Top 10 Women’s Health Concerns
Doctor William C. Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer, Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Many health concerns are preventable conditions.
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. Keep these key conditions on your radar and find out 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 heart disease is a preventable health issue through diet, exercise, not smoking, and limiting alcohol. Learn about more ways to prevent heart disease.
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 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 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 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. Take steps now to learn more about stroke prevention.
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 how depression 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 with 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.
Focus on what you can control.
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 with your doctor about your risks for disease and find out how to give your health a boost.