10 Health Concerns Women Must Understand (Part 1)
May 12, 2014

10 Health Concerns Women Must Understand (Part 1)

Men and women have different health lives. In some ways, women have it better (e.g. live longer, stronger immune systems, et cetera), but there are certain diseases and issues that impact women greater than men. Recently, Walgreens published an article identifying 10 of these. It is important to know what affects women more than men, and vice versa. For this article, though, I will focus on the 10 diseases that women need to know more about in order to lead healthy, long lives.

In the future, I will dig deeper into many of these diseases identified as important for women to understand. For now, though, let’s take a brief look at these 10 diseases.

The first, and frankly most important, disease that impacts women is heart disease. Now, heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women, but many do not know just how impacting heart disease is on women. One of the reasons that heart disease is so important for women to know about is that most women do not have the traditional symptoms of heart disease. Partially this is due to the fact that women tend to get small vessel heart disease whereas men get coronary artery disease. Nevertheless, small vessel disease is just as dangerous and deadly as coronary artery disease. The truth is that women are more likely to die from heart disease than men.

The good news is that with a healthy lifestyle –regular exercise, good diet, mental stimulation, stress management – heart disease is controllable.

The next disease that women need to understand is osteoporosis. This disease impacts the bones. Specifically, bones become weak and brittle to such a level that falling over or even simply bending can cause a fracture. Eighty percent of those afflicted with osteoporosis are women because estrogen levels plummet in women after menopause. Though all people suffer from bone strength decline, women lose more than just bone strength with their dropping estrogen levels.

Though much of osteoporosis comes from uncontrollable factors like race, family history, and frame size, women can make sure to eat calcium- and vitamin D-rich diets and engage in weight-bearing exercises (e.g. walking, running, or weight-lifting). Moreover, avoiding heavy drinking, smoking, and corticosteroid medications will help bone strength as well.

Third, Walgreens focused on the gynecologic cancers including cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar. There are several important symptoms to look for in gynecologic cancers, the first of which is unusual vaginal bleeding. Beyond that, pelvic pain, changes in bathroom habits, and unusual itching may all indicate an issue with gynecologic cancers.

Having regular pelvic exams and Pap smears, paying attention to your body, and talking with your doctor all help to prevent and catch gynecologic cancers early.

Beyond gynecologic cancers, there are other cancers that primarily concern women including breast cancer. Since one in eight women will develop breast cancer and women are 100 times more likely to get breast cancer than men, this is something that women need to understand. Why are women more likely? All that estrogen that is good for protecting against heart disease and keeping bones strong, well it is also part of why women are more likely to develop breast cancer because estrogen helps cells grow and replicate, and cancer feeds off of that.

Prevention and treatment come from two factors: knowing your risk factors and taking action. For the first, the risk factors include age (women over 50 are at particular high risk), genetics, family history, and estrogen levels. Know these and talk to your doctor.

Additionally, giving yourself regular checks, getting checked by a doctor via mammogram, eating healthy, exercising, avoiding excessive alcohol drinking and smoking, avoiding hormone replacement therapy (this includes some birth control options.), and talking to your doctor are crucial for breast cancer. The more women know about breast cancer, the better their chances for preventing it.

In addition to cancers, there are other diseases that really affect women much more than men: rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. These three are lifelong diseases and all autoimmune diseases. Women are more likely to suffer from autoimmune diseases than men. Again, the suspected culprit is estrogen.

The bad news is that there is no known way to prevent these three diseases. Healthy living is important, but once one of these develops, medications that manage the symptoms are key.

Each of these first five deserves its own article, but grouping them together really shows how important it is to understand the health issues that impact women and their variety. In the next part, we will look at the last five diseases Walgreens identifies and see even more variety to better understand just what issues women need to know about.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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