also helps to increase muscle mass, which is crucial in preventing fractures, falls and brain atrophy. In short, increased muscle mass will help to improve functionality.

Mental health is a crucial element of healthy aging. For this reason, reducing stress is essential as it helps to improve the hippocampus, the part of the brain that deals with memory, learning and emotions. Playing fun games and participating in communal activities can all help to improve mental health. Try filling crosswords, playing board games and writing among other things. On the other hand, group workouts help with social integration, which is crucial in reducing depression.

Strategies to Discuss with your Doctor

To prevent estrogen-related heart disease as well as osteoporosis-related bone loss, you may want to consider discussing the following options with your doctor; introducing estrogen and progesterone hormones to your body. On the other hand, adding anabolic medication or antiresorptive may help to prevent bone degradation. You should strongly consider this option as you age because the density of your bones reduces with time. A bone mineral density scan should also be performed. Depending on the results of the scan, appropriate steps can be taken to prevent future fractures. These are some of the options that you need to discuss with you doctor to ensure you age healthily and live a long life. Furthermore, you can implement some strategies on your own.

Lifestyle Changes

Some of the diseases mentioned above can be blamed on a poor lifestyle. As mentioned earlier, regular exercise is a crucial component of healthy living. It helps to build muscle mass and burn excess fat, which is good for your health. However, that should not be the end of it. Be sure to also stop smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.