by Dr. Hojat Askari, Founder & Medical Director, Thumb Butte Medical Center
Our biology affects our susceptibility to different medical conditions, and researchers are continuing to learn about how the differences between men and women impact how illnesses manifest themselves in our bodies. Here are some facts about prevalent health conditions that women should educate themselves on.
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for women in the United States, and they can exhibit different symptoms of a heart attack than they may expect. In addition to chest pain or pressure and shortness of breath, women also report fatigue, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or vomiting and other issues, which can easily be mistaken for overexertion or digestive issues.
More strokes occur in women than men every year due to several factors including age, high blood pressure during pregnancy, lower estrogen after menopause, migraines and use of oral contraceptives when other risk factors such as high blood pressure or smoking are present.
Women with diabetes face a fourfold increase in heart attack risk, with the probability highest in Hispanic, Black, Asian-American and Native American women. They are also more likely to have severe complications including kidney disease, blindness and depression so blood sugar levels and lifestyle factors should be closely monitored.
Pregnancy-related risks include higher blood pressure, anemia and gestational diabetes, so it’s important for them to have any pre-existing health issues like non-pregnancy related diabetes and high blood pressure as much under control as possible before conception of a child. Those who are pregnant need to have adequate nutrition and exercise, along with recommended medication and immunizations.
Women have about a 13% lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer and it’s higher for those with factors including age, genetic factors, smoking and obesity. Monthly breast self-exams are recommended along with regular mammograms and other screening as recommended by their health care provider. Healthy lifestyle choices including a good diet and exercise can help mitigate the risk but early detection is important to improve your chances of survival.