As women age, the chances of developing certain health issues begin to increase. Your biological makeup plays a role in how predisposed you are to certain illnesses. We have compiled a list of the most prevalent health concerns impacting women who are over 65 and what can be done to manage those risks.
1. Heart Disease
More women die of heart disease than any other condition. Heart disease is a general term used to describe different consequences of blocked arteries that include Coronary Artery Disease, Heart attacks, Arrhythmias, and heart failure. Symptoms of a heart problem include chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, weakness or lightheadedness, fluttering heartbeat, fainting, and pain in the neck and jaw area. Sometimes these symptoms get confused with heartburn or overexertion and are dismissed entirely.
High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of heart disease and can also cause hypertension which can result in a heart attack or stroke. Keeping your cholesterol down and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is pivotal in preventing heart-related diseases. That includes exercising and maintaining a healthy weight, a healthy diet and reducing smoking and drinking.
There are three types of stroke: hemorrhagic, or bleeding in the brain, ischemic, or the blockage of a blood vessel that causes impaired blood flow, and transient ischemic. Strokes have a very specific set of symptoms that show on the surface. These symptoms can be remembered by the acronym BE FAST. This stands for Balance, Eyes, Face drooping, Arm weakness, Slurred speech, Time to call 9-1-1.
Diabetes is one of the biggest health concerns among seniors. It is a condition that affects the body’s ability to process sugar and convert it to energy. If your body can’t process sugar, it causes high blood glucose levels, which can lead to a variety of health concerns like obesity, cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, and nerve damage. Although it is not exclusive to women, it does increase the risk for heart disease by four times in women. Women are also more susceptible to diabetes-related complications such as blindness and kidney disease.
There are two types of diabetes:
This is where your pancreas cannot produce insulin on its own, therefore the body attacks the insulin-producing islets rendering them useless. Type 1 is the lesser common of the two.
This is the more common form of diabetes as 90% of diabetics have type 2. This develops over time where your blood sugar levels rise too high that your body can’t produce the necessary amount of insulin to regulate itself.
Warning signs for both forms of diabetes are increased urination, extreme hunger, blurred vision, and fatigue. To lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, try to maintain a healthy diet and weight, exercise frequently, and quit smoking.
Depression is twice as likely to affect women as men. Elderly women can go through a lot of trauma in their later life that can lead to depression such as losing a partner or loved one, developing a chronic illness, decrease in social networks, or other stressful life events. There are three types of depression: Major depression, Persistent depressive disorder, and Minor depression.
Depression can be treated by a therapist or psychiatrist, who can prescribe medication or help get to the root of the problem.
Arthritis is a term used to describe a disease that inflames joints, primarily in your knees, elbows, fingers, and ankles. There are dozens of types of arthritis but the most common type in women are Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Gout. One of the best ways to deal with arthritis is to stay active to prevent loss of range of motion. Treatment starts with pain management to allow you to stay active and once joint pain is tolerable, an increase in exercise such as lifting weights can help build up muscles around the joints.
6. Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women and is also the leading cause of cancer deaths for women. Monthly self-examinations can help you identify any changes to your breasts. Early detection can save your life which is why it is recommended that the average risk woman start getting annual breast cancer screenings when they turn 40.
You can manage risks by making healthy lifestyle choices, such as exercising and quitting smoking. For those who carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, your chances of getting breast cancer are higher and your physician can make recommendations about how to monitor you more closely.
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes your bones to weaken, making them susceptible to fractures or breaks. Some risk factors can include certain medications, early menopause, a low body mass index (BMI), cancer treatment, and genetics. You can offset these risks by increasing your calcium intake, staying active with appropriate weight-bearing exercises, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol use. Some warning signs of osteoporosis are:
- Brittle bones
- Loss in height
- Slouchy posture
- Family history
You may not notice you’re suffering from osteoporosis until the disease has fully onset. It’s recommended that you request a bone density test from your doctor every year starting around age 50 to keep track of your bone density levels.
Dementia is a broad term that describes any form of memory loss from disease or trauma. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. This disease happens when plaques form in the brain, destroying healthy brain cells. Alzheimer’s is a progressive illness that gets worse over time. Some warning signs include loss of short-term memory, difficulty retaining information, and general confusion. While the exact cause of dementia is unknown, experts say a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk.
Townsen Memorial Hospital is here for you
At Townsen Memorial, safe, effective, and affordable care is our top priority. Therefore, we strive to provide the best patient experience across all Townsen Memorial affiliated sites. The high-quality care starts at our Emergency Room and carries on through our Imaging Centers, Surgery Centers, and up through our Townsen Memorial Hospital. Our medical sites are located in Houston, TX, and the surrounding areas, to provide the best care to patients in and around Harris County. To learn more, visit townsenmemorialhospital.com or call 1-877-494-9487.