By Rebecca Winn
TOP 5 HEALTH CONCERNS OF WOMEN:
WHAT THEY ARE AND HOW TO PREVENT THEM
What is it? Breast cancer occurs when a tumor develops that is located in the cells of the breast. Tumors are groups of cancerous cells that invade surrounding healthy cells, causing the cancer to spread throughout the neighboring tissue.
Risk Factors: Age, gender and family history are all risk factors that are outside of your control and impossible to prevent. There are risk factors that are preventable though, such as alcohol use, obesity, and use of drugs such as DES (diethylistilbestrol) and HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Breast implants, using antiperspirants, and wearing underwire bra’s in no way increase your chance of breast cancer.
Symptoms: There are very few signs and symptoms of early breast cancer, making regular breast exams crucial. You should do self-exams regularly and look for lumps in the breast or armpit that is hard with uneven edges, change in size, shape, or feel of breast or nipple, and fluid coming from the nipple.
Prevention: early detection of cancer almost always greatly increases the odds of survival. If you are 20-40 years old and have no known risk factors it is recommended to get a clinical breast exam once every three years. If you are 40-74 years old you should get screened yearly.
What is it? Cervical cancer occurs when there are abnormal cells that grow out of control on the cervix. The cervix is located in the lower part of the uterus.
Risk Factors: Cervical cancer is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV. You can get HPV by having sexual contact with someone who has it. Unfortunately there are many types of HPV and each type has different consequences ranging from genital warts to no symptoms at all.
Symptoms: While it is important to note there may be no symptoms at all for cervical cancer or HPV, there are some common symptoms as well. Symptoms may include: bleeding from the vagina outside of your menstrual cycle, bleeding when something comes in contact with the cervix (such as sex), and pain during sex, and discharge with blood in it.
Prevention: You should have a regular pelvic exam in which they should also do a Pap test. A Pap test (or smear) is when the doctor scrapes a small sample of cells from your cervix and examines them for abnormalities. If you receive an abnormal Pap your doctor may also do a biopsy or take a sample of tissue. Both of these tests are vital to preventing and recognizing cervical cancer.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
What is it? High blood pressure is also known as hypertension and is the most prevalent cardiovascular disease. Blood pressure itself refers to the amount of force the blood is pushing against the walls of your arteries. So if you have high blood pressure the blood is pushing harder than usual and is more than likely causing unwanted to damage to the arteries, and could eventually lead to a stroke or heart attack.
- Have a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes
- Are greater than age 55
- Are overweight
- Are not physically active
- Drink excessively
- Eat foods high in saturated fats or salt
- Use certain medications such as NSAIDs, decongestants, and illicit drugs such as cocaine
- Severe headache
- Fatigue or confusion
- Vision problems
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Blood in the urine
- Pounding in your chest, neck, or ears
- Untreated hypertension can lead to a heart attack, stroke, heart disease, kidney failure, and eye problems.
Prevention: To prevent high blood pressure it is important to have regular exercise and eat a diet that is not high in sodium (salt) or saturated fats. Also eliminating smoking and excessive drinking from your diet would be extremely beneficial. Even taking small steps toward a healthier lifestyle would result in preventative measures against high blood pressure.
What is it? Type-2 diabetes is a type of diabetes in which the body does not produce enough insulin or the insulin in cells isn’t recognized at all. Insulin is required for the conversion of glucose (or starches) eaten in the diet to be converted to energy for the body to use. This build up of glucose, and lack of insulin is what leads to diabetes and complications.
Risk Factors: While it is still unknown why some people get type 2 diabetes it has generally been associated as a lifestyle disease, which would include risk factors such as:
Weight: being overweight means you have excess fatty tissue, which may make your cells more resistant to insulin.
- Fat distribution: people whose fat is generally stored in their abdomen as opposed to their hips or thighs
- Inactivity: lack of exercise greatly increases your risk of type 2 diabetes
- Family history
- Race: blacks, Hispanics, American Indians. And Asian-Americans
- Age: people who are 45 years or older
- Gestational diabetes: if you developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy or gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds.
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger (especially after eating)
- Dry mouth
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
- Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness (rare)
- Slow-healing sores or cuts
- Itching of the skin (usually around the vaginal or groin area)
- Frequent yeast infections
- Recent weight gain
- Velvety dark skin changes of the neck, armpit, and groin, called acanthosis nigricans
- Numbness and tingling of the hands and feet
- Decreased vision
What is it? Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time. When we are younger the body absorbs calcium and phosphate into the bones to create strong healthy bones. As you age your body needs an increased level of calcium and phosphate and usually has to reabsorb these minerals from your bones, causing them to become weaker. This loss of calcium and phosphate may result in your bones being easily susceptible to breakage, even without injury.
Risk Factors: As according to A.D.A.M The leading causes of osteoporosis are a drop in estrogen in women at the time of menopause. Women over age 50 have a higher risk for osteoporosis.
Other causes include:
- Being confined to a bed
- Chronic rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease, eating disorders
- Taking corticosteroid medications (prednisone, methylprednisolone) every day for more than 3 months, or taking some antiseizure drugs
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea) for long periods of time
- Drinking a large amount of alcohol
- Family history of osteoporosis
- History of hormone treatment for breast cancer
- Low body weight
- Too little calcium in the diet
- Bone pain or tenderness
- Fractures with little or no trauma
- Loss of height (as much as 6 inches) over time
- Low back pain due to fractures of the spinal bones
- Neck pain due to fractures of the spinal bones
- Stooped posture or Kyphosis, also called a "dowager's hump"
Prevention: It is essential to consume the recommended amount of calcium to maintain healthy bones. Also vitamin D is important since it aids your body in absorbing calcium. A healthy-well balanced diet can also help as well as avoiding drinking alcohol in excess, not smoking, and getting regular exercise.
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