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Articles » Aging -- Women Getting Older: NWHIC
 

Aging -- Women Getting Older: NWHIC

Article title: Aging -- Women Getting Older: NWHIC

Conditions: Aging, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, agent, cataracts, glaucoma, hearing loss, vaginal dryness

Source: NWHIC


AGING & WOMEN GETTING OLDER

What are some ways to combat the signs of aging?
Does aging slow down your metabolism? Does that mean fewer calories are needed?
How can I fight against osteoporosis?
If I become forgetful as I age, does that mean I might be getting Alzheimerís disease?
Does aging necessarily mean bad eyesight?
What can you do about hearing loss?
Does getting older mean not having a sex life?
Are there any benefits to aging?

See Also . .

What are some ways to combat the signs of aging?

Regular exercises and a healthy diet will always contribute positively to your health. As you age, exercise tends to become more difficult yet more important. It is especially important to stretch regularly to keep your muscles relaxed, but active, and to keep your joints flexible. Regular exercise can improve some diseases and disabilities in older people who already have them. It can improve mood and relieve depression, too.

Does aging slow down your metabolism? Does that mean fewer calories are needed?

While it is true that older women need fewer than the FDA recommended 2,200 calories/day, no one should consume fewer than 1,500 calories per day. (Even in an attempt to lose weight.) As the body ages, there are also unique nutritional concerns. Cholesterol intake should be monitored due to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (heart diseases and stroke.) High blood pressure can be controlled through a low-fat and low-salt diet. Fruits and vegetables are known to combat the risk of cancer, and can help regulate your digestive system. In addition, post-menopausal women should consult their doctor regarding calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis. As always, see a physician for specific recommendations.

How can I fight against osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis occurs when your bones are excessively fragile and break easily. Women are four times more likely than men to develop this condition because of the loss of estrogen at menopause are. (Estrogen blocks or slows down bone loss.) Over half of all women over the age of 65 have osteoporosis?

Under FDA guidelines, drugs to treat osteoporosis must be shown to preserve or increase bone masses and maintains bone quality to reduce the risk of fractures. Before 1996, the only choices were the hormones, estrogen, and indictable calcitonin, as well as the use of calcium supplements. But there have been recent advances in treatment. Three medications have recently been approved by the FD One agent, called a bisphosphonate, slows down the rate of bone loss. One common bisphosphonate os alendronate, marketed by the brand name Fosamax. The second agent is an inhaled form of calcitonin. A third treatment called raloxifene, a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), has many estrogen-like properties. Studies have shown that this agent can decrease bone loss but not quite as much as estrogen. A woman and her doctor need to carefully weigh the risks and benefits of these treatment options.

If I become forgetful as I age, does that mean I might be getting Alzheimerís disease?

No. It is natural to lose some mental acuity as you age. Think of your brain as a computer, with megabytes of information added each year, year after year. Unlike a computer, however, we canít delete useless information. So our minds can at times experience something that feels like overload, and itís easy to forget some of lifeís details. Serious memory loss, however, is more rare. As many as 1% of people over the age of 60 suffer from some form of dementi Dementia is characterized significant loss of intellectual abilities such as memory capacity, severe enough to interfere with social or occupational functioning. Alzheimerís disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in older people. A D begins slowly. At first, the only symptom may be mild forgetfulness. People with AD may have trouble remembering recent events, activities, or the names of familiar people or things. Simple math problems may become hard for these people to solve. Such difficulties may be a bother, but usually, they are not serious enough to cause alarm.

However, as the disease progresses, symptoms are more easily noticed and become serious enough to cause people with AD or their family members to seek medical help. For example, people with AD may forget how to do simple tasks like brushing their teeth or combing their hair. They can no longer think clearly; and they begin to have problems speaking, understanding, reading, or writing. Later on, people with AD may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. Eventually, they may need total care.

There is no cure for AD. Doctors may prescribe certain medication in an attempt to slow the progression of the disease. People with AD should go to their doctor regularly. The doctor will check to see how the disease is progressing and treat any other illnesses that occur. The doctor and other health professionals also can offer help and support to patients and their families. Currently, there is on-going research into preventing and curing Alzheimerís Disease.

Does aging necessarily mean bad eyesight?

No. Many older people have relatively good eyesight into there eighties and beyond. Growing older does not always mean you see poorly. But age brings changes that can weaken your eyes, making reading in particular more difficult. There are some easy things to try when these changes happen. You might add brighter lights in more places around the house--like at work counters, stairways, and favorite reading places. This may help you see better and can sometimes prevent accidents caused by weak eyesight. You might need prescription glasses for reading, or simple reading glasses bought at the drug store might be enough. If you already have eyeglasses, you might need a stronger prescription.

Cataracts are common among older people. Cataracts are cloudy areas in part or all of the eye lens. The lens is usually clear and lets light through. Cataracts keep light from easily passing through the lens, and this causes loss of eyesight. Cataracts often form slowly and cause no pain, redness, or tearing in the eye. If a cataract becomes large or thick, it usually can be removed by surgery.

Glaucoma is another common eye disease. This is the result of too much fluid pressure inside the eye. It can lead to vision loss and blindness. The cause of glaucoma is unknown. African-American women over the age of forty are at particular risk for glaucoma, as are all women over 60. If treated early, glaucoma often can be controlled and blindness prevented. To find glaucoma, the eye doctor will look at your eyes through dilated pupils. Treatment may be prescription eye drops, oral medications, or surgery. Most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain from increased pressure.

As always, it is important to see your doctor regularly to check on your eye sight and other related problems.

What can you do about hearing loss?

About one-third of Americans between age 65 and 74 and one-half of those age 85 and older have hearing problems. They may mistake words in a conversation, miss musical notes at a concert, or leave a ringing doorbell unanswered. Hearing problems can be small (missing certain sounds) or large (more serious deafness). However, you can get help. Special training, hearing aids, certain medicines, and surgery are some of the choices that help people with hearing problems. Older women often donít want to admit their hearing loss, which is unfortunate because it is treatable in most cases.

Does getting older mean not having a sex life?

Absolutely not. Women can enjoy sex well into their senior years. Women may notice changes in the shape and flexibility of the vagina, however. These changes do not usually mean a serious loss in the ability to enjoy sex. Most women will have a decrease in vaginal lubrication that affects sexual pleasure. A pharmacist, doctor or nurse can suggest over-the-counter vaginal lubricants. Use of some over-the-counter medications as well as alcohol may dampen an older womanís sexual drive. Sexuality is often a delicate balance of emotional as well as physical issues: How we feel emotionally may affect what we are able to do physically.

For example, older men may fear that impotence will become a more frequent problem as they age. As a woman ages, she may become more anxious about her appearance. This emphasis on youthful physical beauty or sexual powers can interfere with a man or womanís ability to enjoy sex.

Older couples may have the same problems that affect people at any age. But they may also have added concerns of age, retirement and other lifestyle changes, and chronic illness. These problems can cause sexual difficulties. Talk openly with your doctor or see a therapist. These health professionals can often help. It is also important to discuss these issues and worries openly and non-judgmentally with your mate.

Are there any benefits to aging?

Aging women face many changes mentally, physically, and emotionally. Many of these changes offer women new opportunities in life and a new outlook. It is important to maintain an optimistic and active life-style. There are many aging societies, which help seniors remain active and involved. For example, the Older Womenís League provides many activities and a social network for aging women. Check out the Administration on Aging web site for further information and resources.

For More Information . . .

You can find out more about women and aging by contacting the following organizations:

National Institute on Aging
Phone: (301) 496-1752 or (800) 222-2225 (Information Center)
Internet Address: https://www.nih.gov/nia/

National Aging Information Center
Phone: (202) 619-7501
Internet Address: https://www.aoa.dhhs.gov/naic/

National Council on Aging
Phone: (202) 497-1200
Internet Address: https://www.ncoa.org/

National Hispanic Council on Aging
Phone: (202) 265-1288
Internet Address: https://www.nhcoa.org/

This information was abstracted from fact sheets prepared by the National Institute on Aging (Exercise: Feeling Fit for Life, Sexuality Later in Life, Hearing and Older People, Aging and your Eyes).

All material contained in the FAQ is free of copyright restrictions, and may be copied, reproduced, or duplicated without permission of the Office of Womenís Health in the Department of Health and Human Services; citation of the source is appreciated.

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Publication date: October 23, 2000

 


 

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