Health years 60 plus
The health outlook for women in their 60s and beyond has never been better; life expectancy has leapt from just 49 years in 1901 to 83.3 in 2012.
To ensure you are living life to the max in your 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond it’s important to be aware of the various conditions which could affect you, and of the symptoms you need to be looking out for to ensure any illnesses are picked up as early as possible.
The average age for menopause is 52, so by the time most women reach their 60s they have stopped their periods completely. However, some women experience post-menopausal bleeding, which could be a symptom of a thinning of the vaginal womb lining, cervical or womb polyps, a thickened womb lining or abnormalities of the cervix or womb. For around one in 10 women, it could be a symptom of cervical or uterine cancer. If you experience any vaginal bleeding 12 months after your periods have stopped, you should seek medical advice and your GP will send you for a ultrasound, biopsy or hysteroscopy to determine the cause.
Incontinence is an issue for many 60+ women which can stop you living your life to the full. As we age, our muscles can weaken and become damaged, which can lead to leaking urine when coughing or sneezing or needing to empty your bladder suddenly and with increasing frequency. Due to the embarrassing nature of some of the symptoms, many women put off seeking treatment, however, in many cases incontinence can be treated with physiotherapy to strengthen pelvic muscles weakened by childbirth, heavy lifting, persistent constipation, a chronic cough or being overweight. Alternatively your doctor may be able to help with bladder training or give you advice regarding how much you should be drinking.
Women’s likelihood of developing a number of cancers increases as they get older, with ovarian cancer being most common between ages of 65 and 75 and womb cancer mostly affecting over-60s. Symptoms to look out for include post-menopausal bleeding, pelvic pain, pink, watery or white vaginal discharge and a swollen abdomen. Women who reached menopause relatively late or underwent hormone replacement therapy may find they are at increased risk of womb cancer. If you have any concerns make an appointment to see a GP who’ll be able to give you a pelvic exam.
Vaginal prolapse, when the walls of your vagina weaken, can affect women at any age, but becomes more common as you get older. It can happen for many reasons, including childbirth, loss of muscle tone due to ageing or the menopause. Often it goes undiagnosed and there are no symptoms, however, if you experience a feeling of heaviness or pulling in your pelvis or the sensation of a lump hanging into the vagina you should seek medical advice. A pelvic exam, ultrasound or MRI will help identify any issues, and your doctor may refer you for physiotherapy, prescribe a vaginal pessary or in some cases surgery is needed.