Taking Charge; Healthy Aging

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: July 15, 2013

Aging is a natural process that reflects the changes in the biological processes in the body. With the advances in medical science and technology, people are living longer. The average lifespan for women in the United States is age 81 years and for men age 76 years. Therefore, women should be prepared for longevity.

The menopause transition and menopause are part of this natural process of aging. Instead of approaching it with trepidation and fear, women should educate themselves about the risk factors that they may face when they age. Women should take a proactive instead of a reactive approach to their own health. The problem is not the aging per se, but it is the status of the woman’s health as she journeys through each decade of life.

The main causes of death in the United States are heart disease, lung cancer and stroke. Diseases such as osteoporosis, hypertension and type 2 diabetes increase with age and women who have a first degree relative (mother, father, brother, sister) with any of these medical conditions usually have a higher risk of acquiring them. Therefore, it is very important to find out about the medical problems that are in the family (especially from family members) and it is important to know the causes of death. The information gathered may just be the stimulus needed to galvanize you into making a plan of action in an attempt to try to safeguard your health.

An important component to healthy aging is how the body extracts energy from foods, which is necessary for metabolism. Metabolic fuels are broken down in the gastrointestinal tract to a set of building blocks (amino acids, fatty acids and glucose). These are the primary fuel for the heart and especially the brain, which consumes 25% of total glucose although the brain represents 2% of total body weight. Micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals play a vital role in a series of complex chemical reactions that take place at the cellular level. The immune system provides a line of defense against foreign substances and microbes that may invade the body and cause disease.

Women who plan to take a preventative approach to their healthcare will have the benefit of discovering medical problems at an early stage in the disease process before any significant organ or tissue damage can occur. A well person exam may include screenings for blood pressure, mammogram, lipid profile, colorectal cancer and bone densitometry to diagnose osteoporosis, a disease that thins and weakens the bones which become fragile and break easily with minimum trauma. Body mass index (BMI) is used to identify adults at risk for disease and death due to overweight and obesity (BMI over 30kg/m2). Lifestyle changes consist of increasing physical activity, proper nutrition, smoking cessation, moderate alcohol intake and stress management.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said “…the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself”. Women should approach aging with an attitude of gratitude and we should use our past experiences as a compass to guide us into a bright future.

About the Author: Verna Brooks McKenzie MB., BS., FACOG, NCMP is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist/Certified Menopause Practitioner with over seventeen years of experience in training, lecturing and public speaking on women’s reproductive health issues internationally including Ghana West Africa. Learn more about Dr. McKenzie and our other Red Hot Mamas advisors.