Women's Health

What are the Major Health Concerns for Women?

What are the Major Health Concerns for Women?

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 higher risk for contracting these medical conditions in their lifetime.
  • You should contact your health care professional if you feel you are susceptible to any one of these conditions.
  • Many, if not all, of these conditions have viable treatment options that are readily available.

There are five major medical conditions that women have the potential of facing in life. These conditions include heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis, depression, and autoimmune diseases. Saralyn Mark, MD, senior medical adviser for the Office on Women's Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services, said that it is important for women to consult with their doctor to discuss family medical history, in order to prepare for what they may encounter in their lifetime. It is vital that women become aware of these potential issues, so they can take the correct and efficient steps to find recovery. Understanding one's body is the key to a healthy life.

Heart Disease

This is the most prominent cause of death in both men and women. However, in women, heart disease is the cause for about 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-years-old because of heart disease, according to Pearson. Women who are faced with this condition must live a life of caution, whcih will ultimately affect their quality of life. Death due to heart disease is commonality in men, however, in women, this condition is commonly undiagnosed up until it is too late to take action.

Majority of the symptoms heart disease entails are commonly missed by the patient, and even most doctors. A common symptom of heart disease is chest pain, although many female patients report minor issues, like jaw pain, shoulder aches, nausea, vomiting, 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 one's lifestyle and including a well-balanced diet, are two efficient ways to decrease the risk of developing heart disease.

Breast Cancer

For women, breast cancer is another commonality, and is the leading cause of death, next to lung cancer. Sometimes the fear of breast cancer discourages women from receiving a screening, in fear of being diagnosed with this prevalent cancer. To another extent, women tend to impulsively receive mastectomies, although it may not always be needed. 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 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 woman's own mother did not have cancer, there is still a chance that it can develop at a later stage. Moreover, women who embody several of the previously mentioned risk factors may not ever have breast cancer in their lifetime. These risk factors are not guaranteed, they only increase your chances of developing this disease.

Osteoporosis

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

The human body creates new bone up until an individual reaches the age of 30-years-old. 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, about 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

One can reduce the risk of depression by engaging in her work, or volunteering for moral benefits. Women who are involved in loving and caring relationships experience better health as a result. 

Autoimmune Diseases

Auto immune diseases attack our immune systems and have the power to destroy body tissue. Lupus, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes are some the many examples of autoimmune diseases that persist over time.

The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association reports that about 75% of autoimmune diseases occur in women. Moreover, auto immune 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.

Women should pay close attention to any symptoms they might have, and if any, women should consult with a doctor to receive immediate medical attention.