Top 9 Health Concerns for Women
Women's health concerns vary by age. These 9 major health concerns are what concern women the most.
Health concerns vary by age. Women who have just given birth have different concerns than those on the other side of menopause. Here are the major health concerns women may face as they age, along with tips for disease prevention:
- Breast cancer. Lower your risks by not smoking, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol use and controlling your weight. In your 20s and 30s, have clinical breast exams every three years, and at age 40, start getting yearly mammograms. You may need earlier, more frequent screenings if you have breast cancer in the 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.
- Colon cancer. Start screening at age 50 with annual high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing, and flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years, or colonoscopy every 10 years.
- 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.
- Osteoporosis. To preserve bone mass, avoid cigarettes, limit your alcohol intake, get adequate calcium and vitamin D and do weight-bearing exercises such as walking. Risks of bone fragility are greatest after menopause, so supplement your diet with calcium and vitamin D3 starting at age 50. Begin bone-mineral density screenings at age 65, or 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-thinning, and you can take bone-building medications on a weekly, monthly or annual (intravenous) basis if needed.
- Menopause treatment options. If lack of sleep, continuous hot flashes or severe mood swings disrupt your life, consider hormone replacement therapy. Take the lowest dose of hormones you need to relieve symptoms for the shortest period of time. Avoid “bioidentical” hormones from compounding pharmacies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns. These drugs aren't effective.
- Weight management as you get older. Eat smaller portions, healthier foods and exercise more as your metabolism slows with age. This will help prevent type 2 diabetes, arthritis and other weight-related problems.
- 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 prove that a healthier diet and increased activity can restore normal blood sugar levels and prevent diabetes. It's also critical to control weight, cholesterol and blood pressure and to quit smoking.
- Stroke. Take one baby aspirin daily starting at age 65 because it may help to prevent stroke. Meanwhile, call 9-1-1 if you see anyone develop weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg(s), confusion, speech or comprehension problems, vision loss, dizziness or difficulty with walking, balance or coordination. These are early warning signs of stroke, and immediate treatment can be lifesaving.