Make a Year-Round Commitment to May’s Emphasis on Women’s Health 2018

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May 08, 2018
Make a Year-Round Commitment to May’s Emphasis on Women’s Health
By Darra McMullen,
Women’s Health Network Writer/Researcher
Because the month of May features the Women’s Health Week national observance, this month would seem to be the perfect opportunity to contemplate women’s health issues that we should be cognizant of all year.
The following article was first published in 2015, as a means of providing an overview of some important health topics that should be at the forefront of women’s minds, and as a gentle reminder to women of issues to address with their doctors for improved health outcomes.  We offer this article again, for review and to kick off our observance of the importance of women’s health and to help celebrate the national focus on women’s health during the month of May.  Please enjoy the following article and think seriously about areas where your own health could be improved.

To begin, let’s think for a moment about the frequently heard admonishment of “Know your numbers.”  The idea behind the statement is a sound one, but what exactly does it mean?

Generally, the cautionary quip refers to being aware of your readings for blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and blood sugar, and additionally, the statement encourages us to go have those items measured at a doctor’s office if we have not done so recently.

Certainly, evaluating these critical aspects of health is very important to do and taking any needed corrective action for health improvement on these measures is advisable, but our need to “know our numbers” doesn’t end there.  A variety of other crucial health issues can’t be evaluated at all without some completely different parameters being tested.

Let’s take a look at a few of these parameters now.

A liver enzyme panel refers to a group of factors that can be tested from a blood sample to check on the functioning of the liver.  A common misconception among many people is that nothing is likely to be wrong with the liver unless a person is a heavy drinker or is very overweight.  This idea is simply not true.

Fatty liver disease can occur in anyone, including the lean and/or very fit person.  Likewise, gallstones, which are related to liver function, can occur in anyone, even the lean or fit individual.  Gallstones are most common in middle-aged women.

Off balance liver enzymes can also be an indicator of liver cancer or hepatitis.

Fatty liver disease, gallstones, hepatitis, and liver cancer can all have serious health consequences, including death.

Have your liver enzymes tested.  Many doctors will automatically run these tests during a once or twice yearly check-up, but be proactive.  Ask your doctor to run this panel if he doesn’t automatically do so at your next check-up.

Another important blood panel to be tested for is the group of factors pertaining to kidney function.  Many people don’t realize they have a smoldering kidney condition until serious symptoms appear, at which time significant kidney damage may have already occurred.  It is better to get a simple blood test to check on kidney function on a regular basis to catch problems early – while they’re still more treatable.  Checking periodically on kidney function is especially important for the diabetic person, those suffering from heart or thyroid conditions, or for people with a history of repeated bladder infections, which can sometimes lead to kidney infection and damage.  Persons who have ever had an alcoholic drinking problem are also at greater risk of kidney issues, as are the chronically dehydrated folks who simply don’t drink enough water or who consume too many soft drinks in lieu of water.

Another group of factors critical to health are the ones covered by the CBC, or Complete Blood Count.  This blood test covers a number of factors pertaining to the health of a person’s red and white blood cells.  Red cells are crucial to oxygen transport throughout the body, while white cells are crucial to immune response and function.

If all is not well with one or more types of the body’s blood cells, anemia, poor immune response, or blood cancers may be present.  An allergic response to some stimuli can even be detected by looking at the type and number of white cells present.

When having blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and body weight checked, be sure that you also get the liver panel, kidney function parameters, and CBC added to your list of health tests.  All of these are “numbers to know”.

Other Health Cautions:

Eyes and Ears:
If you are experiencing any out-of-the-ordinary problems with your eyes or ears, have them checked right away.  Nothing can replace our precious sight or hearing, so take care of any odd symptoms as soon as possible.

Even lingering low-grade infections in the eyes or ears can eventually cause vision or hearing loss.  If you’re not sure where to turn for a well qualified ear or eye doctor, ask your regular doctor for a referral.  Most docs are happy to help you pursue greater health in whatever form is needed.

Digestive Issues:
Tell your doctor about the symptoms right away if you are experiencing a greater frequency of any of the following: heartburn, acid reflux, nausea, loose stools, gas, lack of appetite, greatly increased appetite, weight loss or weight gain without a change in dietary intake, abdominal pain or cramping, mucous or blood in the stool.
Many people with Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, IBS, or even simple stomach ulcers are not properly diagnosed for months or even several years.  Digestive system cancers are not always identified in a timely manner either.  Often, patients don’t seek help until after suffering for a long time.  Even when they do seek help, doctors may not be aggressive enough to find the answer or may give the patient an answer, but not a correct one, namely a misdiagnosis.

Some digestive system problems may stem from something as easily corrected as a poor diet or stopping consumption of a food to which the patient is intolerant.  Changing dietary habits will often cure these types of patients.

Whether the problem is serious, like a digestive system cancer, or simple, like a need for change in dietary habits, the sooner a patient seeks help, the sooner the problem can be resolved and generally, with a better outcome.

Female Parts:
No overview of major points concerning women’s health would be complete without mention of the need for regular scrutiny of the breasts, vagina, ovaries, and uterus.  All women should have their female parts checked on a regular basis.  Talk with your doctor about your personal risk levels for breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers or other health conditions affecting those body areas.  Work together to figure out a diagnostic test schedule appropriate for your risks and needs, and then stick with that testing schedule to minimize your risk of future problems.

Above all, when it comes to your health, know your numbers – for several different parameters, and remember to be proactive about any health symptoms, wherever they may occur in your body.  You are your own best advocate.


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