The most common health concerns for women are mostly age-related. Knowing what to watch out for as you age is the first step towards preventing these serious health conditions
According the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “almost as many women as men die each year of heart disease in the United States.” It is, in fact, the leading cause of death for American women, but only half of them are aware of this serious threat. Statistics from 2017 revealed that heart disease caused about 1 out of every 5 female deaths.
Some women experience symptoms; others don’t. Any of the following could point to the onset of heart disease:
- Chest pain or discomfort, which could dull and heavy or sharp; also known as angina
- Pain in the neck, jaw, or throat
- Pain in the upper abdomen or back
- Nausea; vomiting; fatigue; shortness of breath; dizziness
- Indigestion; heartburn
- Fluttering heartbeat, or arrythmia
- Swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins
Consult a primary care physician near you as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms.
The CDC reports that “About 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant.” According to the Mayo Clinic, infertility problems are due to female factors about one-third of the time. Infertility is characterized by difficulty getting pregnant with at least a year of regular intercourse (or 6 months for women over 35). Being unable to carry a pregnancy to term may also be caused by infertility.
Female factors that could cause infertility include:
- Ovulation disorders which could lead to infrequent ovulation or none at all.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) due to hormonal imbalance;
- Pituitary gland problems due to excess physical or emotional stress, a very high or very low body weight, or a recent substantial weight gain or loss;
- Premature ovarian failure, which occurs when women under 40 no longer produce eggs, usually due to genetic reasons or chemotherapy;
- Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes, which can be caused by:
- Sexually transmitted disease;
- Previous abdominal or pelvic surgery;
- Pelvic tuberculosis
- Endometriosis, which is characterized by extra tissue growth outside the uterus.
- Uterine or cervical problems which make egg implantation difficult or increase the risk
for miscarriage. This can be caused by:
- Polyps or tumors;
- Uterine inflammation;
- Scarring due to endometriosis treatment;
- Congenital uterine abnormalities;
- Narrow cervix, which can be hereditary;
According to an article published on the WHO website, “women are more prone than men to experience anxiety, depression, and somatic complaints – physical symptoms that cannot be explained medically.” The most common mental health problem suffered by women is depression; postpartum depression and depression associated with menstruation are serious conditions that are often left unaddressed.
<5>Breast and Cervical Cancers5>
The same WHO article reports that breast and cervical cancers are the most common cancers affecting women. Early detection is key to effective prevention and treatment. The Mayo Clinic recommends getting yearly mammograms starting at age 40; more frequent testing is required if there is a family history of breast cancer. The risk for cervical cancer can be minimized with the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine, which is one of the standard immunizations recommended for all children by the CDC.
Seventy-five percent of all cases of autoimmune diseases affect women, according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA). Autoimmunity is usually hereditary and occur in clusters in families, meaning different female members can have different kinds of autoimmune diseases. Certain ethnic groups are also more susceptible to certain kinds of autoimmune disorders. The AARDA also reports, for example, that “African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women are two to three times more likely” to develop lupus than Caucasian women.
The Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has named autoimmune disorders as a major women’s health issue. Autoimmunity occurs when the body’s immune system attacks organ systems it’s supposed to protect.
If you are at risk for any of these health concerns, visit a primary care doctor near you now.