Talking Women’s Health

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Susan Daniel

by Susan Daniel, NBC-HWC



Are you so busy taking care of others that you neglect to care for yourself? Don’t wait until you have a health problem to start taking your physical and emotional health seriously.

In addition to being physically active, eating healthy, and getting adequate sleep, you should regularly communicate with your health care providers to better manage your health. Women have unique health concerns, exclusive of men, that can have an impact on overall wellbeing, including gynecological disorders, pregnancy and reproduction issues, menopause, ovarian, cervical and breast cancers. (While it is possible for men to get breast cancer, it is very rare.)

There are also many health issues that men and women share, but that affect women differently.  Sometimes symptoms may be similar, but the severity of an illness or chronic condition may differ greatly for women, in comparison to men.  In addition, care and treatment for shared health issues may vary depending on gender.

Below are some health topics that men and women share, but impact women differently.

Heart Disease. Although heart attack rates are higher in men, fatalities are more common for women. Increased fatality rates in women may be attributed to the fact that some of the symptoms of heart attack are different in women than in men and therefore may not seek treatment as quickly. For example, women are more likely to experience dizziness, fatigue, and nausea in addition to other symptoms shared with men.

Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis causes swelling, joint pain, and stiffness.  Women are more affected by this debilitating disease than men.  Motion and unique body functions play a role in the increased risk for women.  Childbirth and the loss of estrogen later in life are genetic factors that can also contribute to limited mobility and pain.

Stroke. Even though the risk factors for stroke are generally the same for women and men, women are more likely to have a stroke.  Unique risk factors include having frequent migraines, taking birth control, using hormone replacement during menopause, and being pregnant.

Urinary Tract Health. A woman’s urinary tract is designed differently than a man’s, which may cause incontinence later in life.  Contributing factors also include childbirth and menopause.

Mental Health. More women are diagnosed with depression each year than men, and are more likely to display symptoms of anxiety and stress.  Stress has been on the rise for women over the last five years, and one study found that stress may affect a woman’s chance to become pregnant.

Alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse also comes with elevated health risks for women.  It increases the risk of heart disease, liver damage, and breast cancer. Prenatal alcohol exposure can lead to physical, cognitive, and behavioral problems in children.

Although there are several elevated health risks women need to be concerned with, the good news is there are also many ways women can decrease their risks.

The following preventive measures can help women live healthier lives:

  • Not smoking and minimizing exposure to secondhand smoke is one of the most important measures anyone can take to improve their health and lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, and many forms of cancer.
  • Engaging in regular physical activity and eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat and high in fiber can help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Exercising and moving helps minimize the effects of osteoarthritis. Drinking water and staying hydrated can improve urinary tract
  • Managing stress by using effective techniques such as exercise, mindfulness, and getting proper rest can help improve one’s general outlook on life and decrease symptoms of chronic disease.
  • Limiting alcohol can also reduce the risk of certain types of cancers in women. As a rule, women should limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day.

It’s important that women receive an annual physical exam and follow their health care providers’ recommendations for preventative screenings like mammograms, pap smears, etc… They are also encouraged to speak up, ask questions and discuss concerns when meeting with their doctors. Women should strive to manage their health with confidence.

This article is meant for information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Individuals should consult their health care providers to discuss health risks and preventative measures.

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