As the human body ages, health challenges can emerge for many women. Some of these challenges, like menopause, are inevitable. Others happen due to genetics. Hormones and diet can also increase risks for certain health problems. The good news is many of these conditions are preventable and treatable. Knowing the early signs and symptoms is crucial for women who want to live a long and healthy life.
The signs of menopause
When a woman has gone at least 12 months without a period, menopause is said to have occurred. This regular life event occurs around age 55 but can happen much earlier for some women. During menopause, a woman stops menstruating due to a lack of estrogen, the hormone that regulates the reproductive system. Symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and trouble sleeping, and can last a few months to several years. There are several ways to treat menopausal symptoms, including hormone therapy and lifestyle changes such as reducing stress and exercising regularly.
Beware your brittle bones
In both men and women, bone density declines with age. However, women are more at risk of developing osteoporosis, a disease that makes bones porous and prone to fractures. Millions of women live with osteoporosis as the condition is mainly asymptomatic. Since estrogen plays a part in bone health, postmenopausal women are more like to develop osteoporosis. Other risk factors include low calcium, low vitamin D levels, smoking, and low body weight. Doctors can diagnose osteoporosis by doing a bone density test. Treatment for osteoporosis usually involves taking medication to increase bone mass and lifestyle changes to prevent further bone loss.
After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women. About 13% of all women will develop breast cancer at some point in life. This disease usually presents as a slow-growing tumor in the breast. Symptoms can include a lump, redness, swelling, and pain or tenderness of the breast. Family history is also a huge warning sign and should prompt regular screening. Breast cancer can be diagnosed using breast ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or mammography. Treatments for breast cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy.
Accounting for 1 in 5 deaths, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure (BP), high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and tobacco use. Heart disease can lead to heart failure or heart attacks. Common symptoms of heart disease include fatigue, shortness of breath, and irregular heartbeat. Early detection is critical for treating and preventing heart disease. Regular check-ups with the doctor are also important in maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Prevention over cure
Some conditions like severe menopausal symptoms or breast cancer are unavoidable due to hormonal shifts or family history. However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce other risks. Start by exercising regularly. Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol, and low-sodium diet. Quitting smoking and excessive alcohol use can also decrease the risk of certain health conditions. Women should also keep up with annual wellness visits and recommended screenings. These checkups can help women identify the warning signs of a potential problem and take early preventative action.