In celebration of National Women’s Health Week, we’re taking a closer look at 8 health facts that all women need to know now about the issues that affect them and what they can do about them.
Men and women are different. Ask any couple that has been together for a long time, and they can probably write a book on the subject. But the differences don’t stop at personalities — certain medical conditions affect women differently than men. Let’s look at the 8 health facts women need to know now.
1. On average, women live longer than men.
At first, this sounds like good news. But, it’s estimated that 50% of women over 75 live isolated. And 90% of nursing home residents are women. The majority of these women suffer from chronic health issues or substance abuse from depression. No matter where you are, it’s important to start taking preventative measures, not only for your physical and emotional health. Devote time to your loved ones. Cultivate positive relationships. Stay social.
2. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women.
Not only is heart disease the leading cause of death, but it’s also the leading cause of premature death. One reason could be that heart disease goes undiagnosed in women more often than in men. For example, during a heart attack, some women may not feel chest pain. Instead, their symptoms might include:
- Jaw pain
- Shoulder ache
- Shortness of breath
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately. Maybe it’s just a sore shoulder, but it could be much worse. Don’t risk it.
3. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women.
Breast cancer is no longer a death sentence due to the various successful treatment options. Still, it’s important to check your breasts regularly via self-examination as well as with your doctor. The sooner breast cancer is detected, the better your chances are for survival.
4. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women.
Although breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, lung cancer kills more women. The best defense against lung cancer is not smoking. However, the number of female non-smokers diagnosed with lung cancer is rising. Most women are diagnosed with adenocarcinoma — a form of cancer with symptoms that usually don’t appear until its later stages, making it even more dangerous. Talk to your doctor immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:
- A persistent cough or sore throat
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
5. Thyroid disorders are much more common in women than in men.
The thyroid gland controls all of the metabolic processes in your body. Disorders of the thyroid range from small to large and present various symptoms depending on the type of disorder.
Hyperthyroidism — a condition in which the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone — can cause the following symptoms:
- Weight loss
- High blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle weakness
- Lighter menstrual cycles
Hypothyroidism — a condition in which the thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones — can cause the following symptoms:
- Brain fog
- Reduced heart rate
- Sensitivity to cold
- Tingling or numbness in hands
- Heavy menstrual periods
- Weight gain
If you think you have a thyroid disorder, talk to your doctor. If you ignore it, the condition can become more serious.
6. Osteoporosis is largely preventable.
Although associated with aging, osteoporosis is NOT a normal part of aging. Genetics can indeed play a role in your chances of developing osteoporosis, but it is mostly preventable. Prevention must begin early in life because we start losing bone mass in our 30s. But no matter what age you are, you can better protect yourself against osteoporosis through the following preventative measures:
- Avoid smoking.
- Drink alcohol in moderation.
- The average premenopausal woman should weigh at least 127 pounds, or whatever weight is healthy for her height. Underweight premenopausal women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than those who maintain a healthy weight.
- Engage in weight-bearing exercises to strengthen bones.
- Make sure you’re eating enough calcium and vitamin D.
7. Depression seems to affect more women than men.
Hormonal changes can undoubtedly cause depression in women. However, women tend to become depressed more easily due to stress, hanging on to negative feelings, experiencing feelings of guilt, and putting others’ needs before their own. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor:
- Depressed mood
- Sleep disturbances
- Significant weight changes
- A lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
- A lack of energy or suicidal thoughts
8. Power is prevention.
There are some frightening facts in the above list. But there are measures you can take, starting today, that can help prevent major problems. Environmental and genetic factors will always play a part, but if you adopt healthy behaviors, your risk of disease and premature death can be significantly lowered.
- Exercise and maintain an active lifestyle
- Eat whole, unprocessed foods.
- Fill your diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce stress
- Be Social
- Devote time to positive relationships
- Rid yourself of negative relationships
- Have something to look forward to daily
- Quit smoking
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Avoid indoor and outdoor pollutants
- Get regular checkups
Erlanger Center for Women offers various services to help patients maintain a healthy lifestyle, including ultrasound services, gynecologic surgery, midwifery, and holistic medical practices. Learn more about classes and services offered at the Erlanger Center for Women by checking out their website or calling 423-648-6020.