7 healthy aging tips for women

Excerpt: Canadian women live about 4 years longer than men, but women over 65 are more likely to develop dementia, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, depression, stroke, and migraines. Greater awareness of these elevated risks enables older women to prevent or manage conditions such as dementia with personalized lifestyle prescriptions, and arthritis with range-of-motion exercises. Strengthening social connections can prevent or ease depression, and brisk daily walks can help keep bones strong.

International Women’s Day* is celebrated on March 8. Gender equity in health involves raising awareness and being proactive in preventing and managing health conditions that disproportionately affect women.

Canadian women live about four years longer than men, according to Statistics Canada. But Canadian women over 65 are more likely to be newly diagnosed with chronic diseases, including dementia, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma*, reports Public Health Agency of Canada. Depression affects nearly twice as many women* as men, according to Mayo Clinic. High blood pressure is more prevalent in older women than men, and with each level of hypertension stroke risk increases more for women*, reported a Hypertension study. Migraine headaches are also 2 to 3 times more prevalent in women*, says The Lancet.

Fortunately, knowing about these elevated risks enables older women to take positive steps to prevent or manage these conditions, and stay mentally and physically healthy:

  1. Exercise to ease arthritic pain and stiffness. Although exercise might seem daunting when joints are stiff and painful, it can improve mobility and ease pain*. Moderate, low-impact aerobic exercise, along with exercises that increase range of motion and strengthen muscles supporting joints*, can also help reduce stress on joints, improve balance, boost energy, and lift mood.
  2. Reduce dementia risk with a personalized lifestyle prescription. Women at risk for Alzheimer’s who participated in a personalized prevention program* – emphasizing diet, exercise, stress reduction and sleep hygiene – improved cognitive performance and reduced risk factors like high blood sugar and cholesterol more than male participants, reported a 2022 Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease study.
  3. Keep bones strong with brisk walking. Osteoporosis is 4 times more common in women than men*, according to Web MD. Women can help prevent and treat osteoporosis by eating calcium-rich foods, taking Vitamin D supplements, and doing weight-bearing exercise like walking briskly*, advises Harvard Medical School. Medications that slow bone loss and build bone may reduce fracture risk if you have osteoporosis.
  4. Prevent stroke by eating healthy and exercising daily. Women who exercised 30 minutes daily, ate healthy food, and lost weight gradually if overweight reduced ischemic stroke risk by 36%*, reported a 2020 Stroke study.
  5. Strengthen social connections and keep moving to ease depression. An American Journal of Psychiatry study found frequently confiding in others,* and visiting with family and friends, protects strongly against depression. Just six minutes of physical activity* improves mood in older adults, reported a Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy study.
  6. Head off migraines. While medications can help to prevent and treat migraines, managing stress, avoiding triggers, exercising, sleeping well, and healthy eating can reduce migraine frequency and pain*.
  7. Breathe easier. Asthma diagnosed later in life is more common in women* and can develop after a viral infection, according to Asthma UK. Monitor symptoms and triggers and ask your doctor about when and how to use appropriate medications. Keeping a healthy weight, and avoiding colds and flu, can reduce risk of symptoms.

*The following sources provide references for this blog, in order of appearance:

  1. International Women's Day. "International Women's Day 2023 Missions", Online: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/
  2. Canada Protection Plan. "What is the Life Expectancy In Canada?"(2020), Online: https://www.cpp.ca/blog/what-is-the-life-expectancy-in-canada/#:~:text=The%20latest%20report%20from%20Statistics%20Canada%20released%20in,about%20how%20life%20expectancy%20differs%20regionally%20or%20demographically.
  3. Government of Canada. "Common chronic diseases in women compared to men"(2021), Online: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/common-chronic-diseases-women-compared-men-aged-65-years-older.html
  4. Mayo Clinic. "Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap"(2019), Online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression/art-20047725#:~:text=Depression%20in%20women%3A%20Understanding%20the%20gender%20gap%20About,with%20depression.%20Depression%20can%20occur%20at%20any%20age.
  5. Heart Attack and Stroke Symptoms. "Rising blood pressure puts women at greater stroke risk than men"(2019), Online: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/08/13/rising-blood-pressure-puts-women-at-greater-stroke-risk-than-men
  6. The Lancet Neurology. "Sex differences in the epidemiology, clinical features, and pathophysiology of migraine"(2016), Online: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laneur/article/PIIS1474-4422(16)30293-9/fulltext
  7. Mayo Clinic. "Exercise helps ease arthritis pain and stiffness"(2023), Online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/in-depth/arthritis/art-20047971#:~:text=Exercises%20for%20arthritis%201%20Range-of-motion%20exercises%20These%20exercises,movement%2C%20no%20matter%20how%20small%2C%20can%20help.%20
  8. Mayo Clinic. "Exercise helps ease arthritis pain and stiffness"(2023), Online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/in-depth/arthritis/art-20047971#:~:text=Exercises%20for%20arthritis%201%20Range-of-motion%20exercises%20These%20exercises,movement%2C%20no%20matter%20how%20small%2C%20can%20help.%20
  9. CNNhealth. "Women responded better than men to early Alzheimer’s intervention, study found"(2022), Online: https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/26/health/women-early-alzheimer-intervention-study-wellness/index.html
  10. WebMD. "Osteoporosis: Are You at Risk?"(2021), Online: https://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/guide/osteoporosis-risk-factors
  11. Harvard Health Publishing. "Osteoporosis", Online: https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/osteoporosis
  12. Newsroom. "Women’s lifestyle changes, even in middle age, may reduce future stroke risk"(2020), Online: https://newsroom.heart.org/news/womens-lifestyle-changes-even-in-middle-age-may-reduce-future-stroke-risk
  13. MedicalNewsToday. "Confiding in others may protect against depression", Online: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/confiding-in-others-may-protect-against-depression#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20study%2C%20confiding%20in%20others%20appears,is%20published%20in%20The%20American%20Journal%20of%20Psychiatry.
  14. Geriatric Physical Therapy. "Six Minutes of Physical Activity Improves Mood in Older Adults: A Pilot Study"(2021), Online: https://journals.lww.com/jgpt/Fulltext/2021/01000/Six_Minutes_of_Physical_Activity_Improves_Mood_in.4.aspx#:~:text=Results%20indicate%20that%20mood%20is%20influenced%20by%20pace,needed%20to%20affect%20a%20positive%20change%20in%20mood.
  15. Mayo Clinic. "Migraines: Simple steps to head off the pain"(2022), Online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/in-depth/migraines/art-20047242
  16. Asthma+ Living UK. "Asthma when you’re older"(2023), Online: https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/manage-your-asthma/older/