As a woman, what health changes can I expect as I get older?

Celeste Robb-Nicholson
Internal Medicine
Menopause is likely to give you a new perspective on life and health as a woman. Premenstrual syndrome, menstrual discomforts, and reproductive issues are no longer a concern. Hot flashes and other perimenopausal symptoms are gradually disappearing. As you move into the sixth decade of life, you may be feeling the burst of energy and optimism anthropologist Margaret Mead famously termed "postmenopausal zest."

In the next decades, your health focus will continue to shift. Initially, you are likely to be most concerned with preventing or managing the conditions that become more prevalent as your body's supply of estrogen declines, like osteoporosis, heart disease, sexual dysfunction, skin changes, and bladder control. You'll be concerned with maintaining a screening schedule and reducing your risk factors. Once you have reached your eighth or ninth decade, you may be more focused on staying strong enough to live independently, pursue the hobbies that give you pleasure, and enjoy your family and friends.

If you are in midlife or later, you've probably already experienced some signs of aging: your joints may ache, your skin may feel dry, and you may not sleep as well as you used to. Midlife is also a time when the risk of degenerative disease starts to climb. Many of the chronic conditions that begin to plague women in midlife are due, in part, to declining levels of estrogen, which helps to maintain tissues in the body's reproductive organs, and also in the breasts, brain, bones, bladder, and cardiovascular system. Genetic makeup is also complicit, as are the cumulative effects of normal aging, environmental forces, and lifestyle choices.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.