Womens Health Issues
Womens health issues are unique in a number of qualities from men. I find that in my practice that a lot of women feel that their health issues are only restricted to their routine OB/GYN care. This is not the case.
Statistics show that women live longer than their male counterparts-a lot of times into their 80s.
Womens health issues have certain complexities and there is a lot of evolving data that is out there that can get very confusing for even the internet savvy female.
I like to emphasize the importance of preventive screening to all my female patients. This is not restricted to just sexual health.
Women should ensure that they establish care with a primary care physician who is sensitive to womens health issues. By sensitive, I mean someone who is open to the fact that unlike our male counterparts, women express certain illnesses a little differently take for instance heart disease (see the section on women’s heart health)
Screening for diseases such as high cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension should begin in the 30s. These are done with simple blood tests take after an overnight fast.
Also if a woman has had problems in pregnancy such as diabetes or hypertension then she should begin to be watched closely thereafter.
Beginning in her 30s also, women should begin to maintain a good intake of calcium. This is in order to prevent bone loss (osteoporosis) after menopause. This may have to be in the form of calcium supplements. I personally recommend calcium citrate because it is a better quality of calcium. Some studies have shown the benefit of a low fat dairy intake in reducing the risk of breast cancer. If you have no problem digesting diary (i.e. if you are not lactose intolerant) then by all means maintain this in your diet.
PAP smears and Mammograms are a very important component of womens health issues and yet I find that a lot of women opt to skip them either because they are uncomfortable with being unclothed or some perceived discomfort with a mammogram. With the new digital equipment for mammograms, there is less discomfort experienced.
There are many factors that can increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer, one of which is genetics. However, most breast cancers are not genetic. Women’s breast cancers can be brought on by a variety of factors such as age at first birth, socioeconomic status, dietary intake, being obese or overweight especially at menopause; hormonal imbalance; not getting enough physical exercise; smoking; drinking too much alcohol; a possible link to cigarette smoking; hormone replacement therapy; and poor diet (too much saturated fat and sugar, intake of red meat too little fiber). Inasmuch as medical research cannot say what does cause breast cancer across the board, there is documented evidence that early detection has been shown to improve survival. If a woman has a mother or another maternal relative diagnosed with early breast cancer, then it is important that her she and her daughters get screened 10 years earlier than the age of the first case of breast cancer in that family.
For instance if her mother was diagnosed at age 45 years and her aunt (i.e Mother’s sister) diagnosed at age 42 years, then that woman should start getting screened at age 32 years of age.
Recently there has been an established link between the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and cervical cancer. There is also a new vaccine called Gardasil® available for girls and women between the ages of 12 to 25 years of age. As to whether we are encouraging our daughters to be promiscuous by administering this vaccine to them, I encourage you to discuss this and your personal options with your healthcare provider.
|As women, we are also plagued with stress and these may show up in different ways in our bodies compared to our male counterparts. Inasmuch as we may identify certain ailments as being ‘stress related’ such as heartburn, chest pains irritable bowel syndrome, stomach pains, diarrhea, gas, bloating etc it is still very important to seek the evaluation of your primary care physician and not self diagnose. This is because these ailments could progress if not controlled and cause long term physical damage for instance narrowing of the esophagus and cancer from continued heart burn, stomach ulcers that start to bleed etc. and that ‘gas pain’ may also be a life threatening condition called cholecystitis which is an inflammation of the gallbladder.|
With the onset of peri-menopause and menopause, some of womens health issues and symptoms may begin to overlap with another disease such as depression or even a hypoactive thyroid a condition called Hypothyroidism.
Depression is more common in women and at times tends to get dismissed as just being part of the change of life. If you have been feeling sad, down or hopeless for more than two weeks then contact your primary care provider and have a depression screening questionnaire to evaluate your symptoms. Routine blood tests for thyroid disorders usually begin at age 50. A hypoactive thyroid could also mask as depression, so be sure to enquire from your healthcare professional about getting screened for this with a simple blood test called the TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone).
Also beginning at age 50 years, all women should start getting regular colonoscopies. This is a very simple procedure. We are seeing increased survival rates from early detection of colon cancer.
I have just highlighted some important issues as they relate to screening for early detection of cancers and other diseases as they relate to womens health issues. Please visit the links below for my recommendations other health related issues as they relate to overall wellness.
By addressing womens health issues and embracing an overall health and wellness plan, women will live productive lives well into their older years and age with grace.
Here’s to all the Best in Womens Health and Wellness!
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