Humans face various health conditions throughout their lives. But some of those health issues affect women differently and more commonly. Women’s health issues are often a result of aging and, sadly, often go undiagnosed.
Educating yourself on women’s health and wellness and how it changes over the course of a woman’s lifetime, can be empowering.
Common Women’s Health Issues You Should Know About
1. Heart Disease
In the United States alone, heart disease is the cause of every one in four deaths among women. While heart disease is considered a common issue among men, it actually affects males and females almost equally.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women. The kicker? Only 54% of women realize that heart disease is the top health condition threatening their gender.
2. Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most aggressive type of cancer affecting the global female population, and according to the CDC, it’s also the most common cancer among women. While there are a variety of factors that could cause cancer, the primary one is aging. Breast cancer is one women’s health issue that presents more among female populations in developed nations due to their extended life spans.
Women with breast cancer may develop lumps in their breasts – most are non-threatening, but it’s important for women to have them checked out. The Mayo Clinic advises that women should start getting annual mammograms from the age of 40. But doctors may advise women with a family history of breast cancer to start getting tested earlier.
3. Ovarian & Cervical Cancer
Another entry on the list of common women’s health issues is both ovarian and cervical cancer.
Ovarian cancer starts in the fallopian tubes, and cervical cancer originates in the lower uterus. Both conditions cause similar pain, but cervical cancer can also cause discharge and pain during intercourse.
Pap smears detect cervical cancer, but not ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is very complex and presents vague symptoms, which is why it’s important for women to get regular check-ups and take note of any changes in their bodies. Here’s how to prep for a gynecologist appointment.
4. Fertility & Pregnancy Issues
According to the CDC, around 10% of women aged between 15 and 44 have struggled with fertility issues. Some underlying reasons could be endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – but sometimes there’s no explanation.
And while pregnancy is fascinating, it can also cause other pre-existing conditions to flare up. For example, pregnancy often causes a healthy women’s red blood cell count to drop (anemia).
Asthma, diabetes, and depression can also harm the mother and child if not managed properly during pregnancy. Thankfully, obstetricians can manage and treat common and rare women’s health issues that emerge during this time
5. Autoimmune Diseases
According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), 75% of people diagnosed with autoimmune illnesses are women. Autoimmune diseases occur when cells that are meant to eliminate threats like viruses, attack healthy cells.
They’re mainly genetic and tend to happen in clusters within families – meaning even while they might not have the same disease, women from the same family may suffer from diseases categorized as autoimmune-related – like lupus, diabetes, and arthritis.
There’s not much evidence for why the condition mostly affects women, but the best defense against autoimmune illnesses is early detection.
There are many distinct types of autoimmune illnesses, but most share these symptoms:
- Mild fevers
- Skin irritation
6. Mental Health Conditions
The Office of Women’s Health has stated that mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder affect more women than men. And may also be more common in women since they have the possibility of developing postpartum depression and depression linked to menstruation.
Natural hormonal changes can lead to depression or anxiety, and women experience various hormonal changes during their lives. From PMS to post-partum depression, and perimenopause (the shift into menopause) – all of which means women are at a greater risk of mental health conditions.
Osteoporosis weakens the bones, increasing their chances of breaking, another common women’s health issue. Several factors put women at increased risk of osteoporosis, including:
- Alcohol consumption
- Some prescription medication
- Lack of exercise
- Low body mass
- Steroid use
Doctors measure bone density with an x-ray or ultrasound to detect whether someone has the condition. There is no cure for it, but there are treatments to slow it down, such as, dietary supplements, lifestyle changes, and medication.
8. Metabolic Syndrome
According to the Mayo Clinic, metabolic syndrome is not a disease but a clustering of health markers – like abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia, glucose intolerance, and hypertension. These markers may lead to more serious health issues like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Women’s Urgent Care: Serious Symptoms to Look Out For
There are a few scenarios that warrant medical attention sooner rather than later.
Common urgent needs for women include:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge or severe bleeding – especially if the patient is pregnant and experiencing pain
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs) – if left untreated, this could lead to a kidney infection
- Vaginal burning – this could indicate an STD or other infection
- Extreme abdominal pain
- Chest discomfort or persistent jaw pain – women don’t experience the same symptoms men do when having a heart attack. Women may experience anything from chest discomfort and nausea to jaw pain and even slight discomfort.
Women’s Health and Wellness Tips for Every Age Group
It’s important for women to be aware of what to look out for at every age. This allows them to stay healthier and become aware of issues before they become serious.
What age do health problems start for women?
Health issues can manifest at any time during a woman’s life. Many sexual and reproductive health issues occur between the ages of 15 and 44. However, serious conditions like cancer or heart disease are more likely to develop from age 50 onwards.
Health Problems In Teens
Major health problems are a rarity in teen girls, with the most common complaints involving menstruation. Things like endometriosis and dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual cycles) could present around this age.
According to the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP), 50-75% of teenage girls report both painful and irregular periods. Menstrual cramps are usually treated with pain relief medication, and birth control pills are often prescribed to decrease cramps, prevent pregnancy, and regulate periods.
Health Problems in 20s
With women becoming more sexually active in their 20s, sexual health, and STIs are top health concerns. The CDC states that half of all reported STIs occur from 15-24-year-olds. Health issues like STIs and pelvic inflammatory disease can also have a lasting effect on a woman’s fertility.
Prevention is key when it comes to STIs, and practicing safe sex reduces your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. STIs caused by bacteria or parasites can be treated with antibiotics, but STIs caused by a virus have no cure.
Health Problems at 30
Many health problems women face in their 30s involve fertility and complications resulting from pregnancy and childbirth. The CDC estimates that 1 in 5 women between the ages of 30 to 39 will have problems falling pregnant.
Fertility declines from age 30 until age 45 or so. In addition, conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth – like gestational diabetes – can cause severe issues and can even lead to death if left untreated.
Staying healthy during these years and keeping up with yearly gynecological and general health exams is essential.
Health Problems in 40s
Women’s health after the age of 40 usually includes symptoms of perimenopause – which is when your ovaries start releasing fewer eggs and your levels of progesterone and estrogen decrease, and menstrual periods become irregular. This can last anywhere from two to 10 years – menopause is when a woman hasn’t had a menstrual period for 12 months.
The decrease in ovarian hormones causes menstrual irregularities, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbance, pain with intercourse, infertility, weight gain, and moodiness. Health issues like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, and infertility, may also become prominent during this time.
Health Problems After 50 (And Beyond)
As woman age, they face gynecological symptoms that come with menopause – which could include urinary incontinence, vaginal atrophy and dryness, and pain with intercourse. They also encounter health issues like cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle as you age can help you live longer and lead a more enjoyable life, in general. Going to regular doctor’s appointments and health screenings – so you can catch any concerns early on – also goes a long way.