Top 7 Health Concerns For Women And What To Do About Them

Top 7 Health Concerns For Women And What To Do About Them

By: Holly L. Thacker, MD • Posted on February 27, 2020

Preventive Medicine Expert Offers Tips

When we’re young, most of us don’t worry much about our health. But starting in our late 30s, some health concerns start nagging at us. Or we notice our friends or relatives grappling with health problems.

Major health concerns vary by age, says Cleveland Clinic preventive medicine and specialty women’s health expert, Dr. Holly L. Thacker. "For example, women begin to grow concerned about menopause and aging in their 40s and 50s, start to worry about osteoporosis in their 60s, and worry about staying independent in their 70s and 80s," she notes.

Below are the major health concerns for women, along with tips for prevention.

1. Cancer

Breast cancer

  • Lower your breast cancer risk by not smoking, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol use, controlling your weight and getting adequate vitamin D3.
  • Get an individualized breast cancer risk assessment and know your breast density and family history to best determine mammogram onset, frequency and possible need for risk reduction medications and/or genetic testing.
  • You may need earlier, more frequent screening before age 50 if you have breast cancer in your family or other risk factors.

Cervical cancer

  • Get your Pap smear to screen for cervical cancer. Pap smears reduce both cervical cancer incidence and mortality.
  • Get HPV testing by age 30. If you are under age 45, you are potentially eligible for the HPV vaccine.

Colon cancer

  • Start screening at age 45 and get a colonoscopy every 10 years.
  • Sooner colon cancer screening for symptoms or family history and discuss alternative screening like cologuard and sigmoidoscopy.

2. Cardiovascular Disease/High Blood Pressure/High Cholesterol

  • If cardiovascular disease runs in your family, or if your blood pressure or cholesterol levels are high, ask your doctor about taking medications to control blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Your doctor can also advise you on whether you’ll benefit from taking a daily aspirin.

3. Osteoporosis

  • To preserve bone mass, avoid cigarettes, limit your alcohol intake, get adequate calcium and vitamin D3 and do weight-bearing exercises.
  • Risks of bone fragility are greatest after menopause, so ingest 1,000 to 1200 mg of calcium plus 1000 IU to 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 starting at age 50.
  • Begin bone-mineral density screenings within 2 years of menopause or at least by age 65. Get a baseline bone density earlier if you have one or more risk factors (at age 50 if you’ve suffered a bone fracture).
  • Screening every two or three years will detect any bone loss. You can take bone building medications on a weekly, monthly or annual (intravenous) basis if needed.

4. Menopause Treatment Options

  • If lack of sleep, continuous hot flashes or severe mood swings are disrupting your life, consider hormone therapy, particularly if you are within 10 years of menopause and/or under age 65.
  • Menopausal hormone therapy is safe and effective for most women. Women with hysterectomies, early menopause or those with significant symptoms need evaluation and therapy.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns women to avoid ’bioidentical’ hormones from compounding pharmacies. However, bioidentical Bijuva® is FDA approved and regulated. Your physician will guide you to the right hormone combination and best mode of administration.

5. Weight Management As You Get Older

  • Eat smaller portions and healthier foods, and exercise more as your metabolism slows down with age.
  • This will help prevent type 2 diabetes, arthritis and other weight-related problems. Consider intermittent fasting.

6. Diabetes

  • Nearly, 60 million Americans have pre-diabetes (elevated blood sugar), the precursor to type 2 diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and loss of limb.
  • Studies now prove that a healthier diet and increased activity can restore normal blood sugar levels and prevent diabetes. It’s critical to control weight, cholesterol and blood pressure, and to quit smoking as well.

7. Stroke

  • Discuss your risks and benefits of aspirin use at age 65 or if you have high blood pressure.
  • Atrial fibrillation is a risk for stroke. Meanwhile, call 911 if you see anyone:
    • develop weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg(s)
    • confusion
    • speech or comprehension problems
    • vision loss
    • dizziness
    • difficulty with walking, balance or coordination
  • These are early warning signs of stroke and immediate treatment can be lifesaving.

Be Strong. Be Healthy. Be in Charge!

-Holly L. Thacker MD

Holly L. Thacker, MD, FACP is nationally known for her leadership in women’s health. She is the founder of the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health Fellowship and is currently the Professor and Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at Cleveland Clinic and Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Her special interests are menopause and related medical problems including osteoporosis, hormone therapy, breast cancer risk assessment, menstrual disorders, female sexual dysfunction and interdisciplinary women’s health. Dr. Thacker is the Executive Director of Speaking of Women’s Health and the author of The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause.

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