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Health Resources for Older Women

By Sixty and Me April 04, 2021 Aging

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. 

Jump to: 

Alzheimer’s / Dementia

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.

  • Alzheimer’s Association – aims to lead the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. Local chapters in each state provide a range of care and support services, education and advocacy to people living in the area. 
  • Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia – The Federal Government portal which provides information on care, research, and support.
  • National Institute on Aging – Alzheimer’s Caregivers – Provides resources for caregivers on how to respond to changes in communication and behavior, provide everyday care, and get help when needed.
  • Alzheimers Foundation of America – Provide support, services and education to individuals, families and caregivers affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. They continue to fund research for better treatment and a cure.

See more on Sixty and Me: Understanding and Dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease 

Arthritis

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

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.

  • Breastcancer.org – nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information, research and community to those touched by this disease.
  • American Cancer Society – provides expert information and resources, alongside the American Cancer Society Reach To Recovery program, which puts those going through breast cancer in touch with a breast cancer survivor. 
  • National Cancer Institute – provides information on breast cancer prevention, screening, treatment, statistics, research, clinical trials, and more.
  • National Breast Cancer Foundation – offers free, innovative programs to women facing breast cancer, so that no one faces breast cancer alone.
  • Breast Cancer Research Foundation – provide critical funding for cancer research worldwide to fuel advances in tumor biology, genetics, prevention, treatment, metastasis and survivorship.
  • Breast Cancer Prevention Partners – science-based policy and advocacy organization working to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation.
  • The Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM) – OCCAM coordinates and enhances the activities of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the arena of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

Depression and Mental Health

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

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

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

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 / Blood Pressure

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.

  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention – Information about heart disease, prevention, treatment and resources. 
  • American Heart Association – the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke.
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) – provides global leadership for a research, training, and education program to promote the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, and blood disorders and enhance the health of all individuals so that they can live longer and more fulfilling lives.
  • Healthy People 2030 – Their goal is to improve cardiovascular health and reduce deaths from heart disease and stroke.
  • Go Red For Women – social initiative designed by the American Heart Association (AHA) to empower women to take charge of their heart health.

See more on SixtyandMe: Senior Blood Pressure Guide

Incontinence

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

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. 

  • MedlinePlus – Health information on the Menopause from the U.S. National Library of Medicine. 
  • National Institute on Aging – Guide to understanding menopause. 
  • The North American Menopause Society – North America’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the health and quality of life of all women during midlife and beyond through an understanding of menopause and healthy aging.
  • Menopausal Hormone Therapy Information – findings from the Women’s Health Initiative and other studies offering information about the risks and benefits of long-term menopausal hormone therapy.
  • Office on Women’s Health – Guide to menopause including symptoms, treatment and health. 

Osteoporosis

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

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. 

  • National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) – mission to save lives through the prevention and cure of ovarian cancer and to improve quality of life for Survivors and their Caregivers. Provides information on all aspects of ovarian cancer. 
  • Cancer.org – Provides information for those who have ovarian cancer or are close to someone who does. Covers topics such as risk factors, symptoms, how it is found, and how it is treated.
  • MedlinePlus – Website from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, covering health information, research and resources. 
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention – Health information, resources, statistics, personal stories and information about the ‘Inside Knowledge’ campaign which raises awareness of the five main types of gynecologic cancer. 
  • Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance – The largest global nonprofit whose mission is to advance ovarian cancer research alongside supporting women and their families.
  • Foundation for Women’s Cancer – Provides key information on ovarian cancer. It introduces the people who are likely to be part of a treatment team and showcases the different types of treatments for ovarian cancer to help those diagnosed prepare better.

Skin Cancer

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.

  • Cancer.Net – Guide to Skin Cancer (Non-Melanoma). The guide is reviewed by experts on the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, which is composed of medical, surgical, radiation, gynecologic, and pediatric oncologists, oncology nurses, physician assistants, social workers, and patient advocates.
  • American Academy of Dermatology Association – Skin cancer resource center with dermatologists’ expertise to help people prevent and find skin cancer and information to make informed-treatment decisions. 
  • The Skin Cancer Foundation – Aim to educate the public and the medical community about skin cancer, its prevention by means of sun protection, the need for early detection and prompt, effective treatment.
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention – Comprehensive guide on skin cancer including symptoms, risk factors and screening. 

Obesity

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

Vision Loss

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.

Conclusion

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.

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The Author

Sixty and Me is a community of over 500,000 women over 60 founded by Margaret Manning. Our editorial team publishes articles on lifestyle topics including fashion, dating, retirement and money.

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