Women face several unique health issues throughout their lifetimes. It is important to know the signs and symptoms and preventative measures for diseases and other healthcare situations affecting you today and tomorrow.
These simple and practical tips can steer you in the right direction:
Find a doctor who is sensitive to your needs to help you get regular check ups. The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association provides online health care referrals. You can access their database of members at www.glma.org or contact them at 415-255-4547.
Get a Pap test
The Pap test finds changes in your cervix early, so you can be treated before the problem becomes serious. Begin getting Pap tests no later than age 21 or within three years of first having sexual intercourse. After two to three yearly Pap tests have been normal, talk to your doctor or nurse about getting a Pap test at least once every three years. Talk to your doctor or nurse about an HPV test if your Pap test is abnormal. In combination with a Pap test, an HPV test helps prevent cervical cancer. It can detect the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an HPV DNA test for women as a follow-up to a Pap test with results that are abnormal and in combination with a Pap test in women aged 30 and older.
Practice safer sex
Get tested for STDs like chlamydia or herpes before beginning a relationship. If you’re unsure about a partner’s status, practice methods to reduce the likelihood of sharing vaginal fluid or blood, including condoms on sex toys.
Have a balanced, healthy diet
Eat a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. These foods give you energy, plus vitamins, minerals and fiber. Besides, they taste good! Try foods like brown rice or whole-wheat bread. Bananas, strawberries and melons are some great tasting fruits. Try vegetables raw, on a sandwich or in a salad. Be sure to pick a variety of colors and kinds of fruits and vegetables. You can vary the form — try fresh, frozen, canned or dried.
If you drink alcohol, don’t have more than one drink per day. Too much alcohol raises blood pressure and can raise your risk for stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis, many cancers and other problems.
As part of a healthy diet, you should also exercise regularly. An active lifestyle can help every woman. Thirty minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week can greatly improve your health and decrease your risk of heart disease and some cancers!
If you do smoke, try to quit. Avoid second hand smoke as much as you can.
Get help for domestic violence
Domestic violence isn’t just a phenomenon in heterosexual relationships. Some studies even indicate that domestic violence is more prevalent within same-sex relationships. Call the police or leave if you or your children are in danger! Call a crisis hotline or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or TDD 800-787-3224, which is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in English, Spanish and other languages. The Helpline can give you the phone numbers of local hotlines and other resources.
Build strong bones
Exercise. Get a bone density test. Make sure you get enough calcium and Vitamin D each day. Reduce your chances of falling by making your home safer. For example, use a rubber bathmat in the shower or tub. Keep your floors free from clutter. Lastly, talk to your doctor or nurse about taking medicines to prevent or treat bone loss.
Know the signs of a heart attack
Women are less likely than men to believe they are having a heart attack and more likely to delay in seeking treatment. For women, chest pain may not be the first sign your heart is in trouble. Before a heart attack, women have said that they have unusual tiredness, trouble sleeping, problems breathing, indigestion and anxiety. These symptoms can happen a month or so before the heart attack. During a heart attack, women often have these symptoms: pain or discomfort in the center of the chest; pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach; or other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.
— Provided by the Office of Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Edited and compiled by Q-Notes staff.