Medically Reviewed by Dr Zara Chan
Women's health issues are diverse and vary across different stages of life. In this blog, we discuss the top 8 concerns and provide practical tips on how to address them.
Women's Health Concerns
Women face a variety of health concerns throughout their lives, from reproductive health issues to chronic conditions that can affect their overall well-being. However, many women may not prioritize their health due to busy schedules or a lack of awareness about the condition and the importance of preventive care.
By raising awareness about these common health concerns and providing practical advice on how to maintain good health, OT&P Women’s Health team hope to empower women to take charge of their health and well-being. Whether you're a young woman just starting to think about your health or a mature woman looking to maintain your well-being, this blog will provide valuable information and resources to help you prioritize your health and live your best life. So let's dive in and explore the top 8 women's health concerns and how to address them.
1. Breast health
Breast health is crucial to women's overall well-being. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide, with around 2.3 million new cases diagnosed in 2020 alone. (1) In Hong Kong, breast cancer is also the most common cancer among women, and 1 in 14 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. (2)
Common concerns include breast cancer, breast pain, and breast lumps. To maintain breast health:
- Perform regular self-examinations of your breasts
- Schedule breast checks and mammograms as if reccomended by your doctor
- Seek medical attention if you notice any changes or abnormalities
2. Reproductive Health in Women
Reproductive health is an essential component of women's overall well-being. Reproductive health concerns can range from menstrual irregularities to fertility issues and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
To maintain reproductive health:
- Practice safe sex and use protection. STIs can have serious consequences for women's reproductive health, including infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and cervical cancer. Practicing safe sex, getting regular STI screenings, and seeking medical attention for STIs can help prevent these complications and maintain reproductive health.
- Track menstrual cycles and monitor for irregularities. Having regular and healthy menstrual cycles is a sign of good reproductive health. Menstrual irregularities, such as heavy bleeding, painful periods, or missed periods, can indicate underlying health problems such as endometrial polyps and growths, hormonal imbalances, thyroid disorders, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Seeking medical attention for menstrual irregularities can help diagnose and treat underlying health problems and improve overall reproductive health.
- Fertility: Fertility issues affect millions of women worldwide. In Hong Kong, infertility affects around one in six couples. Fertility issues can be caused by a variety of factors, including hormonal imbalances, ovulation disorders, or structural abnormalities. Seeking medical attention for fertility issues can help diagnose and treat underlying problems and increase the chances of conception.
- Visit a women's health clinic for regular screenings and advice.
3. Cardiovascular Health in Women
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in women in Hong Kong. It accounts for 37.4 deaths per 100,000 women in 2020. (3) High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity are common risk factors. To maintain cardiovascular health:
- Engage in regular exercise and maintain a healthy diet: Regular physical activity can help improve cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol levels, and maintaining a healthy weight. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming. Eating a healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources, can also help reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Manage stress and avoid smoking: Chronic stress can have negative effects on cardiovascular health, such as increasing blood pressure. Managing stress through relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, can help reduce these effects. Smoking is also a major risk factor for heart disease and should be avoided.
- Monitor and treat risk factors under medical supervision: Risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, should be monitored regularly under medical supervision. Medications and lifestyle changes, such as dietary modifications and exercise, may be recommended to manage these risk factors and prevent or treat heart disease.
4. Mental health in Women
Mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are prevalent among women. In fact, women are twice as likely as men to experience depression and anxiety. (4) It's important to prioritize it just as much as physical health.
Here's why maintaining good mental health is crucial:
- Depression: Symptoms of depression include persistent sadness, loss of interest in daily activities, and feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
- Anxiety: Symptoms of anxiety include excessive worry, fear, and panic attacks.
- Eating Disorders: Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, affect women disproportionately. These disorders can have serious physical and mental health consequences and require professional help for treatment.
To maintain mental health:
- Practice stress management and self-care: Engage in activities that promote relaxation and stress reduction, such as exercise, meditation, or a hobby you enjoy. It’s also important to prioritize self-care, such as getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet.
- Seek support from friends, family, or professional help if needed: Don't be afraid to reach out to trusted friends and family members when you're feeling down or overwhelmed. Professional help is also available, such as talking therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, or medication.
- Maintain a healthy work-life balance: Striking a balance between work, family, and personal time can help reduce stress and promote good mental health.
5. Bone Health in Women
Bone health is important for both men and women, but women are at a higher risk for osteoporosis, a condition where bones become weak and brittle, making them more susceptible to fractures. This is down to a mixture of reasons including:
- Hormonal differences: Women experience greater hormonal changes throughout their lives, such as during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, which can affect bone density. During menopause, for example, oestrogen levels decrease, which can lead to a loss of bone density.
- Longer life expectancy: Women generally live longer than men, which means they have a longer period of time during which they are at risk for osteoporosis and fractures.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Pregnancy and breastfeeding can also affect bone health, as calcium is transferred from the mother to the growing fetus or to breast milk. Women who do not get enough calcium during pregnancy and breastfeeding may be at a higher risk for osteoporosis later in life.
To maintain bone health:
- Participate in weight-bearing exercises and strength training: Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, and dancing, can help improve bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Strength training exercises, such as lifting weights, can also help improve bone density and maintain muscle mass. If you suffer from bone density issues, be sure to consult your doctor or women’s health physiotherapist before starting a weight training programme.
- Consume a calcium-rich diet, including dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified foods: Calcium is essential for building and maintaining strong bones. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified foods such as cereals and orange juice.
- Consult your doctor for appropriate vitamin D supplementation and risk management: Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium and bone health. It can be obtained through sun exposure and certain foods such as fatty fish and egg yolks. However, many people may not get enough vitamin D through diet and sun exposure alone. Your doctor can recommend appropriate vitamin D supplementation based on your individual needs. They can also assess your risk for osteoporosis and recommend lifestyle changes and medications if necessary.
6. Skin Health in Women
Skin health concerns include acne, aging, and skin cancer.
To maintain skin health:
- Protect your skin from the sun: Exposure to the sun's harmful UV rays can cause skin damage, premature aging, and increase the risk of skin cancer. To protect your skin, use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply every two hours. Wear protective clothing, such as hats and long-sleeved shirts, and seek shade during peak sun hours.
- Follow a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats: A healthy diet can help maintain good skin health by providing essential nutrients and antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables, such as berries, leafy greens, and citrus fruits, can help protect against skin damage. Healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, and fatty fish, can help improve skin elasticity and texture.
- Schedule regular skin checks and consult a dermatologist if necessary: Regular skin checks can help detect skin cancer and other skin conditions early. It's important to be aware of any changes in your skin, such as new moles or spots, and to seek medical attention if necessary. A dermatologist can provide guidance on how to maintain good skin health and recommend appropriate skincare products for your individual needs.
7. Gynaecological Health
Gynaecological health concerns such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, and urinary tract infections can impact a woman's quality of life.
To maintain gynaecological health:
- Attend regular screenings at a women's health clinic in Hong Kong.
- Practice good hygiene, especially during menstruation: Practicing good hygiene can help prevent vaginal infections and other gynaecological issues. During menstruation, it's important to change tampons or pads regularly and to avoid using scented products or douches, which can disrupt the natural balance of the vagina. It's also important to wash the genital area with mild soap and water daily.
- Seek medical attention if you experience persistent or severe symptoms: Seeking medical attention if you experience persistent symptoms can help diagnose and treat underlying health problems and prevent more serious complications from developing.
8. Digestive Health In Women
Digestive health concerns like irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, and constipation are common in women.
To maintain digestive health:
- Consume a balanced diet rich in fibre, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains: Eating a diet that is high in fibre, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help regulate digestion and prevent constipation. Fibre-rich foods, such as beans, lentils, whole grains, and fruits, can also help lower the risk of developing colorectal cancer. It's also important to limit processed foods, sugary drinks, and red and processed meats, which have been linked to an increased risk of digestive problems and colorectal cancer.
- Stay hydrated and exercise regularly: Drinking enough water and staying hydrated can help keep digestion regular and prevent constipation. Exercise can also help regulate digestion and prevent constipation by promoting the movement of food through the digestive tract. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
- Consult your doctor for appropriate symptom management and treatment.
Prioritize your health by addressing these top 8 women's health concerns. Stay informed, proactive, and seek medical attention when necessary. Your well-being is worth investing in.
(1) Arnold M, Morgan E, Rumgay H, Mafra A, Singh D, Laversanne M, Vignat J, Gralow JR, Cardoso F, Siesling S, Soerjomataram I. Current and future burden of breast cancer: Global statistics for 2020 and 2040. Breast. 2022 Dec;66:15-23. doi: 10.1016/j.breast.2022.08.010. Epub 2022 Sep 2. PMID: 36084384; PMCID: PMC9465273.
(2) Breast cancer risk assessment tool. Cancer Online Resource Hub - Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2023, from https://www.cancer.gov.hk/en/bctool/index.html#:~:text=Breast%20cancer%20is%20the%20most,your%20personal%20risk%20is%206.8%25.
(3) Breast cancer risk assessment tool. Cancer Online Resource Hub - Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2023, from https://www.chp.gov.hk/en/healthtopics/content/25/57.html
(4) Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, January 29). Women's increased risk of depression. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved May 4, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression/art-20047725#:~:text=Women%20are%20nearly%20twice%20as,alone%20don't%20cause%20depression.