Tips for Good Health in Later Life: For Older Women
Tools and Tips
While American women live longer than men—their average life expectancy is about 80 years, compared with roughly 75 for men—they often have worse health than men in their later years. Older women are more likely than men to have chronic, or ongoing, health conditions – such as arthritis, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. They’re also more likely to have multiple health problems, according to a recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. In later life, older women are also more likely to have memory and other “cognitive” problems, and difficulty carrying out daily activities such as dressing, walking or bathing without help.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to boost your chances of staying mentally and physically healthy as you age. Here’s what the experts with the American Geriatrics Society’s (AGS’) Foundation for Healthy Aging (FHA) recommend:
See your healthcare provider regularly Even if you feel perfectly healthy, you should see your provider at least once a year for a checkup.
Take medications, vitamins and supplements only as your healthcare provider directs When you visit your provider, bring all of the pills you take, including medicines, vitamins, herbs and supplements (even those you buy in the store without a prescription). Your provider should check all of your pills to make sure they are safe for you to take. Always check with your provider before taking any new pills. Take all medicines and other pills as directed, and tell your provider right away if a medication or other pill seems to be causing any problems or side effects.
Get your shots! Check with your healthcare provider to make sure you’re getting:
- A flu shot—every year in September or October before the flu season starts (you can find more information about flu at www.flu.gov)
- Pneumonia vaccination—once after age 65 (your healthcare provider may suggest that you also get “booster” pneumonia shots every 6 or 7 years)
- A tetanus shot—every 10 years
- The shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine—once when 60 or older
Get checked out! Certain screening tests can help diagnose health problems early. Ask your healthcare provider which tests are right for you. These are generally recommended for older women:
Bone density scan for osteoporosis (thinning bones)— at least once after age 65
Blood pressure check—at least once a year
Cholesterol test for high blood lipid (fat) levels—at least once every five years (more often if heart disease or diabetes runs in your family)
Diabetes check—at least once, especially if you have high blood pressure or high blood fat levels
Mammogram (a breast X-ray to check for early signs of cancer)—usually every year or two depending on your own and your family’s history of breast cancer and other breast diseases, and as long as your life expectancy is five or more years
Colorectal cancer screening for cancer of the intestines or rectum There are three screening choices you should discuss with your healthcare provider:
- a "fecal occult blood test" that checks for blood that may be hidden in your stool.every year;
- a sigmoidoscopy, an exam in which a healthcare professional uses a flexible scope to check the inside of part of your large intestine. once every 5 years;
- A colonoscopy, an exam, using a flexible scope, of the inside of your entire large intestine and rectum. once every 10 years from age 50 to 75. Note: Let your healthcare provider know if any close, blood-related family member has had colon cancer.
Note: Let your healthcare provider know if any close, blood-related family member has had colon cancer.
Pap smear for cervical cancer—at least every three years. Often, this can be stopped after age 65 if your Pap smears have always been normal; check with your healthcare provider.
Hearing, vision and depression screening— every year.
Dental check up—as often as your dentist recommends. Your dentist should clean your teeth and check for cavities. If you wear dentures, he or she should check to make sure they still fit properly. He or she should also check for signs of diseases of the mouth, including cancer.
Screening for diseases that you can get during sex This is important if you are sexually active at any age; talk with your healthcare provider about this.
Other screening tests— as recommended by your healthcare provider.
DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other healthcare provider. Always consult your healthcare provider about your medications, symptoms, and health problems.
Last Updated October 2009