If you’re a woman, as you age your health care needs change. From skin care to ensuring you receive the proper screenings, there are many female health concerns you need to be aware of to ensure you stay healthy. The following is a general checklist of female health concerns to be aware of as well as possible preventatives to help you stay healthy and age gracefully for years to come.
As the years pass, you will notice multiple changes in your skin. Although wrinkles and age spots are female health concerns that are a natural part of aging, you should pay particular attention to moles, birthmarks and freckles. Skin cancer is the number one cancer within the United States and although it is more common in fair-skinned individuals, it can affect anyone. For the purpose of skin monitoring, you should check for asymmetry, irregular borders, color changes and body marks that change with time. Also, any mark with a diameter over the size of a dime is suspect as well.
If at any time you notice a cause for concern, you should check with your doctor. In order to prevent skin cancer, it is best to avoid exposure to the sun and when you do spend time outdoors, use at least an SPF 15 sunscreen to protect your skin. You might also wear protective clothing while outdoors if you are more prone to skin issues. For example, when out in the garden you might wear pants and a floppy brimmed hat.
Your Breast Health
Although it may be tempting as you age, don’t forgo your monthly breast self-exams. As you age, breast health gains importance among all of the female health concerns. Not only do these exams detect lumps within the breast, they can also help you monitor any changes within your breast tissue as a whole. It is particularly important for older women to keep an eye on their breast health due to the added complications of cancer treatment in the older patient. Heart disease, diabetes and other issues which are more likely to occur as you age may all complicate care for older breast cancer patients.
Your Colon Health
While most people instinctively think of men when it comes to colon health, colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in women and is one of the major female health concerns. The Mayo Clinic states that risk factors involving colon cancer include advancing age, being of African-American descent and family history. Regardless of your risk factors, monitoring your bowel movements is an important aspect when it comes to keeping an eye on your general health. Be aware of changes in bowel habits such as diarrhea or constipation, blood in the stool and the feeling that you need to take a bowel movement after you’ve already completed one. Additionally, every woman between the ages of 50-75 should have regular colorectal exams, earlier in the case of genetic predisposition.
Osteoporosis and Your Bone Health
Female health concerns like preventing osteoporosis and supporting bone health should be an important aspect of every woman’s health care routine as they age. By the time symptoms show—back pain, loss of height or brittle/breaking bones—you’ve already developed osteoporosis. Therefore before you develop any of these symptoms it’s important you take steps to ensure strong bones in the future. The National Osteoporosis Foundation notes that adequate amounts of calcium and Vitamin D are necessary to help prevent osteoporosis. Women under the age of 50 should take a 1,000 mg dosage of calcium daily, while over the age of 51, they should increase it to 1,200 mg.
You may also indulge in calcium-rich foods as long as they fit into your daily dietary requirements for maintaining a healthy weight. Vitamin D dosages consist of 400-800 international units (IU) a day for women under 50 and 800-1,000 IU a day if you are over 50. Vitamin D is found in sunlight, food and supplements. Since we already covered avoiding too much sun in regard to skin health, we recommend you eat Vitamin D rich foods such as tuna or salmon or foods that have been enriched by adding Vitamin D such as some milk and milk products.
Your Sexual Health
If you have yet to reach menopause, you should continue to monitor your menstruation cycle for changes in pattern, color, the rate of flow and frequency. These issues may signal hormonal changes within your body that you need to be aware of. For example, light pink colored menstruation may indicate decreased estrogen levels that result in low libido in women. In addition, abnormal bleeding may be an indication of something as harmless as cervical polyps or as worrisome as cancer. Changes in your libido should also be monitored. Although a gradual decrease in sex drive may be the result of menopause, a sudden or significant decrease in your libido may indicate low testosterone levels or side effects of a current medication you are taking. Maca, a Peruvian herb, may be taken to boost your libido as well as to assist in hormonal imbalances.