For many women, personal health concerns just take a backseat to other life duties. When you're managing a full schedule with kids, work, and a million other obligations, you just don't have time to get sick. But there are some things doctors cannot stress enough when it comes to a female's health. For the most part, it's crucial to make your own health a higher priority.
Really, in the age of #selfcare trends, it's a great idea to think about regular medical visits as a part of your wellness routine. In fact, go ahead and learn the symptoms of diseases that do the most damage to females. Be proactive about your health, and don't power through another major headache or persistent feelings of intense fatigue without a checkup. Make the time to care for your body and well-being.
To learn more about the medical issues females most often overlook, Romper spoke with three different physicians: Mimi Trinh, MD, Vinh Nguyen, MD, and Mary O’Toole, MD. These doctors highlighted the general health threats that females face over the course of a lifetime, as well as the specific symptoms that require immediate medical attention. Simply knowing about these signs and symptoms can offer tremendous insight into your own health.
1. Seriousness & Symptoms Of Heart Disease
You may need to pay closer attention to their heart health. "Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women and is often not addressed urgently enough," says Mimi Trinh, MD, a family physician of the MemorialCare Medical Group. "All women face the threat of heart disease, therefore, it is essential to become aware of the symptoms and factors that can increase the risk for heart disease." These symptoms include:
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
- Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness
If you experience these symptoms, then call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital immediately.
2. Heart Attack Symptoms Are Different For Women
Females may experience heart attack symptoms differently than men, and these distinctions need more attention. "As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort," says Dr. Trinh. "But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain." Because these additional symptoms aren't as well known, however, women experiencing a heart attack may downplay the seriousness of their condition. When in doubt, seek medical attention.
3. Diabetes Can Be Deadly
Diabetes also affects males and females differently. In fact, diabetes puts females at a higher risk for heart disease when compared to males, as well as complications such as blindness and kidney disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "In many ways, diabetes is a silent killer because patients may not feel any symptoms when their blood sugar levels are elevated, unless they are very high," says Dr. Trinh. Increased thirst, fatigue, and blurred vision are common warning signs of diabetes, she notes.
4. Seriousness Of Seasonal Flu
Don't underestimate the flu. "The seasonal flu is an ailment that is often not taken seriously enough by patients," says Vinh Nguyen, MD, Family Medicine Physician of the Orange Coast Medical Center. Dr. Nguyen adds that an estimated 80,000 Americans died of influenza and its complications in the 2017-18 flu season alone.
This is important for females in particular, if you're pregnant and get the flu, you're at high risk for developing serious complications, according to the CDC. If you do get the flu during pregnancy, it's important to tell your healthcare provider right away.
5. Screen For Colon Cancer
Breast cancer is definitely not the only type of cancer that affects females. In fact, 1 out of every 24 females will get diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer during her lifetime, according to the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The common symptoms for colon cancer include rectal bleeding, changes in stool, and abdominal pain, notes Dr. Nguyen. "Often though, by the time that colon cancer symptoms appear, it is already at an advanced stage," she says. "That is why it is vitally important to get colon cancer screening." For most patients, this means a routine screening by the age of 50.
6. Beware Dr. Google
As far as online medical info is concerned, doctors wish females (and males) would step away from the keyboard. It's easy to self-diagnose incorrectly, delaying treatment for the real symptom. For instance, one person tried to treat her fatigue symptoms with expensive supplements, after a Google search said that she had systemic exertion intolerance disease, according to Health 24. But finally, a trip to the doctor revealed she had anemia, an easily treatable condition. She wound up wasting a lot of time and money on the false diagnosis.
The doctors Romper interviewed had similar feelings about diagnosing yourself online. "In regards to symptoms, I try to dissuade patients from utilizing Google for their symptoms," says Mary O’Toole, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Saddleback Medical Center. "Any symptoms like unrelenting migraines, chest pain, changes in bowel habits, and skin lesions need to be addressed immediately." If you're concerned enough to look up the symptom online, then go ahead and chat with your doctor about it.
After a very frustrating first birth experience, this Deaf mother wanted a change. Will the help of two Deaf doulas give the quality communication and birth experience this mom wants and deserves? Watch Episode Four of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below, and visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes.