Women and men suffer many of the same health problems, but these problems frequently affect women in singular ways. It’s common, for example, that when a woman has heart disease she exhibits unique symptoms – symptoms of heart disease not found in a man. Then there are diseases and conditions women are more prone to than men, such as osteoarthritis, obesity, and depression. And, of course, there are menopause and pregnancy, conditions exclusive to women.
Women sometimes neglect their own health, focusing instead on their partner’s or children’s health. Take care of yourself first!
Here are five essential steps to a woman’s optimum health:
- Daily exercise
- A healthy, balanced diet, low in saturated fats
- Eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables every day
- A tobacco-free lifestyle
- Following cancer-prevention guidelines (for lifestyle/cancer screening)
Women may want to speak to their QLMC doctor about these ongoing tests:
- Cardiovascular screening
- Colorectal cancers screening
- Mammography (breast cancer screen)
- Flu shot
- Bone mass measurement
- Diabetes screen (if you have symptoms)
- Hypertension screening
- Cholesterol/blood screens
- Body Mass Index analysis (BMI)
- Nutritional counseling
Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her period stops. It usually occurs after age 45, and is a natural part of the aging process. A woman has reached menopause (or, is “menopausal”) when she hasn’t experienced a period for one year.
Menopause is the result of a woman’s ovaries stopping the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Changes and symptoms can start several years earlier.
- A change in periods – shorter or longer, lighter or heavier, with more or less time in between
- Hot flashes and/or night sweats
- Difficulty sleeping
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
- Trouble focusing
- Increase of facial hair, decrease of hair on head
During perimenopause – the months or years directly preceding menopause – a woman’s levels of estrogen and progesterone rise and fall irregularly, the result of the ovaries struggling to keep up with the needs of an aging female body. The symptoms of menopause might be a consequence of these shifting hormone levels.
Post-menopause, when a woman’s ovaries are manufacturing far less estrogen and progesterone, symptoms of menopause may continue. Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) and other menopausal hormone therapies may help control these symptoms.
Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by the loss of normal bone density. This disorder of the skeleton weakens bones, increasing the risk of fracture. The spine, hips, and wrists are most susceptible to osteoporosis (and are the most common areas of bone fracture), but just about any skeletal bone can suffer from osteoporosis.
In the United States, 55% of Americans aged 50 and older have low bone density – 44 million people, a remarkable statistic. What’s also remarkable is that 20% of those with low bone density who experience a hip fracture will die in the year following the fracture, and that only a third of hip-fracture patients regain their pre-fracture level of function.