Coco Chanel once said, “Nature gives you the face you have at twenty, but it’s up to you to merit the face you have at fifty,” – the same applies to your health. You can remain in good standing with your health by becoming aware of diseases that affect women once we reach fifty, and the best solutions for overcoming and preventing them!
- Atherosclerosis (Heart Disease & Stroke)
Atherosclerosis occurs when there is a buildup of substances like plaque in the arteries, causing them to become narrowed or blocked, preventing proper blood flow. When this happens, a blood clot may form, potentially cutting off circulation to parts of the heart or brain, causing a heart attack or stroke – two of the leading causes of death for women.
Not only do women over age 55 have the greatest risk for developing atherosclerosis, but more than a reported half of all women need to lower their blood cholesterol (a significant risk factor of atherosclerosis in addition to high blood pressure). An important preventative measure of lowering both blood pressure and cholesterol includes recommended screening tests.
Don’t forget to adjust your lifestyle changes accordingly, too. Smoking cessation, for instance, is one preventative measure with perhaps the most immediate results. For help to quit smoking, you can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Other important considerations for reducing atherosclerosis prevalence include a healthy diet low in trans fats, sodium, and sugars, as well as regular physical activity. It’s not as daunting as you’d think to get into a workout routine. Between gym memberships, group classes, and smartphone apps, it’s easy to get in the recommended 30 minutes of exercise each day.
Osteoporosis is a condition that occurs when you lose more bone than your body can replace. The result is low bone density, which leads to bones that are weak and easily susceptible to fractures or breaks. The International Osteoporosis Foundation reports as many as one in two women over age 50 will endure a broken bone due to osteoporosis.
Women not only face a higher risk of osteoporosis as they tend to have smaller bones than men, but women are also at the mercy of their hormones, especially when they reach menopause. After menopause, a woman’s body produces significantly less estrogen, a hormone that affects the maintenance of healthy bones.
To prevent and treat osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy, which uses a combination of topical or oral estrogen, and progesterone to replenish hormone levels diminished during menopause. Other forms of prevention include screening for osteoporosis through bone density testing, and maintaining a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Dairy products like milk and yogurt are excellent sources of both calcium and vitamin D!
- Breast Cancer
Breast cancer, which most notably occurs in women over the age of 50, is best described as an uncontrolled growth of cells in the breasts. The best prevention for breast cancer is early detection, which is the likely reason women between the ages of 50 to 59 have a 14% lower chance of breast cancer mortality when they have regular mammograms. Most health organizations recommend mammography every two years for women over the age of 50.
Aside from clinical screening methods, another form of prevention for women is to perform regular breast self-exams at least once a month to recognize changes in their breasts, like lumps. If you’re not sure where to begin, the National Breast Cancer Foundation has a breast-self exam guide. It’s also important to bear in mind any family history of breast cancer and notify your doctor of this information.
Although risk factors for diseases increase with age, age is something we simply can’t control (unless it comes to living a longer and healthier life)! So put your focus and energy toward what you can to do help prevent your chances of developing diseases that affect you as you reach age 50 and beyond.