May is Women’s Health Month, so let’s take a look at what everyone ought to know about it. (Don’t worry, guys, your month is coming.) With men and women having so many of the same organs, systems, and processes, are there really all that many differences in how each of us achieves optimal health? Good question; let’s do some self-health research.
Of course, the health issues specific to women are pretty much tied to our reproductive system. The Girls-Only Health Club has dibs on things related to:
- Menstrual cycle – From heavy to inconsistent to nonexistent, a woman’s monthly flow can be an indicator of hormonal imbalances, infection, trauma, etc. Be sure to discuss changes with your healthcare provider to confirm whether it’s your body’s natural progression or something to evaluate further.
- Pregnancy – Before, during, and after, pregnancy requires a lot from a woman, and her health during each stage has an enormous impact on herself and her family. A well-nourished woman is the ideal first step in a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby. Mark Anderson explains why “Am I well nourished?” is a good question for any pregnant woman to answer, in his booklet, Prenatal Nutrition and Birth Defects.
- Others – Uterine fibroids, cervical or ovarian cancer, pelvic floor disorders, and Turner Syndrome are a few other health issues limited to women.
If you think I missed breast cancer on the list, it’s important to know it is not exclusively a woman’s concern. While it is rare (only one in a thousand), the cells and tissue in a man’s breasts are susceptible too. So, don’t ignore a lump if you happen to discover one, no matter who you are. (Breast health awareness for all, I say!)
Now, that doesn’t mean every other health issue a woman faces looks the same as the guy in the Hawaiian shirt sitting next to her in the waiting room. The important thing to walk away with today is that there are subtle differences in how the most common health concerns affect a woman, compared to the Hawaiian shirt guy. Let’s examine two I’m sure you know.
Heart disease isn’t unique to women, of course. The big difference for a woman is that she is less likely to survive her first heart attack than a man. Frightening! What could possibly be the reason? Well, a big factor is the heart attack symptoms a woman experiences are quite different from a man, a list that sounds more familiar.
Rather than the intense crushing chest pain most often associated with a heart attack, women experience other symptoms more frequently. They include things like: pain in the jaw, neck, shoulder or upper back; nausea; shortness of breath; and/or discomfort in one or both arms. These symptoms often present themselves when a woman is at rest, even sleeping.
Knowing the differences can save a woman’s life.
Self-Health Opportunity: Add Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book, Put Your Heart in Your Mouth, to your self-health library and make it a priority to read it. Not only does she discuss the real cause of heart disease, she also recommends ways to prevent and/or reverse it (whichever you most need).
Diabetes doesn’t single women out, either. As we know, it is affecting more and more people of all genders and ages. The contrast for a woman with diabetes is that it makes her four times as likely to end up with heart disease (see above), while a man’s chances only double. And that’s not all. Women tend to succumb more frequently to the complications associated with diabetes, too, like kidney disease and blindness.
As a woman, this diagnosis increases your chances for things like urinary tract infections and lowered libido, as well as complications getting pregnant, and even more issues during pregnancy. It can become a slippery slope of unthinkable health issues.
Self-Health Opportunity: As Andrew Gallinaro said in his SRP post, Stop Managing Your Diabetes – Start Reversing It!, actions like fasting, supplementing your diet to regulate your hormones, and halting any sugar overloads, can help you get serious about improving your situation.
As we repeatedly discuss here at SRP, nutrition plays a key role for each and every one of us to live the healthiest life possible. Dr. Royal Lee urged all of us to understand what malnutrition looks like and take ownership of our well-being with every choice we make, nutritionally speaking.
These are the things everyone ought to know about women’s health, whether you are one or you care about one.
Images from iStock/jacoblund (main),Lordn (couple running), magicmine (uterus).