Studies have shown that your biological makeup impacts your predisposition to certain health conditions. Below are some of the most prevalent health concerns impacting women, and what you can do to manage your risk.
During the food digestion process, blood sugar rises and the cells in our body take in the sugar (glucose) and use it for energy, releasing a hormone called insulin produced by the pancreas. If the body does not produce insulin or effectively use insulin, the blood sugar increases in the bloodstream. Therefore, the cells do not get this source for energy. Women have a greater chance at having secondary issues related to diabetes, such as kidney complications, heart disease, depression and even blindness. Gestational diabetes can occur during pregnancy.
If you are at risk for diabetes or experiencing prediabetes symptoms, now is the time to take action to significantly reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Some suggestions on eating healthy:
§ Limit foods that contain starchy carbohydrate, high salt, and high sugar
§ Choose lean proteins like fish, chicken, and pork
§ Eat more leafy greens like kale, spinach, arugula, and chard
§ Fill up with fiber, such as, beans, broccoli, raspberries, apples, and avocados
§ Snack on healthy fats such as, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate
§ Drink eight 8 oz. glasses of water every day
§ Keep portions small even with healthy foods
No matter how healthy you eat, it is vital to stay active daily.
2. Urinary tract infections
Women are more susceptible to urinary tract infections because they have a shorter urethra than a man, so the bacteria has less distance to travel to reach the bladder. After menopause, a decline in circulating estrogen causes changes in the urinary tract. Frequent and untreated urinary tract infections could put you at risk for kidney damage. Symptoms include frequent urination, pain or burning when urinating, pelvic pressure and cloudy or pinkish urine.
Try the following:
§ Drinking water helps dilute the urine, causing increased urination to flush out bacteria before infection begins
§ Wipe from front to back
§ Empty your bladder soon after having sex
§ Avoid potentially irritating feminine products
Postmenopausal women are at higher risk for fractures associated with osteoporosis, which is a disease-causing your bones to become more porous. The hormonal changes that happen during menopause can decrease bone density.
Suggestions on prevention:
§ Eat foods that support bone health, which include calcium, vitamin D, and protein
§ Get active. Some examples include strength training, walking, climbing stairs, pickleball, and dancing
§ Don’t smoke
§ Limit alcohol consumption
4. Heart disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. Symptoms of a heart attack include shortness of breath, chest pain, extreme fatigue, and nausea. For women, it can start out to just feel like heartburn, back pain, or jaw pain.
Risk factors are obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol. Some of these risk factors are more common after menopause, due to lower estrogen levels.
Suggestions on prevention:
§ Do daily activities
§ Maintain a healthy weight
§ Make heart-healthy food choices
5. Breast cancer
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, most likely due to family history and our environment.
It is important to schedule your mammogram each year, starting at age 40. Also, you can identify changes in your breast when performing monthly self-examinations.
Some risk factors, such as all the chemicals used in packaging foods, cleaning products, and personal care products, can seem daunting, you can choose to look up which chemicals cause the most harm and limit your exposure.
Manage risks by making healthy lifestyle choices:
§ Exercise regularly
§ Eat healthy
§ Quit smoking
If you’re looking for more ways to stay on top of your health, learn about additional health concerns for women and ask your provider for information on regular health screenings for your age.