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What to know in each decade of your life

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Women's health concerns often differ from men's health.  (stock image)

Women’s health concerns often differ from men’s health. (stock image)

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

While women face many of the same health issues as men, the truth is that your gender can play a critical role in health and aging. Women may be at greater risk of developing certain conditions. Some common health issues can also affect women differently than men.

Knowing the most common female health issues – and how these concerns change over the years – can empower you to make the best diet and lifestyle choices for your future. Here are some of the biggest concerns about women’s health, broken down by decade.

Mental health is one of the biggest health concerns for women in their 20s.  (Photo via Getty Images)

Mental health is one of the biggest health concerns for women in their 20s. (Photo via Getty Images)

Top health concerns for women in their 20s

Melanoma

Melanoma is a dangerous skin cancer that can occur at any stage of life, and the risk increases as we age. However, it is among the most common cancers in young adults, especially women. Sun damage in your 20s can increase your risk of developing melanoma later in life.

You can start protecting yourself early by avoiding excessive sun exposure or using sunscreen. Experts also recommend checking your skin for unusual spots and regularly visiting a dermatologist for checkups.

Mental health

Suicide is a serious problem for young people in their 20s. In Canada, suicide accounts for 25% of all deaths between the ages of 15 and 24. While young men are more likely to die from suicide, women are two to three times more likely to attempt it.

Young adults in their 20s are especially vulnerable to mental health issues. More than 13% of Canadians in their 20s reported that their mental health was fair to poor.

smoke and drink

Although smoking rates have declined among young people, it remains the leading cause of premature death in Canada. Between 2009 and 2016, deaths from alcohol abuse increased by 10.5% per year among 25- to 34-year-olds.

Smoking and drinking habits formed in your 20s can affect you later in life. Quitting smoking before age 30 can reduce the risk of lung cancer mortality by more than 90%. Heavy alcohol use in your 20s can also lead to the development of problems such as cancer and liver disease.

It is possible for a woman's fertility to decline when she hits her 30s.  (Photo via Getty Images)

It is possible for a woman’s fertility to decline when she hits her 30s. (Photo via Getty Images)

Top health concerns for women in their 30s

Pregnancy related problems

By age 30, your fertility may decline, making it harder to get pregnant. Women over 35 are also at greater risk for pregnancy-related health problems and miscarriage. Some of the most common problems in pregnancy include:

Weight gain

As we age, metabolism naturally slows down. Women in their 30s may experience weight gain or struggle to lose weight. While not necessarily a sign of a health issue, excessive weight gain can contribute to problems like heart disease, diabetes, and infertility issues.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Between 1998 and 2015, cases of sexually transmitted diseases in Canada increased from 39,372 to 116,499 cases annually. Experts say women are at greater risk for STDs like chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea.

If left untreated, STDs can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to infertility and ectopic pregnancy. Women are less likely than men to experience symptoms, so it’s important to get tested regularly for STDs, especially if you’re having unprotected sex.

Menopause usually occurs when a woman reaches her 40s.  (Photo via Getty Images)

Menopause usually occurs when a woman reaches her 40s. (Photo via Getty Images)

Top health concerns for women in their 40s

osteoporosis

Women in their 40s may be at greater risk for osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones. About 80 percent of people living with osteoporosis are women.

Menopause

Menopause is something that almost all women go through, usually after the age of 40. While menopause is not necessarily a health condition, the way it changes your body is linked to other health issues.

After menopause, the ovaries produce less estrogen. Lower estrogen levels can lead to a higher risk of other health conditions. For example, a lack of estrogen can cause cholesterol to build up, leading to an increased risk of heart disease. It can also affect the risk of developing osteoporosis, lead poisoning and urinary incontinence.

Breast and ovarian cancers

Women in their 40s are also at higher risk for certain cancers, including breast and ovarian cancer.

Screening measures for ovarian cancer include transvaginal pelvic ultrasound, blood tests, and CT scans. For breast cancer, Canadian national guidelines recommend mammograms starting at age 50, although women can choose to start earlier as a preventive measure. The risks of radiation exposure from mammograms are low, but some women may experience psychological distress due to false-positive results.

While mental health issues can affect anyone of any age, women in their 50s should be wary of conditions like anxiety and depression.  (Photo via Getty Images)

While mental health issues can affect anyone of any age, women in their 50s should be wary of conditions like anxiety and depression. (Photo via Getty Images)

Major health concerns for women in their 50s

Colorectal cancer

With 88% of colorectal cancer cases developing in people age 50 and older, it’s important to start getting tested for colon cancer at age 50. This will help you catch it early and increase your chances of effective treatment.

stress incontinence

Almost half of women over 50 suffer from stress incontinence, also known as urinary incontinence. Still, women under age 65 are less likely to talk to a doctor about treatment options for stress incontinence. This condition causes urine to leak when laughing, coughing, sneezing, or exercising.

anxiety and depression

Mental health issues can affect all ages. For some individuals, anxiety and depression can set in later in life. In a 2020 study, 9% of Canadians in their 50s said their mental health was fair or poor. This represented an increase of almost 3% compared to 2015.

The risk of stroke doubles every decade after age 55.  (Photo via Getty Images)

The risk of stroke doubles every decade after age 55. (Photo via Getty Images)

Major health concerns for women in their 60s

High pressure

As we age, our blood vessels become less flexible, putting pressure on the arteries that supply blood throughout the body. This is why so many people develop high blood pressure as they age. Approximately 70 percent of women in their 60s and 70s have this condition.

Heart disease

As women age, plaque buildup in the arteries can lead to heart disease. Women are usually diagnosed with heart disease later in life than men. They are also less likely to experience a heart attack, but it’s still a huge health concern, especially for women in their 60s.

Women with heart failure also have a 25% higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation, a condition characterized by a fast, irregular heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots in the heart.

Leakage

Strokes can happen at any age, but data shows that the risk of stroke doubles every 10 years after age 55.

Women are disproportionately affected by strokes. Lower estrogen levels may play a role in cholesterol buildup that can lead to stroke. In Canada, 45% more women die from stroke than men.

Almost all people who reach the age of 70 are affected by hearing loss.  (Photo via Getty Images)

Almost all people who reach the age of 70 are affected by hearing loss. (Photo via Getty Images)

Top health concerns for women over 70

hearing loss

Hearing loss affects nearly everyone who reaches age 70. In Canada, 94% of people in their 70s reported hearing loss, with another 31% experiencing tinnitus. Hearing loss often occurs as a gradual, natural part of the aging process, but it can also be caused by long-term medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

cataract

A gradual loss of visual acuity can be a normal part of aging, but it’s not the only vision problem that can arise in your 70s. Cataracts, or a clouding of the eye’s lens, affect nearly half of all people in their 70s. In the following decade, that number rises to 68%. If left untreated, cataracts can interfere with vision and even lead to vision loss.

memory problems

Several conditions, including Alzheimer’s, can cause memory loss in older women. Memory loss and dementia can start gradually, but over time they can completely impair memory and thinking skills. While there are some factors like age and heredity that you can’t control, experts suggest that a healthy, balanced lifestyle can help.

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