Top 10 Issues in Women’s Health Today

today's top 10 women's health issues

Striving to stay healthy can feel like an uphill battle. Women across the country face a variety of unique health issues throughout their lives, from infertility to breast cancer to international health scares like the Zika virus. How do you know what you’re at risk for? And most importantly, how can you protect yourself and stay healthy?

A huge step is simply learning more about the major health issues that women face today.

1. The Zika Virus

mosquito zika virus

The Zika virus is a disease spread to people by mosquito bites and through sexual contact. Symptoms are often mild or not present, but it can cause birth defects in pregnant women, including microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected.

It may not be the most widespread issue women face, but it’s incredibly important for women everywhere to understand the true risks Zika poses.

Who is at risk?

Zika is most dangerous for pregnant women. The majority of cases have occurred in South America, but women in the U.S. are at risk too — especially those who travel. Did you know the first known case of the Zika virus in Virginia was found in our hometown of Harrisonburg?

What can you do?

The CDC recommends Zika virus testing for all pregnant women who traveled to areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission, even if they have no symptoms.

  • Check the CDC website for the most up-to-date information.
  • Refer to the CDC’s travel information before visiting any areas that have reported cases of the Zika virus — especially if you’re pregnant.

Talk your doctor. If you’d like to learn more about Zika virus testing, or just have questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

2. Cancer

women run for breast cancer charity

Breast cancer and cervical cancer are two of the most common cancers affecting women today.

  • Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women.
  • Statistically, 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • An estimated 12,990 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year.

Who is at risk?

Any woman can get cancer, but women with a family history of cancer should be especially careful. HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancer, so women with HPV are at a higher risk.

What can you do?

Yearly women’s health exams including breast exams and pap tests are the best way to protect yourself. Early detection of cancers greatly improves long-term survival rates and may provide more treatment options.

3. Heart Disease

heart disease illustration

Sources: BodyParts3D/Anatomography, BruceBlaus

Heart disease includes a range of heart-related problems. Often when people say “heart disease” they’re referring to cardiovascular disease — disease in your heart’s major arteries, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Heart disease can also refer to other heart-related conditions, including problems with your heart’s rhythm and muscles.

Who is at risk?

As the leading killer of both men and women, heart disease accounts for about one third of all female deaths. Risk factors include increasing age, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, lack of physical activity, diabetes, and obesity.

What can you do?

Limit your risk factors by choosing a healthy lifestyle, including a healthy diet, regular exercise (walking counts!), and limited alcohol consumption.

Know the most common symptoms:

  • Pain or numbness in the chest, back, shoulder, arm, or jaw
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness or coldness in your arms or legs
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles or feet

4. Sexual Health

couple health

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. The types range from mildly uncomfortable to life-threatening. Some women have them with no symptoms for months or even years.

Who is at risk?

Women who are sexually active. Statistically, more than half of the population will have an STD or STI at some point in life.

What can you do?

Practice safe sex, make sure you’ve had your HPV and hepatitis vaccines, and get tested regularly for STDs and STIs. Learn more about which tests you need and how often.

5. Reproductive & Maternal Health

pregnancy health

Fertility and pregnancy health are extremely important for women who wish to become mothers. Even with today’s medicine, many women experience difficulty conceiving and pregnancy complications, both of which can be heartbreaking.

Who’s at risk?

A healthy lifestyle helps, but your age and family history also play a role.

What can you do?

The best thing you can do is find a physician or midwife you can trust throughout your journey to motherhood and beyond. A good health practitioner can help you by providing:

  • Fertility testing and treatment if necessary
  • Preconception counseling
  • Ultrasounds, lab work, and other testing throughout your pregnancy
  • Education and access to health resources
  • Labor planning
  • Personalized care to fit your individual needs

6. Osteoporosis

osteoporosis women

Image: BruceBlaus

Nearly 70% of osteoporosis sufferers are women. A decrease in your body’s estrogen levels can cause a loss of bone mass, making bones weak and brittle.

Who’s at risk?

Women who have gone through menopause have the highest risk.

What can you do?

Get plenty of calcium and vitamin D, avoid smoking and excessive alcohol, and participate in some kind of weight-bearing physical activity. Weight-bearing workouts stress and strengthen your bones and muscles more than everyday life. Examples include tai chi, yoga, walking/running, dancing, hiking, tennis, and more. (Just talk to your doctor before exercising if you already have osteoporosis.)

Also talk to your doctor about hormone therapy and other forms of treatment. We can diagnose osteoporosis with a bone density test, and then discuss the best treatment option for you.

7. Diabetes

diabetes exercise

Diabetes is a metabolic condition in which your body can’t produce enough insulin to regulate your blood sugar properly. Almost a quarter of women with diabetes haven’t been diagnosed.

Who is at risk?

Women who are overweight and have a family history of diabetes are at a higher risk. Women of color are also more likely to get diabetes, though experts aren’t sure why. Pregnant women are at risk for gestational diabetes.

What can you do?

Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a low-sugar diet, and keeping your blood pressure under control are good preventative measures. Go see your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms like increased thirst, hunger, fatigue, frequent urination, changes in weight, or blurred vision. With proper care, diabetes is a very treatable condition.

8. Alzheimer’s

looking at photos

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disease that destroys memory and other mental functions. Alzheimer’s often starts with simple forgetfulness or difficulty with problem solving.

Who’s at risk?

Age is the most important risk factor.

What can you do?

Because Alzheimer’s attacks the brain many people aren’t able to recognize early symptoms in themselves. Surround yourself with people you trust, and also keep an eye on your loved ones as they age. There’s no cure, but treatment can make a huge difference, especially when you catch the disease early.


copd pulmonary disease

Many people don’t think about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but it makes up about 5% of all female deaths. COPD is a group of lung diseases that includes bronchitis and emphysema.

Who’s at risk?

Smoking or a history of smoking is by far the biggest risk factor.

What can you do?

Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke if possible. Make sure your exercise routine includes aerobic activity. Examples include running, walking, swimming, and almost any other healthy activity that gets your heart pumping.

10. Mental Health

depression mental health women

Mental health issues like depression and anxiety often go overlooked, but these serious medical issues are more common than you might think — and more treatable.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1 in 8 women will experience clinical depression in her lifetime. That’s twice as common as men.

Who is at risk?

Anxiety and depression can happen as a result of outside stressors or a chemical imbalance. For example, pregnant women are at a particularly high risk for depression, especially postpartum depression, as a result of changing hormones.

The following other factors also put you at risk for mental health issues:

  • Family history of depression or anxiety
  • Childhood trauma
  • Stressful or traumatic events
  • Pregnancy or birth complications
  • Physical illnesses (like thyroid diseases) that affect your hormones

What can you do?

Pay attention to how you’re feeling. If you think you have depression or another mental health issue, make an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible. You may just find they can help.


Your health is worth protecting. At Shenandoah Women’s Healthcare, we believe all women deserve high-quality healthcare at every stage of life. We treat all our patients with respect and understanding.

If you have questions about your health, we’re here to help. Call Shenandoah Women’s Healthcare today at (540) 438-1314 or request an appointment online.

By | 2016-10-12T16:55:57+00:00 July 20th, 2016|Women's Health|0 Comments

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