Two out of every three caregivers in the U.S. are women. That means they provide daily or regular support to children, adults, or people with chronic illnesses or disabilities, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But while women tend to care for others, they tend to sacrifice their own physical or mental health, the CDC adds.
Many of the top health threats to women can be prevented, including the top causes of death among adult women in the U.S. -- heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and unintentional injuries. Women tend to be underdiagnosed with heart disease, the No. 1 cause of death for both men and women.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, surveys found that women reported skipping preventive health services, such as their yearly check-up or routine tests, more so than men. Usually, that trend is reversed, with women tending to their healthcare needs more. But during the pandemic, more women took on roles as teachers in their homes and caregivers for elderly family members..
Nonetheless, primary care doctors warn that women who put off taking care of their own health to care for others often end up with conditions that could have been treated more easily in their earlier stages.
"Women need to take some time to make sure they get their regular checkups and necessary health screenings, depending on their age and overall health," said Kamaljit Kaur, M.D., a family medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care. "Even if we only see them once a year for their checkups, we can see subtle changes that could indicate a risk for developing or the presence of disease.”
A checkup's blood work can show the presence of an infection with elevated white blood cells, anemia or internal bleeding with too few red blood cells, high blood sugar that may indicate diabetes, and thyroid, kidney and liver function. A mental health screening can reveal depression, anxiety and sleep disorders, which can lead to other health problems.
“We also discuss vital lifestyle factors such as weight management, proper nutrition and regular exercise to keep risk factors under control for heart disease, diabetes and other potentially serious conditions,” said Dr. Kaur.
Here are the top threats to women's health:
The foods you eat affect your health. Eating healthier can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, diabetes and other chronic conditions.
Not enough exercise
Being physically active is good for your heart and overall health, including mental health. People who are not active have double the risk of heart disease and stroke, and higher risk diabetes, dementia, and some cancers. Exercise is one of the most vital steps you can take to better health.
Most people struggle with their weight at some point in their lives. Being overweight can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and sleep apnea. Obesity can double your chance of heart disease. Consult with your doctor about lifestyle modification and the ideal weight range for you.
Smoking triples the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke in middle-aged women. Quitting is one of the best things you can do to prevent heart disease and stroke.
If you feel regularly pressured because of workloads at home and the office, your physical well-being, lifestyle habits, and mental health will suffer -- and so can your immune system and the ability to fight off disease. Take steps to reduce stress.
Too much alcohol
Heavy drinking and binge drinking are risk factors for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Alcohol may also cause problems by interacting with your medications.
Birth control and hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Medications that contain estrogen – the female hormone – increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and mini-stroke (TIA). Consult with your doctor about these medications and their side effects.
Book an appointment
Now more than ever, it’s important to establish a relationship with a primary care doctor – someone who will get to know you and your healthcare needs. Baptist Health Primary Care providers can help guide and manage your overall health and wellness, both in-person and through virtual visits. Our doctors and advanced practitioners aid in the early detection of disease and long-term health problems, help address any worrisome symptoms, manage chronic conditions, prescribe medications and advise on achieving overall health goals. Should you require specialized care, we provide access to Baptist Health’s comprehensive network of expert physicians and resources, keeping your health at the heart of what we do.