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Women are the core of humanity. With the ability to bear a child and the strength-sensitivity balance necessary to rule every field in the society, they represent a complex and crucial interest for many academics.
There are countless resources for women to achieve a healthy and balanced life. These can be accomplished with the help of female-centered providers, such as gynecologists and midwives, as well as primary physicians, psychiatrists, dietitians, etc.
However, the main participant and contributor to reaching the goal should be women themselves.
Medical Symptoms That Women Should Not Ignore
While it is common to experience discomfort related to an illness once in a while, here are some medical symptoms that women should not ignore:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Nausea or vomiting without dietary changes
- Repetitive headaches
- Chest pain
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding (any kind of vaginal bleeding in menopausal women)
- New and persistent lumps
- Shortness of breath
It is also important to acknowledge psychiatric symptoms, as they are not talked about as commonly as they should be. The symptoms include:
- Loss of interest or inability to feel pleasure
- Unexplained insomnia or changes in the sleeping cycle
- Recurrent harmful thoughts
- Substance abuse
These might all trigger a visit to the doctor for screening and possible treatment.
Some symptoms can be indicative of different medical problems that need to be addressed by a doctor.
1. Constant fatigue
Women, especially after menopause, are at risk for cardiovascular disease and its numerous complications, due to different hormonal patterns. (1)
While fatigue can represent an early symptom for a number of pathologies, a medical consultation might be necessary to rule out serious causes, such as anemia (low hemoglobin in the blood), as well as pulmonary and heart conditions such as plaques, arrhythmias, etc.
2. Menstruation irregularities
Irregular bleeding is a very common, and sometimes benign, complaint when it comes to healthy women.
Intrauterine and extrauterine causes range from polyps and fibroids to cancer, making it crucial to keep regular checkups and further tests if needed. Postmenopausal bleeding deserves to be mentioned separately, because it can be an early sign of malignancy in the gynecological tract. (2)
In such a case, the first step is to determine the source of the bleeding. Once confirmed, postmenopausal vaginal bleeding requires immediate attention.
Vaginal atrophy or thinning of the lining is the most common cause and it happens due to inevitable hormonal changes. (3) However, cancer of the uterine lining needs to be ruled out with images and possibly a sample for biopsy.
3. Lumps in the breast
Lump formation in the breasts is often indicative of breast cancer. Although breast self-exams are a topic of controversy due to its low ability to catch early disease, it is important to develop a sense of self-awareness. By doing so, every woman should be able to recognize new lumps, swelling, and skin changes.
Annual breast images, starting at age 40, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, serves as a very good screening strategy for breast cancer. (4)
4. Unexpected weight loss
Out of the many causes of unexplained weight loss, malignancy (5) is a worrisome one.
5. Swelling in the leg
Swelling of the lower extremities might be a sign of renal, vascular, pulmonary, or cardiac disease.
Some important characteristics to be on the lookout for include asymmetry (one leg vs. both), redness, warmth, pain, skin changes, and associated symptoms such as fatigue, urinary changes, and pain with exercise.
One cause of unilateral or asymmetric leg swelling worth mentioning is deep venous thrombosis, which happens when a blood clot blocks the normal flow in a vein.
6. Painful intercourse
Painful intercourse or dyspareunia is one of the most common complaints in women of any age, race, and social background. Gynecologic causes include:
- Interstitial cystitis
- Vulvar dermatologic conditions
- Hymen irregularities
- Menopause and the inherent hormonal changes that come with it
Healthy Lifestyle Changes for Women
The following lifestyle changes can be made by a woman to become healthier:
- Balanced eating habits
- Adequate physical activity
- Regular medical checkups
- At least 7 hours of sleep every day
- Appropriate hydration
- Healthy relationships
- Sunscreen every day
Caloric Requirements of Women
There is no doubt that your daily diet plays a key role in your health. An important aspect of any well-balanced diet is your calorie intake. However, the daily calorie requirement of women cannot be a single, fixed number.
Energy intake requirements depend on many factors, such as age, current weight, fertility status, physical activity, and goals of nutrition, among many others. (8)
It is important to understand what you eat every day. A good rule of thumb would be to increase the intake of vegetables and fruits, while decreasing the intake of solid fats, added sugar, red meat, and sodium.
A non-obese woman (BMI less than 30), with no comorbidities and with an active lifestyle, should consume between 1,200 and 1,800 calories a day on average.
According to the American Heart Association, making these subtle but effective changes can substantially decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. (9) It is best to consult with professionals in nutrition for help.
The body and its functioning modify as you age. Women experience drastic changes during puberty, reproductive age, pregnancy, and menopause, which affect not only their physical but mental health as well.
Moreover, like anybody else, it is easy to contract or develop diseases and symptoms that lead to various complications.
However, consuming a balanced diet, getting proper rest, maintaining weight, and building healthy relations can help women avoid undue stress and chronic ailments. Regardless, it is vital to consult a doctor regularly and especially when any concerning symptoms arise.