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Health Warning Signs Women Shouldn’t Ignore

August 11, 2021

A headache, dizziness, fatigue – these are all annoyances that busy women often ignore. But when it comes to your health, you are your own best resource. You know your body better than anyone, so pay attention to the way you feel. It could indicate an underlying problem. 

Visiting your primary care physician and getting regular health screenings play a key role in your health, especially if you have chronic issues such as diabetes, glaucoma, hypertension or cardiovascular disease. But even if you’re healthy, keep an eye out for these symptoms: 

Neurological 

If you experience worsening or more severe headaches, or headaches accompanied by other neurological symptoms, visit your doctor. 

Additional neurological symptoms you should never ignore include: 

  • Numbness

  • Tingling

  • Weakness on one side of the body

  • Dropping things

  •  Vision issues 

These are all signs of something more serious, like a stroke or a problem with your blood pressure. Keep in mind that high blood pressure, often referred to as the “silent killer,” doesn't present with any sort of scary signs until it’s been elevated for a while. 

Cardiovascular 

Heart attacks and chest pain can present differently in women compared with men. Women might not have that classic “pressure feeling,” like something sitting on your chest, but may feel: 

  •  Shakiness in the chest

  • Pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach

  • More fatigued than usual when moving around or exercising

  • Nausea or lightheadedness

  • Breaking out in a sweat 

These simple signs might be telling you that something may be wrong, so go see your doctor. 

Gastrointestinal Tract 

Pay attention to any changes in your gut health, which could signal problems in the GI tract. 

Signs to look for include: 

  • Suddenly experiencing prolonged or frequent diarrhea or constipation

  • Acid reflux

  • Bloating or abdominal pain

  • Feeling full after not eating much

  • Nausea or vomiting 

Colon cancer can show up as blood in your stool, so don’t ignore it. In fact, colon cancer prevalence is rising in women, largely because of inactivity and dietary choices. 

Reproductive 

If you’re of child-bearing age and experiencing bleeding outside your regular menstrual cycles, that might indicate an infection or something more serious. 

If you’ve gone through menopause and then develop bleeding again, that's also concerning. 

You also shouldn’t ignore issues that affect your quality of life, even if they don’t cause serious harm. For example, if you experience a lot of pain with your menstrual cycles, that doesn’t necessarily suggest cancer, but it could be endometriosis or fibroids. 

For breast issues, look for these signs:

  • Lumps

  •  Breast pain

  •  Redness or radiating heat from the breast

  • Fluid leakage from the nipples

Depending on genetic makeup and family history, plan to have a mammogram screening every one or two years.

Musculoskeletal 

Build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis by consuming adequate calcium and vitamin D and doing weight-bearing and strength-training activities. 

Warning signs to look for:

  • Severe midline back pain that intensifies at night

  • Back pain that radiates or worsens

  • Numbness and tingling

Kidney and Urinary Tract

If you experience blood in your urine or severe back or side pain, especially if it’s followed by the urge to urinate, see your doctor. It could be a urinary tract infection (UTI), a kidney stone or something more serious. The best way to prevent kidney stones? Drink plenty of water and urinate regularly.

If you experience frequent UTIs, your doctor will need to get to the root of the problem. In perimenopausal or postmenopausal women, estrogen loss can increase the risk of UTIs.

Nervous System

If you notice a loss of sensation in your hands or feet, it can be an early sign of diabetes or mean your diabetes is not well-controlled, which can transition into a more serious problem. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar regularly and your feet for signs of infection.

It’s common for women to take care of everyone else and put themselves last. If that sounds like you, practice self-care and “put your own oxygen mask on first.” That means take care of the basics — follow a healthy diet, get good sleep, manage stress, don’t smoke and exercise regularly.

See your doctor annually and discuss what health screenings make sense for you. Remember, you can’t take care of others if you’re not well yourself.

 

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