Women’s health is an important issue at every stage of life, and you are ultimately responsible for managing and maintaining your own properly. Luckily, there are plenty of people, resources, and healthcare practitioners who can help you maintain your health. Not only is this important to you, but also your partner, children, friends, and loved ones. Here are six common women’s health questions, and things you can do to maintain overall health.
Q1: How Can I Keep My Heart Healthy?
For women over the age of 55, heart disease is the number one cause of death. Your risk further increases if you have diabetes or high cholesterol, if you smoke, and if you're postmenopausal. To keep your heart healthy, don’t smoke, exercise three to five times a week, maintain a healthy weight, lower stress levels, eat a proper diet, and don't smoke.
Q2: What Should I Be Eating?
A good diet for women’s health is one that includes fresh fruits and vegetables of all colors, whole grains, healthy fats, protein, and fiber. These are also key to include in your diet:
- Calcium-rich foods
- Vitamin D
- Reduced red meat consumption
- Lean proteins
- Heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats
Q3: How Do I Maintain Good Breast Health?
In order to keep your your breasts healthy, maintaining overall good health is paramount. Breast-specific things you can do include wearing comfortable and loose bras, regular mammograms after age 40 or 50, and performing regular self-exams. Also, talk to your doctor if you notice any lumps, thickening, unusual size changes, changes to the skin or nipples, or discharge.
Q4: How Do I Maintain Good Vaginal Health?
The most important thing about maintaining good vaginal health is to know what's normal for you and to pay attention to changes. Every vagina is unique in terms of look, odor, and secretions. If you notice changes, you should talk to your doctor or gynecologist. Some good vaginal health tips:
- Avoid douching, vaginal sprays, and vaginal deodorants
- Wear cotton underwear
- Keep your vaginal area dry
- Change pads and tampons every four to eight hours and clean menstrual cups at least twice a day
- Address bacterial and yeast infections immediately
- Practice safe sex
- Get tested for sexually transmitted infections regularly if you're sexually active with multiple partners
Q5: Is Incontinence Normal?
Once women reach the age of 60, one in two will suffer from incontinence. But while incontinence may be common, it’s not a normal part of aging. One of the most common causes of incontinence is weak pelvic floor muscles, and you can strengthen these with Kegel exercises. Other causes can include urinary tract infections, diabetes, pregnancy, and menopause.
Q6: What is Menopause and When Will It Happen?
Menopause marks the time in a woman’s life when the menstrual cycle stops, and she can no longer reproduce. The onset of menopause is usually in a woman’s 40s or 50s, but premature menopause can start in the 30s. The most common symptoms of perimenopause (the months or years leading up to menopause) and menopause include:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Loss of sex drive
- Sleeping changes
- Mood changes
- Decreased sex drive
Because of the hormonal changes, menopause can also lead to a slower metabolism, weight gain, heart disease, weak bones, and osteoporosis.
There are a plethora of resources out there where you can learn more about women’s health. It’s important that you take your health into your own hands, and that starts with knowing what to look for, how to keep yourself healthy, and how to treat and manage symptoms and conditions.