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Health Information Changing Rhythms: Health Maintenance for Women as They Age

Some women may take certain aches and discomforts for granted as they get older. What they may not realize is that those minor irritations may be indicating a problem. This is why it's so important to have regular doctor visits, where you and your doctor can sort through complaints to see if any should be investigated further.

"This is especially important as your medical situation becomes more complex," says Maria R. Hansberry, MD, an internal medicine specialist who cares for older adults at Rush. "While many women remain healthy as they age, others may have a number of disorders and medications that can change how we approach their health maintenance," Hansberry says.

"Each individual usually has a constellation of medical problems unique to her," Hansberry says. "And, as medications and diseases accumulate, the appropriate frequency for some tests can change. Certain problems may take on more urgency, but you should also try to keep up with your regular screenings."

A screening is used to check for the presence of a disease or disorder before you have any symptoms. Some important medical tests for women as they age are screenings for:

  • Heart health (such as blood pressure, cholesterol and other lipids)
  • Bone density
  • Mammograms
  • Colon cancer
  • Memory
  • Mood (such as depression and anxiety)
  • Presence of abuse

For information on the schedule for these screenings and some helpful tips read "Keeping Watch: Screenings for Older Women."

Hansberry recommends visiting your doctor about once a year, if you are healthy. "You should see your doctor, to get your blood pressure checked, have your weight measured and, most important, to let your doctor know if there've been any problems or symptoms, you've been experiencing."

She urges all patients to be completely open and frank with their doctors. "This is not just for women, everyone needs to be forthright and honest with his or her physician," Hansberry says. There may be some subjects that are touchy, like having complications with sex, problems with incontinence or even issues of domestic abuse or financial exploitation. "While they may be sensitive matters, these are all things that your doctor can help you with or provide counsel on," she says.

"For example, many women feel that they have to live with urinary incontinence as part of the aging process," says Hansberry. "But this is not a natural part of aging. This is a treatable condition; it could also signal a problem that needs to be investigated."

"Your medical needs can change with the different stages of life; remember that your doctor is your partner to help you with those changes," Hansberry says.

More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • To learn more about our free health and aging membership program for older adults and the people who care for them, visit the Rush Generations home page. Or call (800) 757-0202. Rush Generations can help you with your goals for vital, healthy living.
  • For information on medical services for older adults, visit the Geriatric Services home page. Or call (800) 757-0202.
  • Are you facing tough decisions as you or a loved one grow older? The Anne Byron Waud Patient and Family Resource Center for Healthy Aging offers help with your current needs and difficult questions. For more information, see their home page or phone (312) 563-2700 or (800) 755-4411.
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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