Women share many health risks with men, such as many types of cancer and heart disease.
Women also face some unique health concerns specific to their gender.
Preventive care can reduce some of the health risks by helping women live a healthy lifestyle and recommending age and medically-appropriate screenings.
The first step in preventive care is to be mindful of your health – listen to what your body may be telling you.
A sudden weight loss or gain, unusual bumps or tender spots, shortness of breath, skin color and other outward signs can be a signal that not all is right with your body.
Not all health problems have outward symptoms. High blood pressure, for example, has no symptoms but is a significant factor in heart disease and strokes.
One of the most important steps in preventive care is a thorough and timely physical examination by your doctor. Your age, overall health and any specific health issues will guide your doctor in recommending the frequency and types of exams.
Your doctor will encourage you to have the appropriate preventive screening tests and will recommend a schedule to fit your preventive care needs.
Your medical history and any medical problems in your family, breast cancer, for example, may prompt your doctor to suggest a personal screening schedule that differs from widely published norms.
Your doctor will encourage you to take advantage of preventive screenings for conditions that cross gender lines, such as:
- Colorectal cancer (colonoscopy)
- Skin conditions including cancer and shingles
- Mental health issues such as depression (more common in women than men)
- Autoimmune diseases including diabetes, lupus and others
Heart disease is the leading killer of women and men. Follow your doctor's advice on such issues as controlling:
- Your weight
- Blood pressure
- Cholesterol levels
Eating heart-healthy foods and exercising (with your doctor's guidance) along with preventive screening tests will help you reduce the dangers of heart disease.
Heart disease symptoms in women may be different from those in men leading to undiagnosed heart disease in its early stages when treatment may be more effective.
Talk to your doctor about the signs of heart disease and what steps you can take to prevent this leading cause of death in women.
Breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in women, although not the only concern for women. Family history plays an important part in helping your doctor understand the particular risks you face.
Your Marshfield Clinic doctor will recommend a schedule for mammograms that is age appropriate and considers your family history or any other risk factors. Self-examination and clinical examination are important steps in spotting breast cancer.
Cervical cancer is a health concern that warrants your attention. Pap smears and a pelvic exam are important parts of preventive care for women.
Frequency of pap smears depends on several factors including age, sexual activity and other risk factors such as family history.
The loss of bone mass can lead to broken bones, a stooped posture and other problems late in life. Men and women can suffer from osteoporosis however, a majority of cases involve women.
While osteoporosis mostly affects older women, you can take steps at any age to reduce bone mass loss.
Your doctor will encourage healthy lifestyle changes to prevent or reduce the long-term effects of the condition. Starting as a young adult, you and your doctor can make the right decisions that render osteoporosis mostly preventable.
Pregnancy is a time of significant change for your body and emotions. Most pregnancies proceed without problems for either you or your unborn child.
However, preventive measures before you become pregnant and during pregnancy can pay dividends for you and your baby.
Prenatal care is the medical care given before and during pregnancy. It is a good idea to discuss with your doctor your intentions of becoming pregnant.
This exam will help your doctor spot any areas of concern, including family medical history, existing medical conditions, current medications and so on.
You and your doctor can address any areas of concern and set targets for such important markers as weight gain, blood pressure and so on.
Your doctor will setup monitoring appointments during your pregnancy to check on your health and the progress of your baby.
Taking good care of yourself during pregnancy may prevent problems for you and your baby.