It’s important to be proactive about women’s health and to be up to date with regular health screenings whether it is for yourself or the women you care about in your life. Regular women’s health screenings can help find issues while the chances for treatment are much more in your favor. Women’s health screenings are often forgotten or overlooked. But by getting screened regularly you are taking charge of your own health and empowering your chances for living a longer and healthier life. If being proactive about your health is an area of your life that you have ignored, now is the perfect time to start.
Check out these six women’s health screenings and ways to keep your body healthy over time.
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month so there is no better time to talk to your doctor about your ovarian health. Ovarian Cancer is one of the most deadly of women’s cancers since most women don’t seek help until the disease has already spread to other areas of the body. Some of the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often mistaken with other medical issues. Main symptoms can include: Bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, urinary urgency or frequency. Other symptoms can also include: Nausea, indigestion, gas, constipation or diarrhea, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, backaches, and weight gain. Although there has been much research, there is no absolute screening test for ovarian cancer at this time. Often a transvaginal ultrasound or blood test are used to diagnose ovarian cancer. If you’ve had these symptoms last for more than 2-3 weeks, then it’s time to talk to your doctor.
Coming up next month is Breast Cancer Awareness month in October. 40% of all women diagnosed with breast cancer discovered their cancer by first feeling a lump so it is crucial to establish a regular breast self-exam at least once a month. If you need some tips, the National Breast Cancer Foundation has some great descriptions on how to give yourself a breast exam. Women with an average risk of breast cancer should schedule annual mammograms starting at the age of 45 and can continue to have mammograms every other year after the age of 54. If you have breast cancer that runs in your family, consult with your doctor to see how often and when to start utilizing mammograms beyond your self examination.
Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
While having high cholesterol or blood pressure can be manageable, if not caught early it can lead to more serious diseases for women like heart disease, stroke or atherosclerosis or clogging of the arteries. Women should begin routine cholesterol screening by age 45 or younger if heart disease or strokes run in your family. If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes, you should check your cholesterol and blood pressure every year. High cholesterol and high blood pressure can be treated by medication and often naturally by making lifestyle changes including quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding high-fat and high sodium foods and exercising regularly.
Not only is September National Childhood Obesity Awareness month, September 28th is also National Women’s Health and Fitness Day. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that 40% of American women are obese which as increased by 5% over the last decade. A body mass index of 30 or more qualifies as obese. Being overweight increases the risk of diabetes, coronary artery disease, breast cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer for women. Women who are obese also have a higher risk of knee osteoarthritis, low back pain, depression and it can negatively affect fertility as well.
Nutrition & Exercise
Eating healthy and exercising regularly can help women to stay in a healthy weight range to offset the increased risk of chronic diseases. Choosing fresh foods and taking the extra time to cook rather than choosing fast foods will pay off for your health in the long run. Consider packing lunches and preparing meals on the weekends to plan healthy eating habits ahead of time. Explore new ways to get active as a family and for yourself even just walking around the block once a day. Staying fit doesn’t have to take all day or even an hour each day. The CDC recommends only 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity each week. If you break that up over the week, that’s only about 20 minutes per day. Luckily, there are tons of free, easy and short workout regimes available all over the internet to get your started.
Vitamin D Deficiency
While New Mexico may have over 300 days of sunshine a year, often times residents actually avoid the sun because of the heat or fear of skin cancer which in turn can create a Vitamin D deficiency in a woman’s body. Some of the overlooked symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are depression, gut problems, muscle aches, hair loss and insomnia. Vitamin D is crucial for bone health and the prevention of both cardiovascular disease and diabetes. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, discuss them with your doctor and consider getting a blood test to check your Vitamin D levels. Supplements can easily bring most D deficiencies up to a normal level.