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September 30th is National Women's Fitness and Health Day, a nationwide program that focuses attention on topics in women's health and the role that physical activity and nutrition play in fighting diseases affecting women. Read on to learn about women's health conditions and how to get active to prevent them!
The body is always complex, but women have a host of health conditions that are either exclusive or disproportionately experienced by them. It can be difficult to find doctors who specialize in or even have adequate experience with many of these conditions. In addition, medical science has often been developed with male physiology in mind. This is an issue because women and men may have very different symptoms for the same conditions, or different responses to the same treatments. Diagnostic periods for women tend to take longer, and this is one reason why.
Conditions Exclusive to Women
Conditions More Likely to Affect Women
A litany of studies suggest that women, unfortunately, have more trouble than men finding adequate care. They spend longer in diagnostic periods, have longer hospital waits, and are more likely to have their conditions misdiagnosed or their symptoms of pain downplayed or ignored. Female-specific conditions often receive less research attention and funding, and women are more likely to have "medically unexplained" symptoms -- subjective symptoms (pain, dizziness, lightheadedness) that aren't immediately connected to a specific physical cause. It's important for women to educate themselves about conditions that they're more likely to experience, as a strong knowledge base will help you advocate for your own care as a patient.
National Women's Fitness and Health Day is the perfect opportunity to schedule a checkup with a medical professional! You may want to consider a Well-Woman Visit, a physical and in-depth discussion about your health, tailored to your age and family history, with special attention paid to problems that largely or exclusively affect women. You also may want to visit your gynecologist, or schedule a prenatal visit if pregnant.
In addition, to honor the day many organizations will be providing free screenings for women's health issues. Here are some to look for:
A major component of women's health is staying active and exercising regularly. Whether you're doing cardio or strength training, going to the gym or playing a sport, regular exercise gives many health benefits, some of which are specific to women's health:
Women have specific dietary needs that may change over the course of their lives and can differ from what men might need. Nutrients of particular relevance to women's health include:
Involve Your Loved Ones
Studies have shown that people who have a regular exercise companion generally have an easier time staying motivated and sticking to a regular schedule, and consequently lose more weight. Whether you're working out with a friend or family member, mutual support is one of the most effective factors behind getting and staying in shape.
Prioritize Mental Health
Stress levels contribute to declines in physical health, and women consistently report higher rates of stress than men as well as more emotional and physical symptoms resulting from stress.
Some ways to manage stress include:
Women are also more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders, with twice the number of women than man experiencing depression. Sometimes this occurs due to physical factors, such as menopause and premenstrual syndrome, which effects 20-40% of women, with 3-5% having symptoms strong enough to be classified as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). 10-15% of women experience postpartum depression, as well.
Depression is misdiagnosed in women 30-50% of the time, and fewer than half the women suffering it will seek care. If you think you may have symptoms associated with anxiety or depression, don't hesitate to seek out professional help!
Have a Conversation
If National Women's Fitness and Health Day has one thing to teach us, it's that coming together to discuss women's health is vital in maintaining it. Social support is invaluable in maintaining exercise regimens, improving moods, reducing stress, and better understanding our own health and fitness needs.