Women's Health

5 Major Health Concerns for Women

According to Saralyn Mark, MD, senior adviser for the Office of Women's Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services, it is important for women to consult with their doctor to discuss their family medical history, to prepare for what they may encounter in their lifetime. Women must be more aware of any potential health issue tat they may encounter. An understanding of their body is key for a healthier life.

These are five of the most common health concerns women face.

1. Heart Disease

In women, heart disease is the cause for approximately 29% of deaths, according to the CDC. “Rather than death, it is premature death and disability that is the real concern in the life for a woman,” says Cindy Pearson, executive director of the National Women's Health Network.

Many women are dying by the age of 60 because of heart disease, according to Pearson. Women who face this condition must live a life of caution, which will ultimately affect their quality of life. Though common among women, heart disease is usually left undiagnosed and untreated

One of the most common symptoms of heart disease is chest pain. But, women also experience subtle symptoms like jaw pain, shoulder aches, nausea, vomiting and/or shortness of breath.

According to the American Heart Association, the major risk factors for heart disease are:

  • Increasing age
  • Heredity
  • Smoking
  • High blood cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity and overweight
  • Diabetes

According to Gregory Burke, MD, professor and chairman of the department of public health sciences at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, women should adapt healthy lifestyle habits at an early age, to reduce the overall risk of heart disease or stroke. Burke believes that this is a vital lifestyle choice, considering a woman's risk for heart disease increases with age. Burke says that modifying your lifestyle and including a well-balanced diet are two efficient ways to decrease the risk of developing heart disease.

2. Breast Cancer

Next to lung cancer, breast cancer is a leading cause of death among women. Many women actually fear getting a mammogram because they may have this type of cancer. Some women even get a full mastectomy when it's not needed to prevent breast cancer. Diane Helentjaris, MD, immediate past president of the American Medical Women's Association, said that breast cancer is not always considered a death sentence; there are numerous treatment options available for this condition. She suggests that women should be mindful of their emotions, and educate themselves on treatment options, and what can occur if they develop this cancer.

The major risk factors of breast cancer, according to The American Cancer Society, are:

  • Increasing age
  • Genes
  • Family history of this disease
  • Personal history of this disease
  • Race
  • Earlier and abnormal breast biopsy
  • Earlier chest radiation
  • Early onset of menstruation or menopause after 55-years-old.
  • Not having children
  • Medication use, such as diethylstilbestrol (DES)
  • Over consumption of alcohol
  • Obesity

Stephen F. Sener, MD, president of the American Cancer Society, says that women should be mindful of the causes and risks that can lead to breast cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, quitting smoking, understanding the risks, and undergoing the appropriate screenings are the best ways to control this condition.

Even if a patient does not have breast cancer in their family, they can still develop it at a later stage. 

Osteoporosis

There are a number of steps that a woman can take to avoid osteoporosis. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 44 million American women are affected by this condition. Experts say that osteoporosis is preventable, and it is mostly caused by the developed behaviors in women during childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood. 

The human body creates new bones up until an individual reaches the age of 30. Once an individual reaches the age of 30-years-old, bone development plateaus. So, to repair any bone damage that occurs, it is vital that a woman consumes adequate amounts of calcium, and incorporates light physical activity. 

The major risk factors of osteoporosis include:

  • Sex
  • Aging
  • A small, thin-bone frame
  • Ethnicity: White and Asian women have the highest risk.
  • Family history
  • Sex hormones
  • Anorexia
  • Consuming a diet low in calcium and vitamin D
  • Medication use, particularly glucocorticoids or some anticonvulsants
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol

Depression

Women are more commonly diagnosed with depression, compared to men. According to a report by The National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 12 million women are diagnosed with depression.

Dorree Lynn, PhD, psychologist and author of Getting Sane Without Going Crazy, says that women tend to develop depression when they involve themselves in unhealthy relationships in their lifetime. In other cases, hormonal changes can trigger this condition, especially after menopause or during pregnancy.

Some of the risk factors for depression include:

  • Family history of depression
  • History of heart problems
  • Serious chronic illness
  • Marital problems
  • Substance abuse
  • Drug use
  • Experiencing a traumatic even
  • Diseases, such as vitamin deficiency and thyroid disease
  • A recent serious illness or surgery
  • Childhood history regarding physical or sexual abuse
  • Having an eating disorder
  • Anxiety

Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases attack our immune systems and have the power to destroy body tissue. Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes are just some of the most common autoimmune diseases in the United States.

The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association reports that approximately 75% of autoimmune diseases occur in women. Moreover, autoimmune diseases are the fourth largest cause for disabilities among women in America. Genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors are thought to be the major contributors that lead to the development of autoimmune diseases. It is difficult to depict the different risk factors for this disease, as it is still not highly understood. Diagnosis for this medical condition is quite difficult, because the symptoms are not entirely obvious.

Key Takeaways

  • It is vital for women to understand the symptoms of heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, and depression, as they are at a high risk for contracting these medical conditions in their lifetime.
  • Contact your healthcare provider if you feel you are susceptible to any of these conditions.
  • These conditions have viable treatment options that are readily available.