10 Health Concerns Every Woman Should Know About

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women and men in the United States. Heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions, the most common type of heart disease being coronary heart disease (CAD). CAD can lead to a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is severely blocked or reduced. The blockage is usually due to a buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances in the heart (coronary) arteries.

Symptoms of a heart attack include the following:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • weakness in the arms
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Cases have been reported where women did not recognize their symptoms as a heart attack and instead dismissed it as working out too hard or having heartburn. 

Menopause does not cause heart disease, but certain risk factors are more common after menopause, like higher blood pressure, cholesterol, and lower estrogen.


Stoke affects 55,000 more women than men every year. There are two types of strokes: hemorrhagic (bleeding in the brain), and ischemic (blockage of blood vessels that causes impaired blood flow).

Symptoms of a stroke include the following:

  • Difficulty with speech
  • Numbness of the extremities

A link has been discovered between pregnancy and stroke. Preeclampsia is a condition characterized by high blood pressure during pregnancy. Preeclampsia can increase the risk of stroke.


Diabetes quadruples the risk for heart disease in women. Women are susceptible to diabetes-related complications like blindness, kidney disease, and depression. Gestational diabetes is a condition that can occur during pregnancy when glucose level goes up, and complications develop. This occurs in 3 in 100 women. Treatment includes a careful diet, exercise, blood glucose monitoring, insulin injections, and oral medication.

Diabetes can cause difficulties during pregnancy, including miscarriage and birth defects. Special testing and monitoring may be needed for pregnant women who have diabetes. Monitoring is especially needed for insulin-dependent patients. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and not smoking lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Symptoms of diabetes include the following:

  • Frequent urination
  • Frequent thirst
  • Drastic unintentional weight loss
  • Increased hunger
  • Blurry vision
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet.
  • Unusual exhaustion
  • Very dry skin
  • Wounds are slow to heal.
  • Rise in infections

Maternal health issues

Pregnancy can impact a woman’s health. Women with diabetes or high blood pressure should have those conditions under their best control if they plan to conceive. Women with high-risk conditions should discuss their care plans with their physicians. Women should not conceive immediately after weight loss surgery. During pregnancy, women should have adequate nutrition and take preventative measures by getting the appropriate immunizations.

Early signs of pregnancy include the following symptoms :

  • Nausea
  • Breast changes
  • Fatigue
  • Spotting “implantation bleeding”
  • Cramps
  • Mood Swings
  • Headaches
  • Backaches
  • Frequent Peeing
  • Cravings
  • Food Aversions
  • Bloating and constipation

Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur when germs get into the urethra and start to multiply. They are common in women due to a shorter urethra. A shorter urethra means a shorter distance for bacteria to travel to reach the bladder. A UTI can go away on its own. A physician can prescribe antibiotics if needed. 

Symptoms of a UTI include the following:

  • frequent urination, 
  • pain and burning when urinating, 
  • cloudy urine. 

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

There are more than 30 types of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). One of the most common is human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV can be prevented with an HPV vaccine. About 80% of sexually active men and women will be infected at some point in their lives. 

Symptoms of STIs in women include the following:

  • Vaginal Discharge
  • Pelvic Pain
  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Discomfort during urination
  • Lesions, listers, or warts
  • A rash

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus that is at the top of the vagina. Cervical cancer was one of the most common causes of death in women. Now, Pap smears can detect precancerous cells and deliver treatment to eliminate them. This drastically reduces the rate of cervical cancer. Pap smears involve collecting cells from the cervix. 

Symptoms of Cervical cancer include the following:

  • Vaginal bleeding during intercourse, between periods, or after menopause
  • Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy or have a foul odor.
  • Pelvic pain or pain during intercourse

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in American women. American women have a 12% chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. Monthly self-examinations can help identify changes in the breasts. Any changes should be shared with a primary care provider.  Women should do a yearly scheduled mammogram starting at age 40. Genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes increase the risk of breast cancer. Risks can be managed with healthy lifestyle choices like exercising and not smoking.

Symptoms of Breast cancer include the following:

  • A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue.
  • Change in the size, shape, or appearance of a breast.
  • Changes to the skin over the breast
  • A newly inverted nipple
  • Peeling, scaling, crusting, or flaking of the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple.
  • Redness or pitting of the skin over the breast.


Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to weaken, making them susceptible to fractures. Postmenopausal women are at higher risk for fractures associated with osteoporosis. Other risk factors include certain medications, early menopause, a low body mass index (BMI), cancer treatment, and genetics. Risks can be offset by increasing calcium intake, staying active, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol use.

Symptoms of osteoporosis can include the following:

  • Back pain
  • Loss of height over time
  • A stooped posture
  • Bones break easier

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of brain degeneration in which abnormal particles called neurofibrillary tangles and plaques form in the brain and destroy healthy brain cells. Two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are women. Healthy lifestyle choices like staying active and eating a healthy diet can help promote optimal brain health. No treatment cures Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is known to get progressively worse over time. 

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include the following:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulties concentrating and thinking.
  • Difficulties making judgments and decisions.
  • Struggle to plan and perform familiar tasks.
  • Changes in personality and behavior
  • Depression
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Social withdrawal
  • Mood swings
  • Distrust in others 
  • Anger or aggression
  • Changes in sleeping habits.
  • Wandering
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Delusions 


9 Health Issues Every Woman Should Understand | Northwestern Medicine

Heart Disease | cdc.gov

Heart attack – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic

Diabetes Symptoms | CDC

Early Signs of Pregnancy (babylist.com)

STD Symptoms Women Need to Know About — STD Symptoms in Women (womansday.com)

Pap smear – Mayo Clinic

Breast cancer – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic

Osteoporosis – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic

Alzheimer’s disease – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic

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