Many diseases affect both men and women equally, but there are some health issues that occur more frequently in women. Read on to find out six common female health issues that you should know.
1. Heart disease
It is a common misconception that heart disease only occurs commonly in men. In fact, heart disease is a leading cause of death in women worldwide that causes 1 in 3 deaths each year. It also affects women of all ages, not just the elderly. In younger women, the combination of birth control pills and smoking increases the risk of heart disease by 20 per cent.
Other factors, like overeating and leading a sedentary lifestyle, can lead to heart disease as well. Adopt a healthy lifestyle, eat consciously, keep your cholesterol in check and exercise regularly for better heart health.
2. Breast cancer
Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in women worldwide, second to lung cancer. Risk factors for breast cancer include increasing age, genetics, family history and obesity.
Women should perform self-checks regularly and watch out for signs of breast cancer, including the feeling of a lump in the breast, swelling of the breast or underarm, bloody discharge from the nipple and size or shape changes in the breast.
Having a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight and staying active can help to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.
3. Ovarian and cervical cancer
Ovarian and cervical cancers are some of the most common cancers in women.
Ovarian cancer is known as the “silent killer” because it does not cause noticeable symptoms in the early stages. As the cancer progresses, symptoms may include pressure or pain in the abdomen, pelvis, back or legs, a swollen or bloated abdomen caused by a build-up of fluid, a loss of appetite and nausea.
On the other hand, symptoms do appear with early-stage cervical cancer, including bleeding between periods, longer and heavier menstrual bleeding, increased vaginal discharge, bleeding after intercourse, and unexplained pelvic and/or back pain.
Women and girls over the age of 9 years and above can consider the HPV vaccination, which reduces the chances of an HPV infection and lowers the risk of cervical cancer.
It is also worth noting that pap smears only detect cervical cancer, not ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer can be diagnosed through several tests, including physical examination, pelvic examination, blood tests, ultrasound and biopsy.
Osteoporosis is a condition where bone density decreases, resulting in weakened bones and painful fractures. Statistics have shown that it is four times more common in women than in men. Other risk factors include increasing age, having a thin-boned frame, family history, a sedentary lifestyle and smoking.
The good news is, osteoporosis is a highly preventable condition. Our bodies build up most of the bone mass until age 30, after which new bone stops forming, and the body focuses on bone repair and maintenance. Consuming adequate amounts of calcium and incorporating weight training in your exercise regime during adolescence and early adulthood can help lower your risk of osteoporosis.
5. Fertility issues
Fertility tends to be more of an issue as a woman ages. Other risk factors for female fertility issues include abnormal menstruation, blocked fallopian tubes, celiac disease, kidney disease, ovarian cysts and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Women under the age of 35 who haven’t been able to conceive after a year of trying should see a gynaecologist to check for any underlying fertility issues. However, women over the age of 35, or those who have any known fertility problems, should speak to their healthcare provider earlier.
6. Sexual health
Vaginal issues and abnormal bleeding could indicate more severe problems like Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), reproductive tract issues or cancer. If left unchecked, they could lead to conditions like infertility or kidney failure.
If you have any unusual symptoms like bleeding between periods, frequent urination and abnormal discharge, please consult a sexual health clinic.