Aging affects every part of our lives and can bring with it some negative health shifts for women. Common health shifts include:
- Changing hormones: Estrogen levels fall during menopause, which can result in hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and other symptoms. This also raises risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.
- Heart disease: Average lifetime risk rises to nearly 40 percent when women are in their fifties. This risk goes up to 50 percent if you exhibit at least two other risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Colorectal cancer: More than 90 percent of cases of colorectal cancer occur after age 50.
- Memory changes: Aging often results in gradual decline of episodic memory
- Immune system functionality: Immune function declines because the thymus gland, which regulates T cells, shrinks with age.
By forming preventative habits, however, you can mitigate these changes and stay healthier and more energetic as you age. These habits are proven to help your body combat negative health shifts:
Make sure you’re sleeping enough
In sleep and aging studies, people who sleep 7 to 9 hours a night live longest. Sleep may become difficult with menopausal hot flashes and as other conditions like arthritis cause bodily changes. Going to bed 15 minutes earlier or waking up 15 minutes later until you wake up feeling refreshed can help you get those 7 to 9 hours a night. Your body will thank you; proper sleep will help your brain store memories, improve your mood, and could promote a higher level of human growth hormone, which helps your body build bone and muscle mass.
Eat your greens
Vegetables like dark lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard lower your risk of contracting cardiovascular disease. Prurient diets full of fruit, legumes, poultry, fish, and whole grains also help keep risk for cardiovascular disease down, and women who maintain this type of diet have a third fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease than women who don’t.
Record what you eat
Write yourself notes about what you consume. This helps keep weight down by heightening awareness of what you’re eating and doubles weight loss. Maintaining a lower weight might also reduce risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease because it reduces inflammation and controls blood glucose, two things that can damage proteins.
Eating greens is well and good, but make sure you’re also getting enough nutrients. Try to get most of your nutrients from your diet, but look for supplements that include zinc, iron, folic acid, betacarotene, and vitamins B6, B12, C, D, and E to cover all your bases.
Give your gut good bacteria
Probiotic yogurt that contains strains like Lactobacillus can help protect you against gastrointestinal problems (including colon cancer). A serving of yogurt a day can improve gut function and relieve inflammatory bowel disease, constipation, and diarrhea.
Have some fun in bed
Menopause can cause vaginal dryness, which in turn can cause discomfort during sex. Topical estrogen preparations such as creams, vaginal tablets (Vagifem), vaginal rings (Estring), and water-based lubricants (K-Y Jelly, Astroglide) can prevent discomfort and carry less risk of side effects than systemic hormone therapy.
Exercise your body and your brain
Light activity such as walking or gardening regularly might help reduce dementia risk as you age. A study showed that older women who walked often were 70 percent less likely to show cognitive decline 8 years later than women who walked little.
One study found that people age 55 and older who participated in volunteer work had a 44 percent lower risk of dying over 5 years than those who didn’t volunteer.
Maintain your health
While making health-conscious choices can help your body prevent negative health changes, it’s important to stay up-to-date on these tests to make sure you don’t have any health problems that have gone unnoticed:
- Mole check/skin exam: Yearly
- Fecal occult blood test: Yearly
- Mammogram: Every 1-2 years
- Pap smear and pelvic exam: Every 1-3 years
- Blood pressure: Every 2 years
- Eye exam: Every 2-4 years
- Hearing: Every 3 years
- Blood glucose: Every 3 years (starting at age 45)
- Thyroid exam: Every 5 years
- Sigmoidoscopy: Every 5 years (starting at age 50; can skip colonoscopy years)
- Colonoscopy: Every 10 years