Time to Fight Back: Staying Aware of Women’s Health Issues
God created males and females differently, and our bodies also differ in several ways, particularly, in the types of health concerns that women face more often than men. This includes the psychological, like anxiety and depression, as well as physical women’s health issues, such as breast and ovarian cancers.
Top Women’s Health Issues
As females, it is important to stay aware of the top women’s health issues and consistently take the initiative when it comes to screenings and treatments. The Bible states to “Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge.” (Psalm 23:12 NKJV)
Genetics often plays a key role in diagnosing heart disease. If your parents, grandparents, or siblings suffer from heart disease, be sure to report this to your primary care physician, so they can monitor your blood levels and offer lifestyle suggestions that may reduce your risk of a heart attack.
Osteoporosis goes beyond arthritis and normal joint pain. As we age, our bodies absorb and replace bone tissue. However, with osteoporosis, the body stops replacing the new bone tissue, resulting in weaker, brittle bones. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that eighty percent of the ten million Americans with osteoporosis are women. Out of that eighty percent, one in two women will break a bone.
Since osteoporosis can occur after estrogen levels dip dramatically – for example, in the years following menopause or the removal of the thyroid – it is important to stay mindful of your health before the menopausal years. Follow a healthy diet, limit your alcohol consumption, stop smoking, hit your calcium and vitamin D goals, limit your caffeine intake, and do weight-bearing and strength training exercises to keep your bones strong.
Your physician will order bone density tests to measure any weakness in your bones. The doctor may add a calcium supplement to your diet or prescribe medication to prevent further bone loss.
Depression and Anxiety
Mental health is equally as important (if not more so) than our physical health. The Bible asks the question, “The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit?” (Proverbs 18:14). The mind-body connection is strong, and depression and anxiety can create a cascade of physical symptoms and ailments.
Statistics show that twice as many women as men suffer from depression. Factors that contribute to this include premenstrual hormonal changes, pregnancy, postpartum depression, perimenopause, menopause, biological factors, and life circumstances. Anxiety is often a mental health issue that goes hand in hand with depression.
Depression and anxiety can also lead to relationship problems, eating disorders, substance abuse, excessive alcohol consumption, and suicide. If you feel that your depression and anxiety are giving you thoughts of harming yourself or others, reach out to a mental health care professional right away.
There are dozens of autoimmune diseases; diseases that affect the body’s ability to fight off foreign cells and then turn and fight the “good” cells. The most widely known autoimmune diseases that affect women include Multiple Sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, psoriasis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Grave’s disease, and Hashimoto’s disease.
Of course, this is only a small list of the number of autoimmune diseases prevalent in women. It can take weeks, months, or even years to receive the correct diagnosis of an autoimmune disease. If you are experiencing symptoms, seek the advice of a specialist who treats the most common symptom. For example, if you are suffering from bowel issues and losing weight, reach out to a gastroenterologist.
Breast Cancer and Ovarian Cancer
Although men can develop breast cancer, women are mostly affected. Researchers have pinpointed two genes in the human body that can trigger the formation of breast cancer: BRCA 1 and BRCA 2.Women with either of these mutations and a family history of breast cancer are at a much higher risk (sixty percent). Not only that, but these same women also have an increased risk for ovarian cancer (up to forty percent). Unfortunately, breast cancer can still form even if you do not have the BRCA gene mutations.
Early detection is critical in catching these cancers. Work with your primary care physician to maintain the proper screening schedule. To lower your risk, consider avoiding alcohol and smoking, reaching a healthy body weight, exercising consistently, and unless unable, breastfeeding your baby for at least one year.
Although breast cancer risks rise as we age, the risk for a stroke is even higher with one in five women in the United States suffering a stroke between the ages of fifty-five and seventy-five. This statistic makes stroke the third leading cause of death in women.
Just like with other health issues affecting women, preventing a stroke requires adopting a healthy low fat/low cholesterol diet, maintaining a regular exercise regimen, controlling high blood pressure, and avoiding smoking.
Stay aware of the symptoms of a stroke: numbness on one side of the face or body, severe headache, confusion, and trouble speaking. If you suddenly experience these symptoms, contact 9-1-1 right away. Sometimes the symptoms only last a few minutes and then clear up on their own.
Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes
Being overweight and obese contribute to many women’s health issues. Being overweight increases your likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes, which differs from autoimmune Type 1 Diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes typically occurs in older women from an imbalance of insulin levels over an extended period. Being overweight and obese increases your risk of developing heart disease.
Seek the advice of a nutritionist if you are having trouble with healthy recipes and foods. If you are diabetic, make sure that you take your oral medication and insulin treatments seriously. Work with a specialist if needed to lose weight in a healthy manner.
Women often reach menopause between the ages of forty-five and fifty-five as estrogen levels begin to decrease. This hormonal change results in a woman going at least twelve months without a menstrual period.
Although many women feel better after menopause, this season of life raises your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. Your physician will order routine mammograms, pap smears, bone density screenings, and blood work to keep an eye on new issues cropping up after menopause.
Incontinence and Urinary Infections
Menopause can also bring on urinary incontinence due to the drop in estrogen levels. Not only can menopausal women experience leaking, but women in pregnancy or childbirth may have bouts of incontinence from the weaker pelvic floor muscles. Incontinence is treatable, however, unlike many of the other top women’s health issues. Your physician may recommend Kegel exercises, losing excess weight, and eating a high-fiber healthy diet.
The Office of Women’s Health reports that women also have an increased risk of developing Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) thirty times than men. A woman’s urethra is much shorter than a man’s urethra and this can contribute to recurrent UTIs. If you believe you have a UTI, contact your physician right away for a prescription of antibiotics.
Dealing with one health issue can create another. A woman fighting breast cancer may experience depression. A young mother may find herself at her wit’s end after the birth of her baby and begin experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety as well as physical complications such as incontinence from weaker pelvic floor muscles.
No matter what health issue you are faced with, the physical or the mental, God is by your side. He has you in His hand. He places people into your life who can help you through difficult seasons, but you must look for them.
Follow your doctor’s guidance about annual screenings and appointments. If you need help, reach out to a Christian mental health care professional who can guide you with faith-based principles. Stay active, stay sharp, and seek God’s peace in and out of the storm.
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