Do you know that in 15 years people 65 years old will outnumber people under age 18 in the United States? This is the projected data according to the United States Census Bureau. (1)
Aging comes to us all, but not equally. In our society, the perception of aging men and women differ greatly. One of the more noticeable differences is at the hormonal level. After menopause women’s health may decline more rapidly than men. Hence the importance of incorporating good habits for healthy aging, such as:
Healthy Eating for Healthy Aging
Paying close attention to your diet is important at any age, but especially as one ages.
We already know that drinking plenty of water, and adding fruits and vegetables to our diet may be beneficial, however, there are other aspects one should take into consideration too.
Quality over quantity. It is important to pay attention to the size of meals to avoid overeating. While eating out, a good rule of thumb is to eat half of the meal and take the other half home. It can also be helpful to plan eat-at-home meals ahead of time.
Calories and Sodium Intake
When shopping at the grocery store, check the nutrition facts labels on products.
At health checkups, ask about the recommended daily intake of calories, fats, and proteins according to age and activity level. Keep in mind that most of the sodium in the typical diet comes from packed and prepared foods.
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the foods that contain more sodium consumed by Americans are: (2)
- Bread and rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats
- Burritos and tacos
- Savory snacks
- Eggs and Omelets
Vitamins or Supplements
Certainly, the best source to get your vitamins and minerals is the food you consume, but as we age we may need some additional support. At health checkups learn what vitamins and supplements may be appropriate to add for optimal health. A health practitioner will also be able to help determine if a supplement can interfere with other medications, or worsen health conditions.
Exercise and Stretching for Healthy Aging
Being active and implementing a regular exercise routine is an essential part of healthy aging for women. Design a weekly exercise program that includes aerobic activity, muscle-strengthening and stretching. Start with at least 30 min of physical activity per day, five days a week. It may be hard in the beginning but it does get easier with time, so stick with it. Just think about all the great benefits of exercise such as: (3)
- Delaying and/or preventing heart disease and/or diabetes
- Reducing bone and muscle loss
- Decreasing arthritis pain and swelling of the joints
- Lowering the risk of falling and breaking bones
- Less anxiety and depression
Also, women that are at a higher risk of falling should include balancing exercises like those found in yoga.
Early Screening for Healthy Aging
Age is just a number, but some numbers are important. Women age 50 and over would benefit from early and regular health screenings. Early detection is crucial in the treatment of various health conditions.
A mammogram is performed by a machine that uses X-rays to look at breast tissue. A screening mammogram is used in women that do not present any breast issues but because of their age, it is recommended as a preventive measure. While analyzing mammograms radiologists look for any breast changes such as calcification and masses. Though getting a mammogram screening may cause some discomfort, it is essential for women over 50 to schedule one.
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Pelvic exam and Pap smear
For women, regular pelvic exams and pap smears are critical at any age. However, women between the ages of 30 and 65 should ask their doctor to also screen for HPV (human papillomavirus).
Get a screening test for diabetes or prediabetes at least every 3 years. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that 34.2 million Americans suffer from diabetes together with 88 million American adults having prediabetes. Diabetes can cause blindness, kidney failure, and heart disease. (4)
Getting a blood pressure check is fast and easy. With so many varieties of blood pressure measuring equipment, one can even do it in the comfort of their own home. It’s important to get checked regularly to prevent hypertension sneaking up. High blood pressure can affect the brain, kidneys, and even the eyes.
It is recommended that women get cholesterol levels checked at least every 4 to 6 years. If high cholesterol is an issue, it should be done more frequently. High cholesterol levels have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
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Stress Management for Healthy Aging
Changes in life such as aging can add an extra load of stress to our already hectic lives. Learning how to efficiently manage stress can do wonders for overall health. Here some helpful tips:
- Let go of the negative by accepting the things that can’t be controlled.
- Stay connected, join social groups.
- Make room for relaxation. Give meditation a try or just listen to calming sounds.
- Be curious. Look for a new interest, unleash your creativity.
- Get enough sleep. Try relaxation techniques before bed.
- Instead of becoming aggressive or angry in a situation, step back and take a deep breath.
In a society that praises youth above all, aging can be difficult, especially for women.
Because of this, it is important to let go of the stereotypes and misconceptions associated with aging. We should learn to look at aging as the natural joyful continuation of our lives, and not be limited by a number. One of the advantages of aging women is becoming more assertive and secure in themselves. Take it one step further, and take control of healthy aging too.
1.US Census Bureau. An aging nation: Projected number of children and older adults. https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/2018/comm/historic-first.html
2.Top 10 Sources of Sodium. Cdc.gov. Published October 3, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/salt/sources.htm
3.Seguin RA, Economos CD, Palombo R, Hyatt R, Kuder J, Nelson ME. Strength training and older women: a cross-sectional study examining factors related to exercise adherence. J Aging Phys Act. 2010;18(2):201-218.
4.CDC. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2020. Cdc.gov. Published February 18, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-stat-report.html