A recent report from the World Health Organization showed that life expectancies for women over 50 are increasing around the world.  Women are living longer now than they did 40 years ago, thanks to medical advances and more sanitary living.  While all countries showed life-expectancy improvements, some improved less than others.  The AIDS epidemic in South Africa, the collapse of the Soviet health system in Russia, and the increased cases of lung cancer and diabetes in Mexico are a few instances of slower improvement rates.

Internationally, heart disease, stroke, and cancer continue to be the leading causes of death for women over 50.  Dr. John R. Beard, director of the World Health Organization’s Department of Aging, suggests countries “focus on lowering blood pressure with inexpensive drugs and screening for cervical and breast cancer” so these diseases can be prevented or treated in more women.

The report also discussed how women tend to live longer than men in almost every part of the world due to biological advances and environmental and behavioral factors.  Increasing numbers of elderly women mean a demographic shift of our world and a need to care for female patients longer into their lifespans than clinicians have in the past.  Regrettably, even with this data, women health systems in less-developed countries remain “largely confined to reproductive matters” ignoring the other health needs of women who advance to old age.  The increasing numbers of elderly women point to a need for broader health systems than ever before.

Source: The New York Times

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