Retirement Life

10 health secrets every woman over 50 should know

10 health secrets every woman over 50 should know

Learn what you need more of and what to cut out when you hit this important milestone.

1. It’s heart disease that women need to worry about

Most women fear breast cancer, but heart disease is actually the No.1 killer for women, causing one in three deaths each year. Women’s heart health risks increase after menopause, yet just one in five women believe that heart disease is the greatest threat to health.

Red wine may protect you from heart disease, but some people shouldn't drink it at all. Scientists believe the polyphenols found in red grapes' skin are cardioprotective.

2. Heart attacks look a whole lot different on TV

A man grabs his chest and falls to the floor – everyone has seen this type of heart attack on TV and in the movies, but that’s not always what it looks or feels like in women.

For women, the most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort, but they are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain.

Like rain freezing into hail or snow, cholesterol can solidify – except that it can do it at 37 degrees in your arteries. A new study reveals that liquid cholesterol can be lethal when it hardens to form sharp crystals.

3. Exercising now will slash your risk of dementia

Move it or lose it, literally.

This is the main message of a study in Neurology that found women who are physically fit at middle age are nearly 90 percent less likely to develop dementia decades later, compared to women who are moderately fit.

“These findings are exciting because it’s possible that improving people’s cardiovascular fitness in middle age could delay or even prevent them from developing dementia,” says study author Helena Hörder, PhD, of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

But, she cautions, “this study does not show cause and effect between cardiovascular fitness and dementia, it only shows an association."

"More research is needed to see if improved fitness could have a positive effect on the risk of dementia and also to look at when during a lifetime a high fitness level is most important.”

Take a look at the 51 everyday habits that reduce your risk of dementia.

4. Morning people may be less likely to get breast cancer

Are you an early riser? If so, you may be less likely to develop breast cancer.

Women who are “morning people” have a lower for risk breast cancer, according to research presented at the US-based 2018 National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference.

The study also found that women who sleep more may have higher chances of developing breast cancer. While more research is needed to confirm these results, the findings “are consistent with previous research…[on] exposure to ‘light-at-night’ as risk factors for breast cancer,” says Rebecca Richmond, PhD, a research fellow in the Cancer Research UK Integrative Cancer Epidemiology Programme and the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom, in a news release.

Researchers from the UK recently discovered that a novel combination of two existing cancer-treating drugs – Herceptin (generic name: trastuzumab) and Tyverb (generic name: lapatinib) – dramatically reduce the size of tumors caused by a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer.

5. You’re not off the hook for mammograms after age 75

If you’re still in good health, you should probably still get screened, according to the Harvard Health Letter.

Although there has been some back and forth on this issue.

The American Cancer Society says: “Women should continue screening mammography as long as their overall health is good and they have a life expectancy of 10 years or longer.”

One reason to continue is the comparatively high incidence of breast cancer found in this age group, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

If you wake in the night seeing falling playing cards or a woman floating in mid-air, you might just be having a nightmare – or it could be a sign of something a doctor should check out.

6. Adding soy to your diet can strengthen your bones

It’s not just calcium and vitamin D that can help shore up your skeleton: Soy-based whole foods such as tofu and soy milk may also do the trick, find researchers out of the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Having problems with your bones? Take a look at these 10 tips to stave off osteoporosis.

7. Snoring is hard on your heart

Yes, your husband’s snoring drives you mad, but your own snoring may be bad for your ticker.

Obstructive sleep aponea, which is marked by heavy snoring, gasping and pauses in breathing while asleep, may lead to heart problems in women – and they can turn up earlier than the effects on men’s hearts, according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

The findings also suggest that sleep apnoea may be vastly underdiagnosed among snorers.

Few things are as coveted as good sleep: studies show that it adds years to your life and, over time, increases happiness as much as winning the lottery.

8. HRT isn’t all bad

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) fell from grace a few years back: Results from the US Women’s Health Initiative study suggested HRT could increase the risk of strokes and breast and ovarian cancer.

However, if HRT is used in low doses for a short period of time, it can dramatically ease some symptoms of menopause, explains Donnica Moore, MD, a Far Hills, New Jersey-based women’s health expert and host of the podcast In the Ladies’ Room with Dr. Donnica.

“HRT is not one drug. It is a whole category, including pills, patches, creams, gels, inserts and more,” she says.

Her point is that some formulations are may be safer and suitable for easing the complaints of menopause.

“Fully half of all women experience vaginal dryness with menopause and this doesn’t get better and it is treatable.”

For women who experience it naturally (not as the result of surgery or other causes), menopause has three distinct stages: perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause.

9. You may benefit more than most from a low-salt diet

Cutting back on sodium may lower blood pressure in women better than it does in men.

Women also might benefit most from drugs that directly block aldosterone, a hormone and blood vessel constrictor that is naturally higher in females and is further elevated by a high-salt diet, according to a report in the journal Hypertension.

For more info on salt and its hidden harms, check out these 35 things food manufacturer's won't tell you.

10. You’re not the only one

Millions of women can’t control that “gotta go” feeling (urge incontinence) or leak during exercise or when they sneeze or cough (stress incontinence) and this risk increases after menopause.

“It’s common but not normal, and any leaking of urine should be evaluated and treated,” Dr. Moore says.

Written by Denise Mann, MS . This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer.