National Women's Health Week

Posted at 12:11 PM on May 2, 2024

Northwest Family Clinics - National Women's Health Week

Each May, National Women's Health Week commences on Mother's Day, offering a crucial reminder to women everywhere to prioritize their health. Northwest Family Clinic seizes this opportunity each year to focus on the unique health challenges faced by women and promote proactive healthcare practices.

National Women's Health Week

National Women's Health Week is an annual health observance led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health. The week begins on Mother's Day each year and aims to encourage women to prioritize their health at every stage of life. The observance serves as a reminder for women to take care of themselves and prioritize their health through various means.

Making Preventive Visits and Screenings a Top Priority

This week, we'd like to emphasize the importance of preventive screenings and routine health checkups. Many of us physicians are women and mothers, meaning we know firsthand that many women prioritize their family's health over their own. We often neglect our crucial health practices and focus instead on others. Women's Health Week serves as an ideal time to encourage women everywhere to make their health the number one priority. This means booking your annual physician exam and appointments for mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, and other vital preventative tests for early detection and treatment of potential health issues.

Healthy Lifestyle

While preventive visits and screenings are critical for all women, your day-to-day lifestyle also significantly affects overall health. A healthy lifestyle includes many things, which include:

  • A good place to start when it comes to eating a healthy diet is by learning more about the Mediterranean diet. This way of eating can be described as the blueprint for healthy eating made simple and recommended by many physicians.
  • Exercise! The World Health Organization recommends at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of both for adults. Additionally, include muscle-strengthening activities involving major muscle groups two or more days a week. Learn more about the importance of exercise and how it benefits whole-body health here.
  • Managing and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Stressing less and learning to manage daily stressors better.
  • Make sleep a priority, aiming for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.

Understanding Mental Health and the Impact on Women

Mental health issues significantly impact women, often in unique and profound ways. Research has shown:

  • Women are approximately twice as likely as men to experience depression, with one in every eight women developing clinical depression during their lifetime. 
  • Anxiety disorders, which include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety, are also more prevalent in women, affecting them at a rate of 23.4% compared to 14.3% in men. 
  • Women are more likely to experience severe impacts from mental health issues due to various social, economic, and biological factors, including greater susceptibility to sexual violence and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 
  • Hormonal changes in pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause may also further complicate a woman's mental health.

Let's aim to normalize seeking help and addressing mental health issues. Don't be afraid to ask for help; know that you are not alone. Start the discussion today and express yourself about needing support or regularly seeing a therapist or psychologist. Remember, mental and emotional health are just as important as physical health.

Heart Health

Northwest Family Clinics - National Women's Heart Health

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death among women in the United States. 

One of the challenges is that heart disease in women often presents differently than it does in men, leading to underdiagnosis and undertreatment.

Women are more likely to experience subtle symptoms of heart disease that may not include the classic symptom of chest pain. Instead, women may experience nausea, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, and neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, or abdomen discomfort. These less recognizable symptoms can delay seeking treatment and receiving a proper diagnosis.

Certain risk factors for heart disease can affect women more significantly than men. For example, diabetes increases the risk of heart disease more sharply in women than in men. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, inactivity, menopause, and a family history of early heart disease. Emotional stress and depression also affect women's hearts more than men's and can contribute to poorer outcomes after a heart attack.

This means that women need to take extra precautions to live a heart-healthy lifestyle, know the signs and symptoms of heart issues, and make their annual doctor visits non-negotiable.

Bone Health

Osteoporosis is a significant concern for women, affecting approximately 200 million women worldwide. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, one in three women over 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as opposed to one in five men. In the United States alone, about 80% of individuals with osteoporosis are women. 

Hormonal changes during menopause contribute to decreased bone density, with estrogen levels declining sharply. These statistics show the importance of proactive measures such as a calcium-rich diet, recommended supplements, weight-bearing exercises, and regular bone density screenings to mitigate the risk of osteoporosis and fractures in women.

Sexual and Reproductive Health

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) pose significant risks to women's health worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 376 million new cases of four common STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis) occur annually among men and women aged 15-49. Women are particularly vulnerable to the long-term health consequences of untreated STIs, including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain.

Additionally, sexual intercourse may put you at risk of the following diseases or infections:

  • Certain types of Hepatitis
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV), which may cause genital warts and cervical cancer
  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV)
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Pubic lice (crabs)
  • Scabies
  • Molluscum contagiosum

Because of the anatomy of the vagina, women are at an increased risk of developing these sexually transmitted diseases and infections. This means that sexual health should be taken very seriously. Steps to take include:

  • Know your partner and know when their last STI test was.
  • Go in for regular STI screenings.
  • Safe sex: use a condom when you are not in a monogamous relationship.
  • See your doctor for regular checkups, and be open and honest about any symptoms you are experiencing. Never be embarrassed to talk to your doctor.

Health is Important Every Day of the Year

While we raise awareness of women's health during this special week, it's important to remember that everyone's health is important every day of the year. Let's all make an effort to live healthier lives every day, and remember to make your annual doctor visits a priority!