This is the time that your body starts slowing down in many different ways. There are many conditions associated with becoming older, such as arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer's, cancer, stroke, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis - while many of the processes of ageing are biologically determined, there are quite a few others that are lifestyle-related. But more about these in the next section.
If you have been living an unhealthy lifestyle, smoking, drinking too much, not getting enough exercise and eating an unhealthy diet, this is the time the chickens will come home to roost.
External signs of ageing in most women include wrinkling of the skin and graying of the hair. Cell renewal in the epidermis slows down and this causes the skin to become rougher in texture. The skin also loses both elasticity and plumpness. Wrinkles start to appear where the skin is constantly creased. The extent of wrinkling in a woman is often genetically determined, but it is also linked to lifestyle.
The rate at which women go grey is also largely determined by genetics. By the age of forty most women have at least a few grey hairs. Women generally do not suffer from hair loss in the way men do.
Eyesight and hearing also tend to deteriorate in this stage of a woman's life. The lens of the eye hardens and the ciliary muscle weakens. This causes difficulties when you want to read small print or do fine work. The incidence of cataracts also increases with age, especially among those who have Type 2 diabetes.
Many older women have difficulty with deteriorating hearing. Our ears are not really geared for the noise levels to which we subject it in our society and we pay the price for that as we grow older. Noise pollution can destroy the hair cells in the inner ear and this can lead to impaired hearing. There are very advanced hearing aids on the market today that can change the life of a woman whose hearing has started to deteriorate.
Declining bone mass is a problem widely experienced by older women. After the menopause, a woman's bones starts losing protein matrix tissue, which leads to increased brittleness of the bones. Bone mass peaks at the age of 35 and then starts declining as oestrogen levels go down.. By the age of 65 or 75, women easily break bones in falls that would hardly have given them a large bruise at the age of 30.
Wear and tear of joints is also a problem and many women in this age group suffer from osteoarthritis. Both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are two to three times more common in women than in men.
Many older women, especially ones that are not very active, suffer from slight urinary incontinence, often brought on by coughing or laughing.
The good news is that women do not lose their desire and capacity for sexual love. There may be some changes such the thinning of the vaginal walls and a decline in the amount of lubricating mucus.
(Liesel Powell, Health24, July 2003)