National Women’s Health Week is a weeklong health observance led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health. Starting Mother’s Day, May 9th through May 15th, it serves as a reminder for women to make their health a priority and take care of themselves. Gaining a better understanding of these key women’s health issues is an important step on the way to better health.
Dr. Kelli Graziano, Medical Director with OptumCare Utah is here to help ABC4 Utah Viewers gain a better understanding of key women’s health issues and outline steps women should take for better health.
The first thing Dr. Kelli Graziano advises is to plan a regular well-woman visit and talk to your healthcare provider about any concerns. During this visit, key components of preventive care can be addressed, such as screenings and any other tests that can check for risk factors for chronic conditions and early signs of diseases, education, and counseling on how to make smart health care decisions and the need for such services such as vaccinations that can help prevent future health problems.
According to the health resources and service administration (HRSA), women should consider the following screenings depending on their age, circumstances, or risk factors:
- Screening for breast cancer to be done by mammography in average-risk women no earlier than age 40 and no later than age 50. This should occur at least every two years. Screening should continue through at least age 74. Age should not be the determining factor to discontinue screening.
- Counseling on prevention and screening for contraceptive methods, sexually transmitted infections, and human immune-deficiency virus (HIV) – recommended for all sexually active women yearly.
- Screening for gestational diabetes in pregnant women between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation and at the first prenatal visit for pregnant women who are identified to be at high risk for diabetes.
- Screening for diabetes mellitus after pregnancy. Initial testing should occur within the first year of postpartum and can be conducted as early as 4-6 weeks postpartum. Screening should occur in women with a history of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) who are not currently pregnant and have not been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
- Screening for anxiety in adolescent and adult women, including those who are pregnant or postpartum. Optimal screening intervals are unknown and clinical judgment should be used to determine screening frequency.
- Screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence should be done yearly or as needed.
- Testing for cervical cancer. As the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for cervical cancer every three years with cervical cytology alone in women aged 21 to 29 years. For women aged 30 to 65 years, the USPSTF recommends screening every three years with cervical cytology alone, every five years with high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) testing alone, or every five years with hrHPV testing in combination with cytology (contesting).
- Screening for colorectal cancer. The USPTSF recommends screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 and continuing until age 75 years. The decision to screen for colorectal cancer in older adults aged 76 to 85 years should be an individual one, considering the patient’s overall health and prior screening history.
Some examples of sex and gender influences on various health issues include:
- Mental Health – Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression, with some women experiencing mood symptoms related to hormone changes during puberty, pregnancy, and perimenopause.
- Smoking cessation – Women have a harder time quitting smoking than men do. Women metabolize nicotine, the addictive ingredient in tobacco, faster than men. Metabolism differences may explain why nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches or gum, work better in men than women.
- Cardiovascular risk – There may be differences in symptoms of coronary artery disease and heart attack between women and men. The results of common screening tests may also be different. These differences can lead to a misdiagnosis.
- Osteoporosis – Osteoporosis is more common in women because they have less bone mass than men and can experience more bone loss during hormonal changes at menopause.
- Knee arthritis – Knee injuries, such as ACL tears are more likely to occur in women and girls while playing sports. This difference is due to aspects of a woman’s anatomy.
According to the CDC, women generally can take the following steps to better their health. These include:
- Talk to your healthcare provider and get regular checkups
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat heart-healthy well-balanced meals and snacks
- Get and stay active
- Take care of your mental health – manage stress and get enough sleep
- Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as tobacco use, not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet or texting while driving, and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
For additional information, you can visit OptumCare Utah or call (866) 637-5268.
This article contains sponsored content.