Staying healthy includes eating healthy foods and exercising regularly, regardless of your age. However, taking steps to maintain good health are specific to a woman’s age. No matter your age, here are health tips to follow.
Young girls and teens: Vaccinate and get enough calcium and vitamin D
There are about 80 million people with Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and another 14 million infected annually, including teens. HPV can cause cervical and vaginal cancers, among others. The good news is that cervical cancer is preventable, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend a HPV vaccination for 11- and 12-year-old girls. According to the CDC, “HPV is so common that most sexually active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.”
Outside the doctor’s office, girls can develop healthy eating and exercise habits. For example, although osteoporosis may sound like a problem for the future, early prevention is essential. According to womenshealth.gov, osteoporosis is more common in women than men, so girls should eat a diet filled with calcium rich foods — such as leafy dark green vegetables and broccoli — and exercise.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, “teens can actually build denser, stronger bones now in a way that isn’t possible later. This will make you healthier, and it will set you up to have stronger bones when you are older – when weak bones can be serious. The recipe for bone health is simple: get enough calcium and vitamin D, eat a well-balanced diet, exercise, and don’t drink or smoke.”
20s and 30s: Screen for HPV and cervical cancer
Starting at age 21, women should get a pap test to check for cervical cancer which is the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent with regular screening tests and doctor follow-up according to the CDC. About 12,000 women get cervical cancer every year in the United States, and a pap test looks for early signs by identifying abnormal cells. It is the best tool to detect precancerous conditions. If cervical cancer is detected early, it can be cured, so get tested every three years, says WebMD.
Women in their 30s should add a human papillomavirus or HPV test to their regular screenings. Most people who are sexually active get the virus at some point, and it often doesn’t have symptoms. The body usually fights it off within a couple years but, when it stays on a woman’s cervix, it can cause cervical cancer. The CDC states that experts do not know why HPV lingers in certain cases but not others, so screening for it is important. In addition to cervical cancer HPV can lead to other cancers or cause genital warts.
40s and 50s: Exercise and Screenings
Women in their 40s and 50s start experiencing many physical changes like slowing metabolism and hormone fluctuations. This is the ideal time for women to work with their doctor to review family history, know key health data like blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index to assess risk, and determine what screenings are necessary for their age and when to start mammogram screenings.
Adults lose muscle mass after they turn 40 at a rate of 8 percent per decade and, on average, women already start with less muscle mass than men. However, a 2011 study found muscle loss may not be because of age, rather sedentary lifestyles associated with age. Published in medical journal “The Physician and Sportsmedicine,” the study found athletes in their 70s and 80s had minimal strength and muscle loss compared to athletes in their 40s.
“We think these are very encouraging results,” Vonda Wright, who oversaw the study, told The New York Times. “They suggest strongly that people don’t have to lose muscle mass and function as they grow older. The changes that we’ve assumed were due to aging and therefore were unstoppable seem actually to be caused by inactivity. And that can be changed.”
While study participants were lifelong athletes, the researchers said people who start exercising at any age may see similar results.
60s, 70s and older: Eat fruits and vegetables, and walk
Women in their 70s who exercise live longer than those who don’t, according to a 2012 study focused on women’s health and aging. In fact, the most physically active study participants had a 72 percent lower chance of dying in the next five years.
"This is one of those findings that sounds like common sense," study lead author Emily Nicklett told HealthDay. "But while it may seem obvious, it's important to go back to the basics in terms of understanding that diet and exercise can strongly predict mortality among older adults.
“Promoting healthy diets that include fruits and vegetables, together with some form of simple physical activity like walking, can make dramatic improvements in terms of health outcomes."