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Women's General Health Facts to Know


1. When managing your health, you should be aware of all the risks and benefits of treatments. A risk is something you should be aware of because it could cause harm. A benefit is something that can improve your well-being.

2. Making medical decisions involves reviewing the most current information available to make the best choice. Your health care professional should stay up-to-date on medical information and be able to tell you about the latest treatments available.

3. Medications can interact with each other to cause uncomfortable or harmful side effects. Be sure to tell your health care professional(s) about every medication you take, including over-the-counter remedies as well as herbal or vitamin supplements.

4. Osteoporosis is a mostly preventable and treatable disease that thins and weakens your bones. To prevent this disease, increase your intake of calcium; do weight-bearing exercises regularly; and if you smoke, quit.

5. Eating a balanced diet, exercising, scheduling time for yourself, as well as balancing your priorities, are positive ways to beat stress.

6. Limiting your exposure to the sun is the best way to keep your skin healthy.

7. After age 50, women may wish to incorporate some degree of strength training — lifting weights or exercising against resistance — into their activities. Strength training can make bones stronger, improve balance and increase muscle strength and mass. Exercises such as running, brisk walking, cycling and aerobics helps improve function of the heart, lungs and circulatory system and helps decrease your risk of heart disease — at any age. Exercise also help women reduce their risk of developing diabetes and may help them manage the condition, if they develop it.

8. Mammogram and breast exams by a health care professional are currently the most reliable way to detect breast abnormalities at their earliest, most treatable stages. Breast self-exam may also help you identify something abnormal in your breast tissue. Clinical breast exams should be performed every three years between ages 20 to 40 and annually after the age of 40. Every woman should have a mammogram once every one to two years, beginning at age 40.

9. All women should have a Pap test beginning at age 18, or at the onset of sexual activity, if earlier, and continue annually. After three or more consecutive satisfactory normal annual exams, the Pap test may be performed less frequently at the discretion of the physician. This painless test — done during an annual gynecological exam - involves taking a sample of cells, which are scraped from the cervix, and examining them for abnormal cells that could indicate cancer.

10. If you have a family history of polyps (small growths in the colon) and/or colon cancer, discuss with your health care professional how often and at what age you should be screened for colon cancer. These factors greatly increase your risks for developing colon cancer. Generally, you should start having colon cancer screenings beginning at age 50. Individuals with a family history of the disease or polyps should begin screening earlier.

Copyright 2003 National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC)


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