In the next decade, more women than ever before will be age 50 or older. Women face unique health issues beginning at age 50 and throughout the rest of their lives. Heart disease, osteoporosis, breast cancer and diabetes occur more often in older women than in younger women. Lung cancers cause the greatest number of cancer-related deaths in women, followed by breast cancer, then colon cancer. Some women face greater risks for developing one or more of these conditions than other women. Your family health history can influence your health risks in the years ahead. So can your lifestyle before and after menopause.

Exercising in your later years can help improve and maintain your health. Here's how:

  • Weight training can greatly increase your overall muscle, ligament and tendon strength as well as bone density. This improves a woman's balance and ability to walk, resulting in maximum independence and a decreased incidence of falls. Strength training — lifting weights or exercising against resistance — can also prevent or slow bone-weakening osteoporosis. Strength training also can lessen arthritis pain.
  • Regular, active exercise such as swimming and running, raises your heart rate and may greatly reduce hardening and blockage of the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a major cause of heart disease and stroke.
  • Women who are physically active are less likely to develop adult onset diabetes; for women who have diabetes, exercise may help manage their condition because exercise increases the body's ability to control blood glucose levels. Exercise also helps to control weight gain, a major risk factor for diabetes.

Taking medications safely

Almost half of older Americans take multiple medicines daily. These medications are prescribed to improve quality of life or to treat serious medical conditions that may develop in older adults. Yet, aging changes the way our bodies respond to drugs. The more medicines you take, the greater the chance for side effects. Moreover, taking medications incorrectly can make them less effective or even dangerous.

Are you becoming confused about all those bottles in the medicine cabinet? If you're taking multiple medications, it's very important to keep track because you may be seeing more than one doctor for different reasons. Each health care professional should know what the other has prescribed for you. That's why you should keep a record of all the medicines you use, even over-the-counter medications like:

  • aspirin or other pain/headache/fever medicine
  • allergy medicine
  • antacids
  • cold medicine
  • cough medicine
  • diet pills/supplements
  • laxatives
  • sleeping pills
  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • herbal supplements

Copyright 2003 National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC)