The golden years are often some of the best years of our life. They do, however, come with an increased risk of health issues. Many of these health problems affect women only for biological reasons. We look at 15 of the most common issues that affect older women and the health resources available to support them. If a condition is not listed below, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health provides a comprehensive A-Z health guide on health issues that commonly affect women.
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. Dementia is not a specific disease but instead an overall term that describes a group of symptoms. 1 in 3 seniors die from Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
See more on Sixty and Me: Understanding and Dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease
Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint. It is most commonly seen in adults over the age of 65 but can affect people of all ages. It is more common in women than men, and in people who are overweight. With over 100 different types of arthritis, there is a wide spectrum of symptoms, causes and treatment. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells, referring to a malignant tumor that has developed from cells in the breast. It is estimated that 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 13%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Depression is a common problem among older adults, but it is not a normal part of aging. Symptoms in older adults may differ to those typically shown by younger people. More than 21 million people in the U.S. live with mood disorders.
If you feel suicidal call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-799-4889 (TTY)
Diabetes occurs when your blood glucose (sugar) is too high. Insulin helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy but people with diabetes find their body doesn’t make enough. The most common types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. Diabetes affects 1 in 4 people over the age of 65.
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza viruses. It is different to a cold and comes on suddenly. The virus infects the nose, throat and lungs and can be classed as mild to severe. In some cases it can lead to death, particularly in the older generations, so it is recommended to take the flu vaccine each year.
Hearing loss can range from mild to profound and can affect either one, or both ears. There are many causes and it is most common among people older than 60. Approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and nearly half of people aged 75 and above have difficulty hearing.
For hearing aid reviews, hearing loss statistics and key resources see: Sixty and Me Hearing Resources
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States accounting for approximately one in four deaths. In the United States, the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). The term ‘heart disease’ encompases a number of different types of heart conditions.
See more on SixtyandMe: Senior Blood Pressure Guide
Urinary incontinence (the loss of bladder control) is most common in older people, affecting twice as many women as men. The two most common types of urinary incontinence are stress incontinence and urge incontinence The good news is that with help from a health care professional incontinence can often be cured or controlled. It is not a normal part of aging.
Menopause is diagnosed after you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual period. The average age in the United States is 51, but it can affect women in their 40s. Menopause is a natural biological process with symptoms such as hot flashes, distruped sleep and weight gain.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the bones in the body begin to weaken or become brittle. As a result, bones become fragile and can break much easier than usual from a fall or, in serious cases, from mild stresses such as bending over or coughing. It affects both men and women, but research has identified that white and Asian women – particularly older women who are past menopause, are at the highest risk.
Ovarian cancer is where malignant cells are found inside, near, or on the outer layer of the ovaries. It typically affects women who are 60 years and older with only 10 to 15 percent of cases diagnosed before menopause.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. The incidence of all skin cancers continues to rise and the elderly are at particular risk. A large number of skin cancer cases are found in people older than 65 years of age. Malignant melanoma accounts for the greatest number of skin cancer–related deaths in the elderly.
As we age, hormonal changes and a less active lifestyle increase the risk of obesity. Recent estimates from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys show obesity rates of 39.4% in females over 60, with the U.S. adult obesity rate standing at 42.4 percent. The national adult obesity rate has increased by 26 percent since 2008. Obesity is a risk factor for many chronic illnesses.
For more information on physical activity guidelines and staying active see: Physical Activity Guide for Seniors
Approximately one person in three has some form of vision-reducing eye disease by the age of 65. The most common causes of vision loss among the elderly are age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy. Vision impairment can lead to a decreased ability to perform activities of daily living and an increased risk for depression. For some, it may also be no longer possible to drive.
As we age, health issues become more prevalent. Understanding the diagnosis and what treatment options are available can be confusing and overwhelming. There are, however, a number of excellent health resources to guide you. If you have any concerns about your health it is recommended that the first step is to visit a health care professional for an accurate medical diagnosis.