3 Steps Women Can Take to Stay on Top of Their Health
No two women are alike. They face unique health issues, and their bodies react differently than men to certain health conditions, including heart disease, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and osteoporosis.
With women wearing many hats, it can be easy to get lost in busy schedules and put off wellness. You can take simple steps to boost your well-being, including practicing gratitude and listening to your body. Paying attention to certain warning signs and keeping up with your gynecological health and other health screenings also becomes essential as you age.
Know the common warning signs.
We often don’t think about visiting our doctor until we’re so sick that we can’t go to work or do routine things like cooking or laundry. But sometimes, the symptoms may be more subtle, such as urinating too often or not often enough. Bladder problems are more common in women than in men as they age and shouldn't be ignored. Also known as urinary incontinence, the bothersome and uncomfortable symptoms can happen suddenly while doing any activity. See your primary care doctor if you have trouble urinating or can’t hold it on your way to the bathroom.
Pain in the neck, jaw, or throat is another sign to be mindful of. It could be the first sign of heart disease, although some women never experience it. Feeling more tired than usual or sad for no reason is another reason to visit your doctor, as hormonal changes and stress could be to blame.
Too much bleeding during your period could be a cause for worry as it may cause health problems, including anemia. If your period is heavier than usual or lasts more than seven days, you should see your doctor. Remember, no question about your health is too personal to ask.
Listen to your body.
Your metabolism slows down as you age, which can cause weight gain even if you eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Talk to your health care provider or dietitian about making a healthy eating plan and setting realistic weight goals.
Changes in your hair and skin are also common as you age. Your hair strands may become lighter and thinner, and the rate of hair growth slows. While these changes are typically normal, you should contact your doctor if you notice sudden hair loss. Some changes in your skin are normal, too. Your skin may get drier, and its elasticity may decrease due to a lack of collagen. Cleanse, moisturize, exfoliate, and use sunscreen daily, and don’t forget to make an appointment for a head-to-toe skin exam.
Hot flashes, the sudden feelings of internal warmth in your chest, face, or neck, are common in women going through the menopausal transition, which typically begins between ages 45 and 55. During this transition, also called perimenopause, the body's production of estrogen and progesterone varies greatly. Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your period, bladder control issues, or other common menopause symptoms. Your doctor can help you manage your symptoms.
Keep up with health screenings and well-woman exams.
Health screenings are essential for women of all ages, even when you don’t have any obvious symptoms. Screening tests may vary based on your age. For instance, your risk of breast cancer increases after 40, making mammograms an essential screening tool. Cervical cancer screening is also recommended if you’re between 21 and 65. The frequency will depend on the type of test.
After 40, you should stay on top of your vision health and diabetes and blood pressure screenings. You may also need a bone density test or an evaluation to determine if you have osteoporosis, a condition that may cause fractures due to bone mass loss. Most women 65 or older should have this test done. Osteoporosis, often mistaken for osteoarthritis (OA), is the most common form of arthritis, and while it can happen at any age, it increases in middle-aged adults and older. After age 50, it is more common in women than in men.
Women have specific health care needs and face unique issues. Seeing your gynecologist or primary care provider at least once a year is an excellent opportunity to ask questions, regardless of age. You should see your doctor even if you’ve already gone through menopause or have had a hysterectomy. You may no longer need birth control or prenatal care, but your OB-GYN can help treat other issues, such as urinary incontinence, and screen you for osteoporosis or certain cancers. Remember, a well-woman visit covers all aspects of your sexual and reproductive health. Make an appointment with a Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group OB-GYN or primary care provider.