A Head-to-Toe Look at Aging and Its Effect on Women's Bodies
At Joylux, we think it's time to put an end to the double standard on aging and find healthy ways of making the journey more enjoyable.
While the passage of time affects everyone, there are some very real challenges that are specifically more acute for women. We’re going to break down some of the most common concerns, and the best ways to manage or minimize the changes you experience.
How does a woman's body change with age?
From forgetting where you put your glasses to including coloring gray hair in your self-care routine, you may experience some strange new 'quirks' as you get older.
First and foremost, you need to know that these things are all completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Having said that, it can help to know what to expect, and exactly why these changes are happening in the first place.
Let's take a closer look at how a woman's body can change with age.
- Skin - As we get older, collagen and elastin decrease, causing skin to appear thinner and paler. But perhaps the biggest factor in how skin ages is sun exposure, which can give skin a more weathered or leathery appearance. It’s important to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays by using sunscreen daily, wearing protective clothing, and staying in the shade during peak sun hours. Even if you are guilty of spending time in the sun in your youth, a healthy diet rich with antioxidants as well as a consistent skin routine can help reduce the effects and reduce signs of aging.
- Intimate Wellness – Similar to the rest of our skin, our intimate areas also age. A loss in strength and elasticity in the pelvic floor muscle, vagina, vulva, clitoris and perineum can lead to discomfort, dryness and loss of confidence for many women as they get older. Caring for this part of your body is important and discussing these changes with your doctor is important, especially if you have dryness or discomfort.
- Bladder control - Urinary incontinence is extremely common in older women. Bladder muscles thin and weaken with age, while supporting tissues of the vagina and vulva lose strength, causing a loss of control and an increase in leakage. Exercising the pelvic floor regularly is one of the best ways to combat incontinence and loss of pelvic strength. Whether it’s kegels, sex or an intimate wellness device, keeping the pelvic floor active can slow or reverse these changes significantly.
- Libido - As women enter menopause, their testosterone (the hormone responsible for sex drive) decreases causing a loss of libido. The physical effects of falling estrogen levels—including hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness—can also have a negative impact on a woman's sex drive. Making time for closeness with your partner, focusing more on foreplay, and changing up your sexual routine can help to spark intimacy again. Talking with your doctor about libido is important and seeking solutions is absolutely OK!
- Muscles & bones - It's common to lose muscle mass or bone density as we age, especially for post-menopausal women. This is because the body’s metabolism slows, while bones lose calcium and other minerals. Women who exercise—especially strength training—will see the fewest changes as they age because they're keeping their muscles activated, which optimizes calorie burn.
- Cardiovascular health - For heart health, the most common change in aging is stiffness or hardening of the arteries, which can lead to high blood pressure or other signs of heart disease. After menopause, women’s risk of heart disease increases to the same level as men’s! Maintaining a nutritious diet and regular exercise routine is the best way to promote heart health for a lifetime.
- Sleep schedule - As women age, it's common for us to take longer to fall asleep, sleep less deeply and wake up more frequently throughout the night. This is because our bodies may secrete less melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep. Other hormonal, medical and psychiatric issues may also affect your sleep patterns as you age. Sleep is vital to health and using over the counter sleep aids is not the best long term solution. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you struggle with sleep issues.
- Memory - A decline in brain function is a common side effect of aging. Interestingly, recent studies have shown memory loss can begin as early as your 40s and may be the result of a change how the brain behaves during memory formation and retrieval, rather than a decline in brain function. Additional studies on the role of sex steroid hormones in memory function, particularly in women remain ongoing. Studies show that good nutrition, exercise, stress management and regular medical care are vital to maintaining memory function. In addition, continuing to learn and keeping your brain engaged is one of the best ways to prevent mental decline. Pursuing interests and hobbies, whether it’s taking a class, joining a book club, or doing crossword puzzles, can continue to build and preserve brain connections.
- Social life - Due to a decrease in the number of available social activities available, in addition to limited transportation options, it's common for a woman's social life to slow down as she ages. However, there are many local groups dedicated to improving social and physical activity specifically in older women. For the first time, you may have the time to enjoy the activities you love the most. In addition to doing hobbies you love and connecting with your partner, time spent with female friends is critical to an aging woman’s health and happiness according to Psychology Today.
- Confidence - According to studies, women's confidence and self-esteem may increase with age. As we get older, many women report feeling better about themselves, despite all the changes their bodies are going through. Wisdom goes a long way! Celebrate that renewed confidence by connecting with your partner, reaching out to an old friend, or embarking on a new adventure. The freedom that comes with age can be empowering. Make these years the best one yet!
What can you do about it?
The good news is, nearly every item on this list can be minimized or improved with a little self care. In fact, there are now safe and effective products specifically designed to soothe dryness and increase vaginal sensation in menopausal women.
That's important because, after years of looking after others, women deserve to make themselves priority #1, especially as they get older. So, while we may not always feel like rejoicing in the physical effects of aging, with the right nutrition, exercise and mindset, it can be a part of life worth celebrating.