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Women's Wellness

5 Major Health Issues Every Woman Should Know About

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By By Apollo 24/7, Published on -- 01 March 2022, Updated on - 08 March 2022

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Data reveals several diseases such as breast cancer, heart diseases, and other health conditions are predominantly seen in women. While some scientists believe it is because of the longevity gap between the two genders, others believe it is because of the several physical and hormonal changes that occur in women throughout their life. Let us address five such common health problems that women should be aware of.  

1. Thyroid Dysfunction

The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland present in the front of the neck below Adam’s apple. The hormones released by the thyroid gland help maintain the metabolism of the body. Excess or under-production of thyroid hormones can result in hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, respectively. While hyperthyroidism causes weight loss, fatigue, hair fall, and drying of the skin, hypothyroidism results in weight gain, sleep disturbance, and muscle weakness. Research reveals women are 5 to 8 times more likely to develop thyroid problems than men.

How to Prevent:

It is not possible to prevent thyroid diseases, however, measures that can help reduce the risk include:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Limit the consumption of soy and soy products.
  • Reduce stress by practicing mindfulness, breathing techniques, and meditation.

2. Urologic Diseases

The anatomy of the urinary tract in women puts them at risk of developing urological diseases such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), and incontinence (inability to hold urine). The urethra (the tube that allows the urine to come out of the body) in women’s bodies is near their vagina and rectum (the last part of the intestine). This allows easy transfer of bacteria from the rectum to the urinary tract, resulting in infections. Furthermore, aging, obesity, and childbirth also increase the risk of urinary incontinence in women.

How to Prevent:

  • Drink enough water and urinate frequently to flush out harmful bacteria from the urinary tract.
  • Consume cranberry juice to maintain the pH and health of the urinary tract.
  • Practice pelvic floor exercises such as kegel exercises to help deal with incontinence.

3. Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system starts attacking its cells mistakenly. While there are more than 100 autoimmune diseases, they are more commonly found in women. The autoimmune diseases more prevalent in women include rheumatoid arthritis (pain and stiffness in joints), lupus (inflammation in multiple parts of the body), multiple sclerosis (nerve damage), thyroid disorders, psoriasis (skin inflammation), and type 1 diabetes.

Various studies have shown that the hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy and menopause put women at higher of developing autoimmune diseases. Furthermore, higher levels of some proteins, such as vestigial-like protein 3 (VGLL3) and BAFF protein, in the body also increase the risk of autoimmune diseases.

How to Prevent:

While autoimmune diseases cannot be prevented, the likelihood of developing them can be reduced by managing the risk factors.

  • Reduce or quit smoking as it increases the risk of developing autoimmune diseases such as lupus, hyperthyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
  • Exercise regularly as excess fat tissue promotes inflammation and can trigger rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Consult a doctor before using some medications such as antibiotics, statins (cholesterol-reducing medicines), and blood pressure medications (anti-hypertensives) as they can trigger drug-induced autoimmune diseases.

Recommended Read: Are Autoimmune Diseases More Prevalent in Women?

4. Depression

Hormonal fluctuations in women put them at risk of developing depression. A study stated that 10% to 16% of women suffer from the major depressive disorder (MDD) during pregnancy, while 10% to 20% develop postpartum depression after giving birth to their baby. There have also been cases of perinatal (during or after pregnancy) and prenatal (during pregnancy) depression in women.

How to Prevent:

  • Family and friends should provide physical, mental, and emotional care to women during pregnancy and right after the birth of the baby.
  • Enroll pregnant women in birth classes and counseling sessions.
  • Ensure regular prenatal visits and screening the new mother for depression after the baby is delivered.
  • Adding fresh vegetables, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and lean protein to meet the nutritional requirements.
  • Exercise regularly for at least 30 mins.

Recommended Read: Can Pregnancy and Childbirth Lead to Depression in Women?

5. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder that causes degradation of bone mass and tissues, resulting in fragile bones, prone to fracture. Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis due to the hormonal changes during menopause, hypogonadism (production of less or no sex hormones by the sex glands), low body mass index, lack of calcium-rich foods in the diet, vitamin D deficiency, low bone mineral density, and autoimmune diseases (like rheumatoid arthritis). Research reveals some women can lose up to 20% of their bone density within 5 to 7 years after reaching menopause.

How to Prevent:

  • Quit smoking and limit the consumption of alcohol as it can cause
  • Add calcium-rich foods such as milk, cheese, chia seeds, almonds, and green leafy vegetables to the diet.
  • Stay out in the sun for at least half an hour to activate the production of vitamin D in the body. Use vitamin D supplements after consulting a doctor.
  • Practice some weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises regularly.

Recommended Read: Can Menopause Contribute to the Development of Osteoporosis?

Conclusion

Social stigmas and lack of awareness about common diseases amongst women often result in a delay of treatment. Women should understand that the risk of some serious illnesses, such as cancers and heart diseases, can be reduced significantly by adopting healthy habits and regular visits to healthcare providers.

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