The life expectancy of women 50 years and older has improved significantly over the last 20 to 30 years for those of us in developed countries, according to a study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization on September 2nd 2013. Sadly, however, our sisters in less developed countries aren’t faring as well.
The reason for the gap is that measures taken in developed countries to reduce noncommunicable diseases – the leading causes of death globally – have been successful. The WHO study, one of a collection of articles in a special issue of the journal devoted to women's health pas the childbearing years, found that the leading causes of death of women aged 50 years and older worldwide are cardiovascular disease and cancers, but that in developing countries these deaths occur at earlier ages.
A release from the publishers notes that developed countries have taken measures to address these conditions over the last two or three decades and the results show. According to the WHO study, fewer women aged 50 years and older in these countries are dying from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes than 30 years ago and these health improvements contributed most to increasing women's life expectancy at the age of 50.
While breast cancer incidence increased overall during the same 30-year period, there were fewer breast and cervical cancer deaths among women aged 50 years and older due to early diagnosis and timely treatment.
Between 1970 and 2010, female deaths in this age group from cardiovascular disease and diabetes fell on average by 66% in 11 affluent countries: United States of America, Chile, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, Poland, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom, the study showed.
"We know that the measures proposed in the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013-2020 are effective in reducing the toll of deaths and disease from noncommunicable diseases. This study underlines how important it is for all countries to embrace the WHO global action plan and put it into practice," said Dr. Oleg Chestnov, Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health.