Did you know that women in the United States make 80 percent of the healthcare decisions for their families, but often neglect their own healthcare needs?
Many women ignore their own health concerns to focus on their children, spouses, elderly parents and other relatives. This procrastination can lead to more serious concerns or complications down the road.
Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune disorders, chronic pain, lung disease and gastroenterological problems are just a few serious issues more prevalent in women than in men.
As we begin a new year, I strongly encourage women to take some time out of their busy schedules to visit their primary care provider, discuss any concerns you might be having and learn more about what you can be doing to have a happy and healthy year.
Here are four things every woman should know about their health:
- Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women and men — but the symptoms can be different for women.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. What we also know is that while the most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain, women may also experience shortness of breath, nausea, fatigue, dizziness or sensitive digestion during a cardiac event. Don’t hesitate to call your provider or visit the nearest emergency department if you are experiencing any of these symptoms – it could save your life.
- Osteoporosis is often referred to as the silent disease.
Of about 10 million Americans suffering from osteoporosis, 80 percent are women. Why are women more at risk? Women typically have thinner bones and begin to lose estrogen during menopause, weakening bones. By age 30, our bones are done growing. So prevention of bone loss after that is key. A well-balanced diet rich in calcium, weight training, not smoking and limited alcohol and caffeine intake can all help prevent the disease.
- Depression isn’t just “feeling sad.”
Women are twice as likely as men to develop major depression. Just like heart disease, depression can look different in women. Low energy, fatigue, trouble sleeping, appetite or weight changes and trouble concentrating can all be symptoms of depression or anxiety. If you are experiencing these symptoms or struggles it is important to have an open and honest conversation with a primary care or mental health provider who can help manage the symptoms with medication or other therapies.
- Preventative medicine is the best medicine.
Yearly physicals and regular health screenings can help you stay on top of your healthcare needs. Find a provider who listens and can help you prioritize your health and well-being.
The best thing a woman can do for herself and her family is to make sure she is healthy so she can continue caring for those she loves.
Carrie Gerber is the director of Women’s Health at Backus Hospital and Windham Hospital.