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Personal Health

The Women's Health Movement by the Numbers

Thanks to the women's health movement and growing awareness, women's health is improving. But even if you're well informed about the risks and recommendations for women, some facts might still surprise you. Here are some important details you should know about women's health:

Surprising Facts About Women's Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Asthma occurs more frequently in women than men.
  • The most common disability for women is arthritis or rheumatism. About 27 million women in the U.S. have a disability.
  • About 6 percent of married women between the ages of 15 and 44 have infertility issues.
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding, which is defined as bleeding that lasts for more than seven days or is very heavy, happens in almost one out of five women in the U.S.
  • Women are more likely to experience chronic pain and be prescribed opioids than men. There were nearly 48,000 opioid overdose deaths in women from 1999 to 2010, and they're only increasing.

Greatest Risks to Women

Women are at greater risk of certain health crises. Being informed about the risks can help you take precautions, so take this information to heart:

  • The leading causes of death for women are heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory disease.
  • For women ages 20 and up, 38.5 percent are obese, and 33.4 percent have hypertension. (CDC)
  • The most common mental health problem for women is depression. (World Health Organization)
  • 50 percent of women said their stress increased over the last five years, compared to 39 percent of men. (National Institute of Health)
  • More women than men suffer strokes every year. Risk factors unique to women include birth control pills, pregnancy, migraines, hormone replacement therapy, and a thicker waist. (NIH)

Good News About Women's Health

But there's also good news. Women are in pretty good shape overall, according to the CDC:

  • Only 13.3 percent of women ages 18 and older are in fair or poor health.
  • Only 18.9 percent of women had four or more drinks in a day (at least once) in a year.
  • Only 13.9 percent of women smoke cigarettes.
  • Only 9.1 percent of women under the age of 65 don't have health insurance.

Recommended Women's Health Screenings By Age

Here are just some of the screenings recommended for women. Talk to your doctor about which ones apply to you.

Ages 18-39

  • Blood pressure screening: Every three to five years if it's normal.
  • Cholesterol screening: Starting between the ages of 20 to 45, screen every five years if normal.
  • Diabetes screening: Only for those who are overweight or with blood pressure over 135/80.
  • Cervical cancer screening: This is done via a pelvic exam and Pap smear should begin at age 21, every three years. After age 30, once you have a normal Pap smear and HPV test, you only need a Pap and pelvic exam every five years.
  • Women who are sexually active should be screened for chlamydia and gonorrhea up until age 25, and thereafter only if high-risk.

Ages 40-64

  • Blood pressure screening: Every year.
  • Cholesterol screening: Between the ages of 40 to 45, every five years if normal.
  • Diabetes screening: Every three years after age 44.
  • Between 50 to 75, you need the following colorectal cancer screenings: colonoscopy every 10 years, flexible sigmoidoscopy every 10 years, and a stool-based test yearly.
  • You should have a bone density exam if you get a fracture after the age of 50.
  • Osteoporosis screening if you're under 65 and have risk factors.
  • Pap smear every three years, or every five years with an HPV test.

Ages 65+

  • Blood pressure screening: Every year.
  • Cholesterol screening: Every five years if normal.
  • Diabetes screening: Every three years.
  • Up to age 75, you need the following colorectal cancer screenings: colonoscopy every 10 years, flexible sigmoidoscopy every 10 years, and a stool-based test yearly.
  • Start getting a pneumococcal vaccine every five years.
  • Bone density exam.
  • If you had three negative Pap smears in the last 10 years, you can stop having Paps and pelvic exams.

Mammogram Recommendations

Mammograms are important, but expert recommendations differ as to when you should get them. Talk with your doctor and make the decision that's best for you. Here are the different recommendations:

  • American Cancer Society: Women should have mammograms every year between ages 45-54 and every two years from age 55 on, as long as you're in good health.
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network: Every year starting at 40, as long as you're in good health.
  • U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: Every two years from ages 50 to 74.

The women's health movement has certainly made a difference in improving overall well-being for women in the United States, but we still have work to do. Talk to your doctor about your required screenings. If you're not already exercising regularly and eating healthfully, it's never too late to start.

Posted in Personal Health

Author and publicist, featured by Business Week, Livestrong, The Nest, and many other publications. Her interests include Science, technology, business, pets, women's lifestyle and Christian living.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.