When people hear the phrase ‘Women’s health’ they automatically think of issues that only affect women such as certain types of cancer and fertility/pregnancy issues.
Whilst these can often be serious there are also non gender specific illnesses and conditions that women need to be aware of.
Keeping a keen eye out for early signs of health problems is important, but there are also things you can do to protect yourself both now and in the future. These include:
- Eating a healthy diet that includes all of the major food groups and watching your portion sizes
- Try to get 30 minutes or more exercise a day – adding up to at least 150 minutes a week
- Look after your bones by eating three servings of low fat dairy products every day and try to undertake weight-baring exercises like walking, running, aerobics or dancing at least three times a week
- Get regular health screenings as advised
- Take time out for yourself. Experts say 30 minutes a day is ideal if you can fit it in. Make it a time when you do something just for you – reading, taking a bath, working in the garden, chatting online with friends – whatever relieves your stress will add years to your life and life to your years!
What are the most important medical symptoms women shouldn’t ignore?
Whilst any symptom that causes you discomfort should be reported to your doctor, there are some specific signs no woman should ever ignore. They include:
- Heart Attack – Pain or discomfort in the centre of the chest, often described as a tight or crushing pain and sometimes accompanied by pain in the upper body including arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach. Shortness of breath a cold sweat, nausea or light headaches
- Stroke – Sudden or developing problems with speech, sight, balance, and coordination as well as numbness or weakness in the face, arms or legs
- Reproductive health problems – bleeding or spotting between periods, itching, burning, bumps, blisters or sores in the intimate area, severe pain or pelvic pain. Lower back pain with bloating and/or feelings of fullness.
- Breast problems – discharge, tenderness or pain, changes in the skin (ridges, dimpling, pitting, swelling, redness or scaling), a lump or thickening in the tissue of the breast or underarm area, or tenderness in these areas.
- Digestive or stomach problems – bleeding from the bottom, blood or mucus in the stools, change in bowel habits, constipation, diarrhoea, or both. Constant heartburn or feeling of fullness in the stomach, bloating or vomiting blood.
- Skin problems – changes in the colour shape, or size of a mole, a small lump on skin that is smooth, shiny and waxy and often reddish brown colour, painful, crusty, scaling or oozing skin lesions that don’t heal within 14 days.
Proactive measures you can take for your health:
Knowing your body: It sounds obvious but we all know our own bodies better than anyone and by carrying out regular self-examinations and keeping an eye on any changes we can see if they are the result of a minor aliment such as a virus or cold or something that requires checking out by your doctor.
Regular screenings: There are three screening services that are offered to women at various times of their lives:
- Cervical Screening – often referred to as a smear test is offered to women aged 25 to 64 to check the health of cells in the cervix. It is offered every three years for those aged 26 to 49, and every five years from the ages of 50 to 64. For some younger women ‘smear test’ seems like a dirty word but remember cancer is much worse so, for a few seconds discomfort you could save yourself from the risk of more serious illness.
- Breast Screening – known as mammogram is offered to women aged 50 to 70 to detect early signs of breast cancer. Women over 70 can self-refer.
- Bowel Cancer Screening – there are types of screening available, a home testing kit offered to woman aged 60 – 74 and a bowel scope screening which uses a tiny camera to look at the large bowel offered to women aged 55.
For more advice on women’s health issues and prevention click here