As we grow older, it’s important to pay attention to all of the risk factors that make us vulnerable to different conditions. Some of these risk factors include our diet, personal habits, and lifestyle choices, but too often people don’t think about the factors that are out of our control.
There are some conditions that affect women disproportionately more than men and increased awareness will only help women identify potential symptoms and catch the condition early on. To help, here are some health conditions that women need to know about.
Osteoporosis is a disease the gradually reduces the density of our bones, leading to a much greater risk of fracture and breakage.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, there are currently 10 million Americans who have osteoporosis and a shocking 80 percent of those sufferers are women. Doctors attribute this to the fact that women generally have smaller, more delicate bones than men, as well as the fact that the decrease in estrogen during menopause can negatively affect bone loss.
Most people with osteoporosis don’t realize that they have this condition until they break their first bone. You can help prevent osteoporosis by getting the proper amounts of calcium and vitamin D throughout your life and avoiding excessive smoking and drinking.
2. Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s is an insidious disease that often begins with minor memory problems but eventually progresses to a complete bodily shut down as the person’s brain tissue shrinks. Memory issues and mild cognitive impairment are often the first signs, but eventually, the disease progresses until the person loses the ability to perform even the simplest tasks.
Typically, Alzheimer’s is diagnosed in people that are over the age of 60, but early-onset Alzheimer’s has been known to affect people between 30 and 60. Alzheimer’s disease is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. It disproportionately affects women — who make up almost 2/3rd of Americans with Alzheimer’s today.
Consult your doctor if you or someone you love has been experiencing memory loss or confusion.
Everyone feels down occasionally, but if you’re persistently feeling sad, anxious, hopeless, irritable, or otherwise not yourself for a period of more than two weeks, you may have depression.
Currently one of the most prevalent mood disorders in the United States, depression is twice as likely to affect women. It tends to occur concurrently with other serious medical conditions, which is understandable because these conditions can affect a person’s ability to function on an everyday basis, which makes even the most upbeat person feel upset and uncertain.
Depression can range from mild to severe, but even the most severe case can be treated with medication or talk therapy.
4. Autoimmune Disease
There are a whole host of conditions that can be classified as autoimmune diseases. These different diseases affect various parts of the body, but they can be classified in the same category because all these diseases are caused by the immune system either over or underacting. When the immune system overacts, it can do damage to otherwise-healthy cells. When the immune system under acts, it leaves the body open to infections and harmful invaders.
Some of the most common autoimmune diseases include lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. All of these conditions have their own unique symptoms, but it’s important to pay attention to this category of diseases because 75 percent of American autoimmune disease patients are women.
5. Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a health condition that affects disproportionately more women than men. There are several different types of breast cancer, but all the different types begin with abnormal cells that divide too quickly, forming a tumor or lump somewhere in the breast tissue.
Fortunately, in the last few years, researchers have made great strides in identifying risk factors and have been able to catch many cases early enough for treatment to make a difference. Even with these advances in medical research, one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer during her lifetime and around 41,000 women will die from it.
If you’ve never had a migraine, it may be hard to understand why these headaches can be so debilitating.
Unlike a regular headache, migraines cause the head to throb and pulse with pain and often last for 48 hours or more. In addition to the pain, migraines are often accompanied by additional symptoms including sensitivity to light, noise, and odors, nausea, and muscle weakness. There’s no way to treat migraines other than relieving the symptoms and minimizing pain.
It’s estimated that 18 percent of women and six percent of men in America experience migraines on a regular basis. Plus, more than four million of those people experience chronic migraines that occur more than 15 times per month.
7. Heart Disease
Like autoimmune diseases, there are a lot of different conditions that can be classified as a type of heart disease. All of these conditions affect the heart in some way, whether it involves the valves, blood vessels leading in and out, muscles, or the heart’s essential rhythm. Symptoms can include anything from chest pain, shortness of breath, pain and numbness in the extremities, and fatigue. Any type of heart disease will be easiest to treat if it’s caught early on, so it’s important to talk to a doctor right away if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms.
Heart disease is responsible for one out of every four female deaths in the United States.
8. Urinary Incontinence
Many people find it extremely embarrassing, but the truth is urinary incontinence is a common condition that’s thought to affect anywhere from 25 to 33 percent of Americans at some point in their life. It’s more common in women than in men. This is because some of the biggest risk factors — such as pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause — change the physical makeup of the bladder, urethra, and surrounding muscles that help to control how and when a person urinates.
If you’re experiencing urinary incontinence, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it since it’s sometimes a symptom of a larger health condition like a fistula, kidney disease, or neurological disease.
9. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex illness that can be diagnosed in someone who is experiencing extreme, unexplained fatigue for more than six months. Unlike regular fatigue or exhaustion, chronic fatigue syndrome doesn’t improve with rest or relaxation. Plus, it’s often accompanied by other symptoms including an unusually high heart rate, pain, and dizziness. It can come on suddenly but often follows in the wake of a traumatic or painful event.
Doctors diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome by noting your symptoms, doing a physical and mental health exam, and taking blood and urine samples. This illness affects twice as many women as men and is typically diagnosed when the patient is between 25 and 45 years old.
10. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you work at a computer every day or have a hobby or job that requires you to repeat the same action over and over again, you may recognize the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. This is when the median nerve is compressed between the hand and the wrist. When the condition is mild, you may feel a slight tingling or burning pain in the wrist, but the feeling disappears soon after the repetitive action stops. If you don’t take steps to relieve the pressure on the median nerve, symptoms will likely get worse and the nerve could become permanently damaged.
Women and older adults are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than younger men.
11. Thyroid Disease
The thyroid is a small gland located in the throat that produces hormones that help regulate processes all over the body. If something goes wrong within the thyroid, it can have long-ranging consequences for our overall health.
There are two types of thyroid disease which occur as a result of the gland producing either too much or too little of the hormones that we need. Although there are some thyroid conditions that are serious or even life-threatening, typically thyroid issues respond well to medication and can be managed long-term with very little impact on a person’s health.
One in eight women will develop thyroid disease in their lifetime.