Talking About Women Over 50’s Health Issues

By on January 7, 2020
Health Issues

Many women over 50 have health issues that often are ignored, accepted as normal or dismissed. There is unprecedented growth in the population of older women with nearly 28 million women over 65.  Statisticians are pointing to the number conservatively being double by 2030. Women are living longer and experiencing more of life over 50. Many women over 50 experience health issues such as chronic conditions and develop more functional impairments than older men. Women over 50 face a myriad of complex and often interconnected issues relating to their health, independence, and quality of life.

The medical field doesn’t have a sufficient understanding of how to best care for and support older women. This lack of knowledge and expertise with women’s health means the experiences of older women have been too-often ineffective.

A recent survey was undertaken by WebMD and the nonprofit HealthyWomen of more than 3,100 U.S. women aged 18 and older from various ethnic and racial backgrounds and life stages. The survey offered some much-needed insight. It assessed how women experience their physical, mental and sexual health as they age, as well as their attitudes about healthy aging.

The survey did uncover knowledge gaps and identified teachable moments and opportunities for women and their health care providers. Women over 50 need to engage in meaningful conversations so that they can experience midlife and beyond with the best quality of life possible.

Taboo of Menopause and Sexual Health

While the majority of respondents of the survey embrace the concept of healthy aging and say they discuss health concerns with their providers, the report found that most women have never had a dialogue about specific health issues, including menopausal symptoms, mental health concerns, and sexual health.

The discomfort that many women over 50 experience talking with health care providers is concerning because so many women feel the effects of perimenopause and menopause. The majority of respondents reported experiencing at least six symptoms, including;

  • Hot flashes (69%)
  • Fatigue and sleep problems (64%)
  • Mood swings/irritability (62%)
  • Brain fog (60%)
  • Night sweats (60%)
  • Weight gain (54%).

45% of the survey respondents spoke about irregular periods. More than a third of women over 50 reported thinning hair, urinary urgency, and vaginal dryness. One in five respondents had experienced on a regular basis painful intercourse.

Only about one-third for women in perimenopause report their sexual health as very good to excellent. Just 10% of women discussed the concerns about sexual health with their provider.

Little Discussion of  Top Health Concerns

In addition to staying quiet about these top gender-related health issues, most women have never discussed other health concerns of theirs. The most serious health concerns facing women over 50 include;

  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Heart disease

When it comes to mental health, the trend continues. Conditions impacting mental health had the greatest negative impact on the quality of life. More than 25% of respondents reported anxiety or depression. Only 16% of these women with anxiety and depression symptoms had discussed the issue with their provider.

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Factors Influencing Healthy Aging

Despite the documented value of health screenings, women aren’t accessing the services and being screened as much as they should. Older women report doing so slightly. Women over 65 responded more often than younger women that they have been screened for various diseases, including breast cancer, diabetes, hypertension, mental health, and osteoporosis.

Despite a general shift in our culture promoting more discussion of health concerns and healthy living, the latest study shows that there is still a lack of openness when it comes to the health issues and changes of women as they age.

 

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Talking About Women Over 50’s Health Issues