It’s a statistic that crosses all borders: women across the globe tend to live longer than men.
The precise life expectancy does vary from country to country and by race, but the common fact is that women are forecasted to live more years than men around the globe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “between 2013 and 2014, life expectancy at birth for the total U.S. population (78.8 years,) males (76.4), or females (81.2 years) did not change.”
If you are dusting off your bucket list and planning a ladies only event, then this is great news! The trick is to prepare for those extra years by staying healthy.
So you can enjoy any bonus years to the fullest, it’s helpful to know what the risks are for women and if you can take any preventative measures. After age 65, women are at higher risk for dementia, depression, falls and arthritis.
Almost half of adults 65 years old or older have arthritis and it is more commonly diagnosed in women (26%) than in men (18%), according to the Arthritis Foundation. There are many types of arthritis and each has unique risk factors. However, you can choose to maintain a healthy weight, not smoke, and eat a healthy diet to minimize your risk of getting this painful condition that can limit the ability to do even daily activities.
The Alzheimer’s Association reported in 2014 that “women are the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s crisis,” with an estimated 3.2 million women aged 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s. Women in their 60s are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as they are to develop breast cancer. Among women age 71 and older, 16% have Alzheimer’s or another dementia, compared to 11% of men. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and it can be genetic, but experts recommend eating healthy and exercising regularly as well as not smoking and keeping blood pressure at a healthy level to prevent conditions that have been found to have a connection to developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Age is a risk factor for falls, but the World Health Organization found that while men are more likely to die from a fall, women have more non-fatal falls. The CDC states that one-fourth of Americans aged 65 years and older falls each year. The National Council on Aging (NCoA) has this to say on falls: “Falls, with or without injury, also carry a heavy quality of life impact. A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness.” To avoid becoming one of the statistics, the NCoA recommends that you find a good balance and exercise program, review any medication side effects, have hearing and vision checked annually, do an in-home falls assessment and make any necessary changes.
It’s a depressing thought: middle-aged women have the highest rate of depression of any group based on age and gender in the United States. Depression is treatable and not part of the normal aging process, but being female is considered a risk factor. People living with one or more chronic health conditions tend to develop depression. There are different types of depression and a primary health care provider can help with a proper diagnosis. Depression is associated with increased risk of cardiac disease. While the causes for depression can be beyond your control—such as the death of a loved one—mood boosters include everything from exercising and eating right to pursuing a hobby and getting a good night’s rest.
The time to start planning for a long life is now—while out for a walk with a friend, sharing a healthy meal with a loved one, or spending time doing something you find meaningful and enjoyable.