Women’s Health: 7 Major Threats to be Aware of
Women have a specific set of health concerns that they need to be aware of. While both men and women are susceptible to developing numerous health conditions, the symptoms and prognosis can often be different.
Women also face unique health challenges related to pregnancy, their menstrual cycle, the menopause and birth control. The prevalence of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression is also higher in women than it is in men.
Here we look at the major health issues that women face and how developing a strong prevention plan can play a role in wellbeing throughout life.
Women’s Health Issues
There are some unique health conditions that affect women such as ovarian and cervical cancer as well as medical issues related to pregnancy. However, other conditions like chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke are just as prevalent in women as they are in men.
For example, a quarter of deaths in women are due to heart disease and almost 80% of the people who suffer from autoimmune disease are female.
The research shows that 12% of women will develop some form of invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. In the USA alone, there are currently some 3.5 million women who have been diagnosed and are living with the disease.
There certain risk factors associated with breast cancer that women can’t do much about including a history of the disease within the family and their age. The good news is that regular screening can help spot cancer early and improve the outlook for the patient.
Other risk factors for breast cancer are more controllable, such as quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption as well as trying to maintain a healthy weight.
Ovarian and Cervical Cancer
Ovarian and cervical cancer often produce little in the way of symptoms in the early stages of the disease. More than 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and over 21,000 are diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Again, having close family members that have had either of these diseases is a risk factor. For cervical cancer, issues such as sexual history and the long-term use of contraceptives may also be considered as risk factors.
Health Issues Related to Pregnancy
A woman’s body has a lot to do during pregnancy. Even if they are completely healthy there can be issues such as hyperemesis gravidarum (essentially very prolonged morning sickness), gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, something which is caused by dangerously high blood pressure.
Pre-existing conditions such as scarring of the uterus, previous poor lifestyle choices and health problems such as heart disease can also have an impact during pregnancy and require careful monitoring.
This covers everything from fertility issues to pregnancy, menstruation and sexually transmitted disease. Bleeding between menstrual cycles, sores or lumps in the genital area and increased vaginal discharge can be the sign of an infection or other medical issue.
It’s important to have symptoms investigated as soon as possible by a physician or gynecologist. A significant delay in treatment may cause more severe health problems such as infertility and kidney failure.
There is still little research that shows why more than 80% of autoimmune diseases affect women exclusively. Our immune system is designed to attack foreign invaders such as viruses.
With an autoimmune disease, the biological system begins to attack healthy, normal cells causing fever, skin irritation and fatigue. Common diseases include fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Depression and Anxiety
Women can suffer from depression and anxiety because of natural hormone changes as well as a whole host of other, biological, psychological and environmental reasons. Women are twice as likely as men to have suffered from depression at some point in their life.
13% of women have experienced some level of postpartum depression after giving birth to a child. They are also at risk of developing depression as they move into the menopause.
There are several preventative measures that women can take to reduce their risk of developing major, life-threatening health conditions.
The first is to make sure that symptoms or problems where things don’t seem quite right are investigated promptly and not ignored. Visiting the doctor can help result in an early diagnosis and improve the outlook for a variety of serious health concerns.
Regular screening for diseases such as breast, ovarian and cervical cancer that often don’t exhibit symptoms, for example, is also very important.
Living a healthy lifestyle is essential in prevention too. This includes undertaking regular exercise, eating healthily and avoiding bad habits such as smoking and drinking. Maintaining a good weight and looking after individual wellness has a significant impact on both psychological and physical health.