• Sara Barber

Health Changes in Women As We Age



Changes occur to a women’s body with every decade.  It’s important to understand these changes so you can make the needed choices to remain healthy and at your best thru the years.


Here are some of the changes we can expect as a normal part of aging:

Eyes

 At around 40 years of age, everyone will need to start looking for reading glasses. This is because of an eye condition known as presbyopia in which the lens of the eye stiffens and cannot refocus when we switch from far vision to near vision. Some people will begin developing cataracts, which is a clouding of the lens that can affect vision. This usually occurs right around the age of 60 and can be made more prominent by exposing the eyes to the sun for long periods of time. Fortunately, cataracts can be repaired by having surgery that replaces the lens. 


Ears/Hearing

Loss of hearing affects about 30% of people who are 60 years of age or older. The hearing loss as a part of aging is extremely gradual. Sudden hearing loss is not normal. 


The Body

As we get older, we lose muscle mass and the muscles become less toned and increasingly rigid. The organs of our body tend to lose their reserve ability as well. The heart walls thicken, the arteries become stiffer, and the heart rate drops, as we get older. This is why it becomes more difficult to exercise as vigorously as we did when we were younger. While we cannot stop the aging process completely, we can undergo stretching exercises and weight training in order to improve flexibility and strength. It is important to stick with some kind of aerobic activity on a regular basis. In addition, strength training is vital because lifting weights can preserve bone density, maintain lean muscle mass, and help keep the metabolism going.


High blood pressure

Essential hypertension (defined as hypertension that has no clearly identifiable cause) can be a sign of aging. The exact reason why we get essential hypertension is not clear but it may have to do with genetics, poor diet, lack of exercise, and obesity. The walls of the blood vessels tend to be less elastic as we age, leading to systolic hypertension. About half of all individuals aged 60 or older have high blood pressure of some type. It can be prevented with exercise, weight loss, and a healthy diet. 


Memory

Momentary lapses in memory are a normal part of the aging process. There isn’t anything to worry about as long as the memory loss isn’t sudden or as long as it doesn’t affect activities of daily living.  There are many things you can do to help keep your memory strong such as continuing to learn and using all your senses. (Here's an article from Harvard Health on Ways to Keep Memory Sharp)


Muscle Loss and Weight Gain Women begin to lose muscle tissue as they age, with an average amount of about 1/2 lb. per year for women beginning at 40, according to Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of "Body for Life." When you lose muscle, your resting metabolism dips and you burn fewer calories, leading to typical weight gain after age 40.

Bone Loss Up until you are 35 or so, you maintain bone density at about the same rate that you lose it. But with every passing year after that time, you lose up to 1 percent of bone every year.  Strength training and weight-bearing exercise not only stop bone loss, but it can actually build bones as well as making them stronger and denser.

Perimenopausal Symptoms The average age for the onset of perimenopause is 47, but it can occur sooner or later. This transitional period between your reproductive life and menopause is characterized by lower estrogen levels and lower levels of other hormones as well. You may experience occasional hot flashes, changes in your menstrual cycle, or sleep disturbances. (Additional Information)

Other Hormonal Changes As your thyroid ages, it can begin to function less effectively and either produce too little or too much of the thyroid hormones, causing symptoms such as weight loss, intolerance of cold or heat, fatigue, and alternating constipation and diarrhea. Also, your pancreas might lose its ability to process insulin as efficiently as it once had and your blood glucose levels might rise, causing diabetes.


We are all aging and it can be a bit scary. It doesn't have to be if you educate yourself on the aging process, stay active, eat a healthy diet, and keep regular appointments with your doctor to stay on top of your health.

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