In 2016, there were 48 million Americans over the age of 65 and 55 per cent, or 27 million, of those seniors, were women. In the U.S., women have a longer life expectancy (81 yrs.) than men (76 yrs.), which implies they are more likely to have health problems because their bodies take longer to develop disease and hence live longer.
We will be discussing the top five most common health issues in older women, their causes, symptoms, and treatments.
1. Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women and is responsible for approximately 30 per cent of all cancers in women. The American Cancer Society states that breast cancer is possible in one in eight women. But, they also believe seven out of eight women will not develop it.
More than 250,000 cases were diagnosed with “invasive” breast carcinoma in 2018 alone. Invasive breast cancer is a form that grows within the breast tissue and not just around the milk ducts. Most breast cancers are invasive, and more than half of all breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women 65 years and older.
Signs and Symptoms
You must recognise the signs and symptoms of breast cancer as soon as possible. Here are some of the most common signs that you may have breast cancer:
- A small lump on the breast
- General swelling
- Inverted nipple
Many treatment options are available for breast cancer, depending on how advanced it is and what stage it is at. Let’s examine some of the most common treatment options:
Osteoporosis refers to a condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough bone to compensate for bone loss. It can lead to weak and brittle bones that are more prone to breaking. Your doctor should recommend getting a bone density test every year, starting at 50 years, and this will help keep track of your bone density levels.
Osteoporotic bone structure is not a strong-binding one; it has a honeycomb-like structure and low density, which can cause fractures easily. The National Osteoporosis Foundation states that osteoporosis can lead to bone fractures in the hips, wrist, and spine.
Over 50-year-old women are particularly affected by osteoporosis. The U.S. has approximately 10 million people with osteoporosis. And more than 75 per cent of these are women.
Osteoporosis is when your body can’t replace more bones, and your body will constantly replace old bones with new bones over your lifetime. This is called bone resorption.
As you age, your body’s ability to replace bone loss declines thus your overall bone density drops. Women have smaller bones to start with than men, making it even more critical as you lose bone mass and bone density quickly.
External factors can also contribute to stopping producing the necessary bone mass. These factors are:
- Steroids and proton pump inhibitors are the two examples of medications that can affect bone mass production.
- Autoimmune conditions, such as Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, are caused by autoimmune diseases.
- Poor dieting low calcium intake.
Signs and Symptoms
Some of the risk factors and warning signs for osteoporosis are:
- Brittle bones (bones that break easily after a bump or fall)
- Loss in height
- Slouchy posture
- An osteoporosis family history
You can make lifestyle changes to help you prevent osteoporosis physically and through your diet. These suggestions are not meant to guarantee bone preservation.
Diabetes is a major health concern for seniors. An estimated 30 million Americans have diabetes, and another 80 million have pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes is when you know you’re beginning to develop full-blown diabetes. One-third of Americans will be diagnosed with* diabetes by 2050.
About 25% (around 12,000,000) of people with diabetes are seniors. This is even though they only make up about 13 per cent. The majority of diabetes diagnoses are shared equally between men and women.
Diabetes is further divided into two types: –
Type 1 Diabetes
This is because your pancreas can’t produce insulin on its behalf, and the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, rendering them ineffective. People with type 1 diabetes must know how much sugar is in their bodies.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes, and about 90 per cent of those with diabetes have this type of diabetes. When your blood sugar reaches unhealthy levels, it can lead to type 2 diabetes. You can’t produce enough insulin if you have too much sugar in your blood; this causes the body to stop making the insulin necessary to restore normal blood sugar levels. Signs of both types can include increased urination and extreme hunger.
There are some easy steps you can take to prevent type II diabetes. These are:
- Lose weight
Obesity directly correlates to a higher risk of developing diabetes, so you have a greater chance of developing diabetes if you are overweight. Therefore, losing and maintaining a healthy weight is important.
- Healthy Eating
Sugar overload is the direct cause of type 2 diabetes. You need to be careful about how much sugar you consume. You should avoid sodas, sweets, and fast food and instead eat natural sugars such as fruits and vegetables. It is possible to lose weight by eating healthy food.
Diabetes is not curable currently. Type 1 and type 2, however, are treated differently. For type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t produce insulin, while for type 2 diabetes, the body cannot produce enough to compensate for the sugar you have.
Type 1 diabetes is treated by doctors who will give you insulin injections or insulin pumps, and both of these can provide insulin to your body throughout the day. Type 2 diabetes is managed with Metformin (primarily) and doctors recommend increasing exercise and eating healthy.
4. Heart Disease
The American Heart Association reports that around 70% of women between 60 and 79 have cardiovascular disease. Eighty-seven per cent of older women suffer from some CVD. These health problems can begin before women are considered “elderly.” A study found that women aged 18-55 were more likely than men to experience a heart attack and other heart health problems. Heart disease in women is the number one cause of death in the United States, and it’s also the leading cause of death in men.
Heart disease, a national epidemic, is caused by the narrowing or blocking of blood vessels throughout your body. The general term heart disease can be used to describe a variety of consequences of blocked arteries. These include:
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
The most common type of heart disease is when plaque builds up in the walls of coronary arteries.
This is caused by CAD and causes a reduction or interruption in the blood supply to the brain.
It happens when your heart’s arteries are blocked. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), around 800,000 people experience heart attacks or strokes each year, and approximately 75 per cent of those are experiencing their first one.
This is an irregular heartbeat.
This happens when your body doesn’t receive enough blood; it can cause fluid build-up in your legs, feet, and into your lungs (congestion).
Heart disease is a general term that covers many heart-related conditions. However, the symptoms of all these diseases and complications are similar because they all affect the same muscle. The symptoms are:
- Tightness in the chest or pains, especially on your left side next to your heart
- Shortness of breath
- A fast heartbeat that flutters (this is especially relevant to arrhythmias).
- Pain in the neck or jaw area
Depression is a silent killer. It can cause seclusion among seniors. This amplifies the risk of death due to a lack of social cognition. Suicide risk is also increased by depression. Depression can lead to cognitive issues like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes doctors treat depression to slow down the growth of dementia.
Depression affects many senior women. This disease is twice more common in women than it is in men. However, this statistic could be distorted by the fact that men are less likely to report their symptoms than women. About 10-25% of women experience some form of depression.
A study found that between 1 and 5 per cent of seniors suffer from major depression. This number rises to double digits in senior patients living in assisted living homes or at home.
Symptoms and Causes
An array of traumas can happen to older women, leading them to depression. These events include:
- The death of a partner/loved one
- Dementia or heart disease that can be difficult to treat.
- Stressful events such as increased hospital visits or medical bills
- Loss of friends, retirement, or a decrease in social networks
Despite the traumas that older women may have to deal with in their lives, depression is not an inevitable part of ageing.
No single set of criteria can be used to determine if someone has depression. Each person is unique and requires a team of psychiatrists and therapists to diagnose and treat depression. Depression is a sign of poor mental health. Thanks to the CDC, you can ask these questions to understand if you have depression:
- Do you feel hopeless or worthless in your life?
- Do you ever think of taking your own life?
- Do you feel tired or lack energy?
- Do you struggle to focus and complete tasks?
- Do you find it difficult to participate in the activities you once enjoyed?
- Are you prone to waking up in the middle of the night or suffering from insomnia?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are three types of depressive disorders:
- Major Depression
Those with major depressive disorder have their entire daily routine–from work to sleep to social interactions–disrupted. Multiple depression episodes are possible.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder
While the symptoms of persistent depressive illness aren’t as severe or as severe as major depression, they last for years.
- Minor Depression
Although the symptoms are usually less severe than major depressive disorder, they can last only weeks or months. These symptoms can persist for many years if they are not treated, leading to persistent depressive disorder. Although minor depression is more common among seniors than major depression, it’s important to treat it.
A team of psychiatrists or therapists can treat depression. They can prescribe medications to help the disease go away and can help you identify the root cause. It’s never too late if you seek help. Go for a health check-up and describe your symptoms. They will be able to point you in the right direction.
What are the most common health problems in a senior person?
The most common conditions for senior patients include cataracts and refractive errors, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, back and neck pain & osteoarthritis, diabetes, hearing loss, depression, and dementia.
What diseases are common in senior women?
Many conditions affect older women’s health, such as arthritis, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis – patients may develop chronic health conditions at an older age.
What is the most common disorder in patients over 75 years of age?
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most well-known and common forms of dementia. An alternative type of dementia is called Vascular Dementia, which is caused by a stroke or deterioration of the blood vessels.