Taking a closer look at women's health

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. In 2002, heart disease was responsible for approximately 356,014 deaths in women. Breast cancer caused about 41,514 deaths in women the same year.

Introduction to women's health

Why focus on women's health? There are special concerns for women that don't affect men — such as pregnancy, menopause, ovarian and cervical cancers and, to a large extent, breast cancer. As caretakers, women typically put themselves and their health, last. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, women sometimes neglect their own health and focus instead on their partner's and their children's health.

Heart disease and women

Although it is most often thought of as a man's disease, more women actually die of heart disease each year than men, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. And, according to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., the most common symptom of a heart attack for both sexes is some type of pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest. But women are more likely than men to also have symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or heartburn
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual or unexplained fatigue

Prevention action steps

One of the best ways to combat any health issue is to take a pro-active approach. Early screening is one of the best ways to identify medical problems so treatment can begin as soon as possible. It can alleviate worry and can positively contribute to your mental health. In addition to annual exams, breast self-exams and mammograms; try the following recommendations by the CDC to help you lead a healthier lifestyle.

  • Eat right

    Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic illnesses while providing essential vitamins, minerals and fiber. Drinking plenty of water and watching your intake of salt, sugar, alcohol and saturated fats will also contribute to your good health.

  • Maintain a healthy weight

    Following the "eat right" advice will help you eat a balanced diet and, along with exercise and portion control, will help you maintain a healthy weight.

  • Don't smoke

    If you smoke, stop. Quitting will lower your chance of having a heart attack, stroke or cancer.

  • Get out and exercise

    Regular physical activity substantially reduces the risk of dying of coronary artery disease, stroke, colon cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. It also contributes to healthy bones, muscles and joints and reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, is recommended five or more times a week.

  • Manage stress

    It's okay to take some time just for you. Get enough rest and sleep every night. And do something you enjoy-without guilt. Taking care of yourself should be the first order of business. After all, a healthy mother and wife sets the tone for her family. They will know you care enough about them to take care of you.

Marguerite Marsh is a freelance writer in Columbus. She writes about many topics, including families, relationships, artists and pets.

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