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exploring women's health issues|woman touching around breast women's health issues|woman pregnant checking blood sugar Women's Health Issues|female doctor examining older woman Women's Health Issues

Health & Wellness

Exploring Women’s Health Issues

Most public health information is quite broad and covers things that apply to both genders. That advice is all sound. Eat healthily, drink water, get plenty of sleep, and try to exercise regularly and you are well on your way to enjoying a long and healthy life. There are some things that are gender-specific, though, or where women are disproportionately affected or need a slightly different approach to diagnostics and treatment. We touched on some of those issues in our guide to women's health , but it is worth giving those issues a little more consideration because awareness of female health issues could save lives. 1 Here, we explore some of the most important women's health issues:

woman touching around breast Breast Cancer

While it is possible for men to get breast cancer, more than 99% of all new breast cancer cases occur in women. 2 Around one in eight women in the US will experience breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. 3 The good news is that breast cancer can be treated, but early identification is important. Women should perform regular self breast examinations and accept screenings when they are offered. 4

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is a common condition and is responsible for around 14,000 deaths each year in the United States, with more than 22,000 women diagnosed with the condition in the country annually. 5 The incidence rate of ovarian cancer has declined since the 1970s, and survival rates are improving, however many cases are still not identified until Stage 4. Better public health education surrounding the female reproductive system could be helpful for supporting earlier diagnosis of the condition. The symptoms of ovarian cancer are easy to overlook. Bloating, feeling full after eating only a small amount, needing to go to the toilet more often, back pain, and pain during sex are all symptoms of ovarian cancer and they are things that many women might write off as being minor or simply a fact of aging. 6

woman pregnant checking blood sugar Gestational Diabetes

Pregnancy is a minefield when it comes to women's health. Women are bombarded with conflicting information about what to eat, what not to eat, what exercises are and are not safe, and how much weight to gain (or not gain). One particularly confusing area is gestational diabetes. Women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes if they become diabetic during pregnancy (usually the condition is temporary). It is important that it is managed properly because if it is not managed then it can lead to other health issues including pre-eclampsia (elevated blood pressure which can increase your risk of a stroke during delivery), and a high birth weight baby (to the point that a C-section is necessary because traditional birth methods may be unsafe). It is important that women are tested for gestational diabetes regularly during pregnancy and that they take measures to prevent it, including a healthy diet, weight management if necessary, and gentle exercise. 7

Heart Disease

Heart disease is something that affects both men and women, however, it is worth mentioning in this list because the way that it affects women is different. Many women fail to seek assistance for a heart attack because they do not realize that their symptoms are not the same as the symptoms that a man would experience. While the risk factors are the same for both genders, women are more likely to have 'atypical' heart disease. Instead of chest pain, they may experience persistent nausea, difficulty breathing, or abdominal pain. 8 Even some physicians miss these symptoms because they are so used to diagnosing the more common chest-pain issues that men experience. It is important that women feel confident enough to go to the doctor if they feel that something is wrong and that doctors take general complaints that do not tick all the boxes of an obvious health issue seriously.

female doctor examining older woman Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is the medical name for a loss of bone density which can often happen with age. People with osteoporosis are at a greater risk of suffering from fractures if they slip or fall. Osteoporosis can affect both genders, however, it most commonly affects women who are aged 60 or older. Two-thirds of women over the age of 90 are affected by osteoporosis. 9 It is possible to reduce your risk of osteoporosis by following a diet rich in calcium, and by engaging in resistance training to help improve bone density. Risk factors for osteoporosis include drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, being underweight, not consuming enough vitamin D or calcium, and consuming too much sodium and caffeine. 10 There are drugs which can help to manage osteoporosis in older women, however reducing your risk while you are still young is a better option.

The Female Athletic Triad

The Female Athletic Triad is something that is worthy of mention because it affects many young women who play competitive sports. The 'triad' is three health conditions: menstrual irregularity or dysfunction, low energy availability and low bone mineral density. These things are caused by women training hard and not eating enough, either because they have an eating disorder, or because they are simply using more energy than they eat to sustain their active lifestyle. While they may not notice any serious adverse effects in the short term, they could be doing lasting damage to their bodies. 11 For this reason it is important that doctors pay attention to the body weight of athletic women, especially younger ones, and ask about their menstrual cycle during routine appointments if there are concerns about their weight.

Be Proactive About Your Health

It is important for women, especially those who are approaching the menopause or who have had their menopause, are proactive about taking advantage of breast or cervical screenings if they have the opportunity to do so, and that they listen to their bodies when it comes to other health issues. Do not allow doctors to brush off health concerns, especially if you feel that an issue has been going on for a while. You are entitled to answers about your health, and for issues to be taken seriously.

Photo credits: BigmanKn/, greenazya/, AfricaStudio/,

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