Headaches, dizziness, fatigue—these are all annoyances that busy women often ignore. But when it comes to your health, you are your best resource. You know your body better than anyone, so pay attention to how you feel. It could indicate an underlying problem.
Seeing your primary care physician and getting regular health checkups plays a major role in your health, especially if you have chronic problems such as diabetes, glaucoma, high blood pressure, or cardiovascular disease. But even if you’re healthy, watch out for these symptoms:
If you experience worsening or more severe headaches, or headaches accompanied by other neurological symptoms, see your doctor.
Additional neurological symptoms that you should not ignore include:
Weakness on one side of the body
These are all signs of something more serious, such as a stroke or a blood pressure problem. Keep in mind that high blood pressure, often referred to as the “silent killer,” doesn’t show any kind of scary signs until it’s been elevated for a while.
heart and blood vessels
Heart attacks and chest pain can present differently in women than in men. Women may not feel this classic “pressure feeling,” like sitting on your chest, but they may feel:
Pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
Tired more than usual when moving or exercising
nausea or dizziness;
Break out in sweat
These simple signs may tell you that something may be wrong, so go see your doctor.
Pay attention to any changes in the health of your gut, which could indicate digestive issues.
Signs to look for include:
You suddenly have prolonged or frequent diarrhea or constipation
Abdominal bloating or pain
Feeling full after not eating much
Nausea or vomiting
Colon cancer can show up as blood in the stool, so don’t ignore it. In fact, the prevalence of colon cancer among women is increasing, largely due to lack of activity and dietary choices.
If you are of childbearing age and have bleeding outside of your usual menstrual periods, this could indicate an infection or something more serious.
If you’ve gone through menopause and then bleed again, that’s concerning too.
You should also not ignore problems that affect your quality of life, even if they don’t cause serious harm. For example, if you’re experiencing a lot of pain on your period, it doesn’t necessarily indicate cancer, but it could be endometriosis or fibroids.
For breast problems, look for these signs:
Redness or warmth of the breast
Fluid leakage from the nipples
Depending on your genetic makeup and family history, plan to have a mammogram every year or two.
Build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis by consuming enough calcium and vitamin D and doing weight-bearing activities and strength training.
Warning signs to look out for:
Severe midline back pain that gets worse at night
Back pain that radiates or gets worse
numbness and tingling
Kidneys and urinary tract
If you have blood in your urine or severe back or side pain, especially if followed by the urge to urinate, see your doctor. It could be a urinary tract infection (UTI), a kidney stone, or something more serious. The best way to prevent kidney stones? Drink plenty of water and urinate regularly.
If you frequently suffer from UTIs, your doctor will need to get to the root of the problem. In perimenopausal or postmenopausal women, the loss of estrogen can increase the risk of UTIs.
If you notice a loss of feeling in your hands or feet, it could be an early sign of diabetes or mean that your diabetes is not well controlled, which could move on to a more serious problem. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar regularly and on your feet for signs of infection.
It is common for women to care about everyone else and put themselves last. If this sounds like you, practice self-care and “put your oxygen mask on first.” This means taking care of the basics – eating a healthy diet, getting good sleep, managing stress, not smoking and exercising regularly.
See your doctor annually and discuss which health screenings are right for you. Remember, you cannot take care of others if you are not feeling well.