Before starting my article I will like to say a few words about health.
“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.”
“He, who has health, has hope. And he, who has hope, has everything.”
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”
This article discusses the top 10 health issues and risks concerning women today and offers some valuable recommendations. The advice is intended to assist women in living longer and more fulfilling lives.
Key Health Issues for Women
1. Heart Health and Heart Disease
2. Breast Cancer
3. Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes
4. PMS and Menopause
5. Prenatal Health
6. Osteoporosis and Arthritis
7. Aging and Longevity Issues
8. Kidney and Bladder Health
9. HIV and Sexually-Transmitted Diseases
10. Anxiety and Sleep Disorders
Heart Health and Heart Disease- Although many people are unaware of this issue, heart disease is by far the number one killer of women in the U.S. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess weight, diabetes, menopause, smoking and physical inactivity are key heart disease risks. Maintaining a healthy heart requires that we adopt a healthful diet low in saturated fats and high in soluble fiber. To reduce your risks, quit smoking, maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress levels and be more physically active. Ideally, exercise in your training zone for 30-45 minutes each day. A power-walk is one of the best ways of getting enough exercise to meet this daily requirement. It’s also easy on your joints relative to other exercises and it can be enjoyed with a family member or friend.
Breast Cancer – According to Prevention Magazine (March 2008), genetics play a role in determining overall breast cancer risk, however less than 10% of breast cancer cases are hereditary. Other risk factors include increasing age, personal history of breast abnormalities, physical inactivity, being overweight, taking hormone replacement therapy, early menstruation (before the age of 12), late menopause (after age 55), age at your first live birth and family history of breast cancer. To reduce your risk of cancer in general, eat more fruits and vegetables, reduce dietary fat, drink less alcohol, quit smoking and exercise regularly. To reduce your breast cancer risk in particular, be sure to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Do your monthly breast self-examinations and have regularly-scheduled mammograms from age 40 onwards. If there is a known breast cancer risk based on genetics, surgical and non-surgical options will be discussed with you by your physician.
Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes- Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which your pancreas produces too little insulin or your body is unable to properly use the insulin that it produces. The result is a build-up of glucose (sugar) in your blood. Obesity is a key risk factor for type 2 diabetes. If left uncontrolled, there are many serious complications associated with type 2 diabetes, such as heart disease, kidney problems and possible blindness. Some symptoms of type 2 diabetes are increased thirst, hunger and urination, fatigue, weight loss and blurred vision. In order to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, you should reach a healthy weight, be physically active every day and manage your blood pressure levels if you have high blood pressure. In addition, reduce your intake of saturated fats and increase your consumption of soluble fiber to keep your cholesterol levels in the normal range.
PMS and Menopause- PMS is a very common syndrome affecting an estimated 4 out of 10 women in the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle. It is thought that changing hormone levels and brain chemistry play a role in PMS. Many symptoms have been linked to PMS, including irritability, bloating, weight gain, fatigue, abdominal pain, food cravings and forgetfulness. Mild or moderate PMS symptoms can be managed by eating a diet rich in complex carbohydrates such as whole grain breads and vegetables, and including 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week. Research indicates that calcium, magnesium, vitamin b6 and evening primrose may also help reduce PMS symptoms. At the termination of menstruation, a women enters menopause and then must deal with another set of symptoms. The symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, urinary incontinence, vaginal dryness, breast changes, thinning of the skin, bone loss, increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, increase in heart disease risk, as well as weight gain. Be sure to see your doctor annually for a breast exam, pelvic exam and mammogram. Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight, eat a diet low in saturated fats and high in soluble fiber, and ensure that your calcium and vitamin D intake is adequate. You should also do regular strength-training to help strengthen your bones.
Prenatal Health- Even before you become pregnant, you should be eating a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy weight during your childbearing years. This will prepare your body for the challenges of carrying a child and will set a solid foundation for nourishing your child during your pregnancy. Eat a diet rich in calcium (milk and yogurt for example), high in folate (from whole grains and dark green vegetables and legumes) and high in iron (chicken and fish primarily) prior to and during your pregnancy. At least 3 months before you become pregnant, you should begin taking a folic acid supplement once daily to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in your baby. A multivitamin with additional iron is also advised to ensure that you are getting adequate amounts of essential vitamins and iron. Be sure to follow your doctor’s advice throughout your pregnancy and keep your physician informed of any and all supplements you are consuming daily. And, for the sake of your baby’s health, avoid smoking, drinking and drugs.
Osteoporosis and Arthritis- As we age, the health of our bones and joints becomes an increasing concern. Osteoporosis is a bone disease that results in decreasing bone density and increasing risk of bone fracture, particularly in the hips, spine and wrists. Arthritis is a joint disorder that is characterized by inflammation in the joints. Risk factors for osteoporosis include being 65 years of age or older, having a family history of osteoporotic fracture (especially a mom who had a hip fracture), having a tendency to fall, or early menopause (before 45 years of age). Some minor risk factors include low calcium intake, low body weight, excess caffeine and alcohol, and smoking. To reduce the risk of osteoporosis, do weight-bearing and strength-training exercises at least 3 times per week to strengthen your bones, eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, and take a calcium supplement daily. Symptoms of arthritis include pain and joint stiffness, including redness, swelling and warmth. Depending on the form of arthritis, some other symptoms may include fever, weight loss, fatigue, gland swelling, and general malaise. Early diagnosis and treatment by a rheumatologist is important to ensure the best possible outcome and to help prevent permanent disability. Many supplements that help support optimal bone and joint health are also available on the market today.
Aging and Longevity Issues – Genetics plays a key role in aging with some individuals blessed with longevity genes that predispose them to living a longer life. Irrespective of the genes you have inherited, it is still possible for you to live a long and fulfilling life. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause damage to cells resulting in heart disease, cancer and many other health issues. Eating foods rich in antioxidants such as blueberries is one way to fight free radicals before they can damage cells. Not only do free radicals reek havoc on the body over time, but the body’s systems also start to age (the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, bladder, muscles, bones, eyes, etc). To limit the amount of bone and muscle loss, you should exercise regularly and do strength-training exercises as mentioned previously. To keep your heart and circulatory system in good working order, you need to limit saturated fats in your diet and keep your LDL cholesterol levels low by eating foods high in soluble fiber such as oatmeal. You can also keep your mind sharp by doing mental fitness exercises such as word puzzles. As well, there are many great supplements on the market that are specifically designed to tackle longevity issues, resulting in a more lean and healthy physique.
Kidney and Bladder Health- The two most common conditions affecting the kidneys and bladder are kidney stones and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Where women are concerned, urinary tract infections are the most prevalent. Millions of women yearly suffer from this type of infection, which is the second most common type of infection in the body. It is not known why women are especially prone to urinary tract infections. A UTI occurs when bacteria (normally E.coli from the colon) gets into the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. If not treated, the bacteria can infect the bladder causing a bladder infection. If again left untreated, the bacteria can travel up the ureters to the kidneys, resulting in a serious kidney infection. People suffering from kidney stones are at risk of developing a UTI. Symptoms of a UTI include a frequent urge to urinate and burning sensations during urination. Antibacterial drugs are used to treat UTIs. Many supplements are also available to support bladder and kidney health.
HIV and Sexually-Transmitted Diseases- HIV infection continues to grow steadily with heterosexual transmission making up the majority of all new cases. In the U.S., African-American and Hispanic women have the highest infection rates among American women. Women are infected with HIV during sex or following injections of drugs such as heroin or cocaine using HIV-infected syringes. Other sexually-transmitted diseases such as genital herpes, syphilis and chancroid that cause ulcerations of the vagina, increase a women’s risk of being infected with HIV during intercourse. Symptoms of HIV infection include fevers, night sweats, fatigue and weight loss. Vaginal yeast infections tend to be difficult to treat with women who have HIV and many other vaginal infections may occur more frequently and with more severity, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis. HPV infections that cause genital warts and can lead to cervical cancer are also more common in HIV infected women. Early diagnosis is key to ensure that women can be treated with the antiretroviral drugs available today. Consistent use of latex condoms under all conditions significantly reduces the risk of becoming infected with HIV, however it does not reduce the risk of contracting most of the other sexually-transmitted diseases. The only way to be sure is to have you and your partner tested and then to remain monogamous.
Anxiety and Sleep Disorders – Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias. Anxiety disorders are characterized by persistent, excessive and unreasonable levels of anxiety, fear or worry. Sleep disorders are characterized by abnormal sleep patterns resulting in impairment of physical, mental and emotional functioning. In some cases an anxiety disorder can lead to a sleep disorder, but the reverse is also possible. Lack of sleep stimulates the part of the brain most closely linked to depression and anxiety. If you suffer from persistent insomnia, it is likely that you also suffer from another health condition, such as anxiety or a mood disorder. Whether it is anxiety or insomnia, you should see your doctor in either case so that proper treatment can be prescribed. Treatment may involve medication, relaxation techniques and/or therapy. a