We’ve come a long way on women’s health. It wasn’t long ago that the topic was still on the fringes of our conversations about healthcare. To some, it was even taboo!
Now, women in Canada have more treatment options and greater access to healthcare than ever before. But there’s still work to do.
Many women are in the dark about issues like heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis, depression, and autoimmune diseases (like type 1 diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and thyroid disease.) These are among the most prominent health concerns for Canadian women, especially those who are over the age of 65. In fact, over 80% of women aged 65 or older report having at least one long-term health condition.
The good news is, there are things all women (and the people who care for them) can do right now to take charge of their health and live longer healthier lives.
Below, we’ve outlined four positive steps every woman over 65 should take to safeguard her health.
1. Know Your Body
As you age, it becomes increasingly important to be in-tune with your body’s needs, limitations, and warning signs.
Ask yourself: which routines and activities seem to tire you out? What helps you recharge your batteries? How many hours do you need to get a good night’s sleep? If you are in menopause, how is your body adjusting?
This awareness will help you recognize when something’s not right, and raise those concerns with a healthcare provider. No one knows your body better than you, and the more you know, the better you’re able to cope with health issues as they arise.
2. Learn Your Family History
Family history is a risk factor in many common health concerns for women over 65. For instance, you may have a higher chance of developing certain health issues, like diabetes or high blood pressure, if one of your parents or siblings has the same condition. But did you know that factors like the age of their diagnosis could also impact your risk?
To access effective preventative care, women over 65 should give their doctors and other healthcare professionals as detailed and accurate a family history as possible. This information could be the key to catching a potential issue early on.
3. Educate Yourself
As the saying goes, knowledge is power! Staying up-to-date on health-related issues and topics is one of the biggest steps women over 65 can take to protect their health and wellbeing.
Medical science is advancing at an incredible pace, and thanks to the Internet, much of the pertinent information is available at your fingertips. But all that information can be overwhelming without someone there to explain it. If you’re looking to learn more about health issues that matter to you, start with your doctor or local health organizations like Vancouver Coastal Health. They can often direct you to health programs and additional resources to assist with women’s well-being.
4. Take Action
Early detection is crucial when it comes to treating health conditions like high blood pressure, cancer, and heart disease. The sooner you and your doctors discover it, the more likely you are to recover and live well for years to come.
The following health concerns increase with age. Women over 65 are encouraged to get screening tests for:
- High blood pressure - High blood pressure is the most common chronic health condition for senior women. It increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other serious issues. Having it measured is painless and takes just a few minutes.
- Cholesterol - High blood cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Canadian guidelines recommend women who are post-menopausal or over 50 have their cholesterol tested.
- Heart disease - Along with blood pressure and cholesterol, doctors use various tools and methods to detect and treat heart disease, including x-rays and blood tests.
- Diabetes - Screening for diabetes requires drawing blood to measure levels of fasting blood glucose and glycated haemoglobin (A1c).
- Colorectal cancer - Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of death from cancer in women in Canada. Doctors may perform a colonoscopy or fecal occult blood test to screen for this disease.
- Breast cancer - One in eight Canadian women is affected by breast cancer in their lifetime. Women between the ages of 50 to 69 should have a mammogram every two years, and women over 70 should talk to their doctor about how often to have this screening.
- Ovarian cancer - Women over 50 are at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. The standard test is a physical exam.
- Osteoporosis - Women begin to lose bone density in their mid-30s, and the risk of osteoporosis increases with age. All women over 65 should have regular bone mineral density tests to screen for this disease.
- Glaucoma - Glaucoma, which can be detected through an eye examination, is the second most common cause of vision loss in Canadian seniors.
March 8th marks International Women’s Day, an occasion to celebrate the achievements of women and call for action on empowering women around the world. We’re seizing this opportunity to encourage women to take charge of their health and take positive steps towards a living a long healthy life! We encourage you to contact us or join our conversation about women’s health on Facebook.