Living life as a woman comes with plenty of perks – such as great clothes and a fantastic sense of intuition (among other things). Unfortunately, being a woman also means having specific health needs, which should not be over-looked. From body image issues to breast and ovarian cancer to menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and beyond, women need to be educated about gender-specific health issues.
Women and men share many of the same diseases, but have very different experiences of them. Women also tend to suffer from certain diseases at a higher rate than men. These diseases include osteoarthritis, obesity, depression and fibromyalgia. In fact, women are more prone to autoimmune conditions like Sjogren’s Syndrome, Lupus and Hypothyroidism than their male counterparts.
Perhaps one of the reasons that women struggle with health-related issues more than men has to do with the fact that they tend to be the caretakers of others, especially their families. Some women may ignore a health challenge or ‘tough it out’ because they have too much to do – most likely because someone else’s needs take precedence over their own.
Women need to learn to take care of themselves first and foremost. They should follow a healthy eating plan, get plenty of rest and exercise regularly. Planned pregnancies are generally healthier pregnancies and good pre-natal (and post-natal) care is tantamount for both mother and child. Females should also receive regular checkups – a physical every other year is normal for a healthy person under the age of 35. After that, it may be best to have an annual exam.
Women should have regular screenings for cervical, breast and ovarian cancer. Early detection is the best weapon in fighting these diseases.
Some general guidelines include:
- Pap smear and pelvic exam: A woman should get one as soon as she becomes sexually active. She should have one annually for the next three years and then can skip a year in-betwen provided those prior results were all normal.
- Colonoscopy: Beginning at the age of 50, once every 10 years UNLESS there’s a family history or history of colon polyps.
- Skin cancer screening: Annually after the age of 50 or sooner if you notice discolored moles, beauty marks or other abnormalities.
- Thyroid Hormone test: Every 5 years beginning at the age 35. Sooner and more often if you have symptoms of a thyroid condition or a family history of it.
- Bone mineral density test: At the onset of menopause or the age of 65. This test will be repeated at your doctor’s discretion.