In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8 and Women’s History Month, we examine the topic of health and wellness and how women can age with grace.
Throughout their lives, women have a variety of health concerns that differ from men. Women’s bodies require different vitamins, nutrients and exercises to stay healthy. This remains true as women get older. If you or a woman you love is concerned about her health and wellness as she ages, read through these highlights for tips to age with grace.
We all may associate wrinkles and sun spots with aging, but they’re also a sign of extensive sun exposure, which can also lead to skin cancer. “Luckily, it’s easy to manage concerns about signs of aging and skin cancer at the same time,” says the Office of Women’s Health: protect your skin from the sun. Tip: Avoid the sun when its rays are the strongest: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. and wear a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 that protects against UVA and UVB rays.
As with women of all ages, it is important for older women to keep their bodies moving. Getting a weekly dose of cardiac exercise keeps your heart healthy, and the Office of Women’s Health cites “an increasing number of studies suggest that keeping your body fit helps your brain stay fit too.” This is even more important for older women who might be concerned about dementia. Getting exercise doesn’t mean you have to become marathon runner at age 60. All adults should do some sort of aerobic exercise at least 10 minutes a day to keep your heart and lungs strong. Muscle-strengthening exercises like lifting weights or doing sit-ups and push-ups and balance exercises like yoga and tai chi can help prevent falls. Tip: Make exercise fun by joining a class with friends or doing an out of the ordinary activity like dancing.
A major concern for older women, especially those who may live alone, can be falling and not being able to get back up again. In addition to strength and balance exercises, developing a fitness plan can help reduce the possibility that you will fall. Some medications or conditions can increase your risk, so be sure to consult your doctor about what is best for you. There are also small changes you can make in your home to help prevent falls from occurring. Bathrooms and kitchens, which can be slippery, can be outfitted with additional handrails or grab bars to help. Since falls may still happen, getting a medical alarm is the best way to ensure help is connected as soon as possible. Tip: Most falls happen at home. Keep all walking paths clear of cords and loose rugs. Install handrails and grab bars along stairs and in the bathroom.
We often hear osteoporosis associated with aging women. In fact, of the 10 million Americans who have the condition, 80 percent are women. Due to changes in hormones through the years, women’s bones, which are already smaller than men’s, tend to lose density more rapidly. Ask your doctor if you think you might be at risk of developing the condition. Women with osteoporosis or those who fall can fracture their hip. This is a serious condition that results in hospitalization and can lead to disability afterward. Also with age come more conditions related to eyes and vision. Cataracts and glaucoma often develop in older adults and can lead to blindness. Older eyes are also subject to macular degeneration, or just losing vision. Tip: Calcium and vitamin D are important nutrients to have in your diet. Consult a nutrition expert on the right amount for you.
Our most-precious body part, our brain, can also start to show the effects of aging. We all know the feeling that comes when you just cannot remember a certain birthday. Some forgetfulness is normal. It happens to people of all ages, but if you are worried about it, you can try exercising your brain as you would exercise your body. Reading, playing Scrabble and crossword puzzles are great ways to keep your mind active. Tip: Before you say ‘I am fine.’ Ask yourself honest questions about your feelings. As you and the people around you grow older, losing someone you know or love is inevitable. Dealing with loss can wreak havoc on your emotions if you do not allow yourself to properly grieve. Take care to surround yourself with those who love you, and do not let yourself feel guilty. If you do find yourself dealing with depression or anxiety about a loss, or just in general, don’t discount it as a normal part of aging. Speak with your doctor. Tip: Be sure to eat properly and get enough rest to help your mind cope with your feelings of loss. Source: Office of Women’s Health