What comes to mind when you
think about women’s health concerns? Breast cancer probably tops the list. But staying
healthy as a woman involves more than breast exams and mammograms. Just as your
life has many facets, so does your health. Luckily, many of women’s top health
concerns are preventable conditions. Read on to find out which health issues to
keep on your radar and what you can do to prevent them.
1. Heart Disease
Your mom may have told you to guard your heart. She was wise, but maybe
not in the way you think. More than one in three American women have some form
of cardiovascular or heart disease. And heart disease is the leading cause of death
for both men and women. But the good news is that heart disease is a
preventable health issue through diet, exercise, not smoking, and limiting
alcohol. Learn more about preventing heart disease here.
Once again, breast cancer tops the list when you think about women and
cancer. And breast cancer is definitely a top health concern for women. But did
you know that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States?
What’s more, lung, colon and uterine cancers combined account for almost as
many cancers as the breast cancer. So perform monthly breast self-exams, wear
sunscreen, don’t smoke, get your colonoscopy, and see your doctor about
abnormal periods or abdominal problems.
Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a stroke. And
every four minutes, a person dies as a result. You should know that 60% of these
deaths occur in women. Do you know stroke warning signs? Remember FAST: Face drooping, Arm weakness or numbness, Speech
problems, Time to call 911. Like the
rule for heart muscle, time is brain. The sooner you seek treatment, the more
brain function you can save. Learn about stroke prevention here.
4. Diabetes and Obesity
Type 2 diabetes is an epidemic in the
United States, affecting nearly 26 million adults. And almost half of these
cases are women. Because obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, it
shouldn’t be a surprise that there is a similar trend for obesity. About a third
of U.S. adults are obese; the prevalence is similar for men and women. The
combination of these two conditions increases your risk of heart disease,
stroke, and kidney disease. But you can prevent both with healthy lifestyle
changes. Learn more at the American Diabetes Association.
One out of two women will experience osteoporosis
in her lifetime. And this silent disease starts long before problems develop. The
earlier you start protecting your bones the better. Women’s bone mass peaks by
age 30, making the childhood and teenage years key for bone building. But all
women can help prevent osteoporosis by getting enough calcium and vitamin D,
and strengthening bones with weight-bearing exercises. Learn more about preventing osteoporosis.
We all get the blues from time to time.
But depression is more than that. Depression lasts for more than a couple of
weeks and interferes with your daily life. And it’s almost twice as likely to
affect women compared to men. Most people need treatment to get better, but
there are ways you can help yourself: exercise, break up large tasks into
smaller ones, and spend time with people you trust. Find out more about depression and how it affects women.
7. Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases occur when your immune
system goes haywire and attacks healthy tissues. There are a wide variety of
these diseases that affect nearly every organ system. And 75% of the time, they
affect women. In fact, approximately 30 million women in America suffer from an
autoimmune disease. While these diseases aren’t necessarily preventable, early
diagnosis is often key to managing them. So don’t ignore persistent symptoms,
even vague or sporadic ones.
It’s a fact of life. If you’re a woman,
you will eventually have to deal with menopause. No one looks forward to hot
flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and sleep problems. But not every woman has
severe symptoms and there is life after menopause. The menopausal transition is also called
perimenopause. It lasts several years until 12 months after your last period. Taking
care of your health and your body can help you through the transition. Aim to
keep a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet, get plenty of exercise, practice
stress management, and see your doctor regularly.
9. Family Planning
While family planning isn’t a health
condition, it is a concern for most women. Some phases of your life are spent
preventing pregnancy, while others are focused on conceiving a child. Either
way, your obstetrician-gynecologist or family doctor is your “go to” person for
family planning issues. Seeing your doctor regularly will help you prevent
unwanted pregnancies and prepare you for a healthy pregnancy when the time is
right. So make that appointment today!
10. Sexual and Bladder Health
Sexual health can go hand-in-hand with bladder health. Infections are a
concern, both sexually transmitted diseases and urinary tract infections. But
so are functional problems, such as urinary incontinence and sexual
difficulties. Bladder problems are known to worsen sexual problems if you are
self-conscious or embarrassed. Talk to your doctor about any bladder problems
or sexual difficulties. There are many types of treatments for urinary
incontinence, which in turn can boost your confidence and improve your sexual
health. And keep communication open with your partner.
A woman could easily become
overwhelmed worrying about health concerns. But worrying really doesn’t get you
anywhere. Instead, focus on what you can do to empower yourself and take
control where you can. With most of these health issues, a healthy lifestyle
will go miles toward helping you prevent problems. And your doctor is your guide
in navigating your health choices and priorities. Talk to your doctor about
your risks for disease and find out how to give your health a boost.