Special Report

50 Health Tips Every Woman Should Know

Hristina Byrnes, John Harrington

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1. Pay attention to your mental health

Depression, anxiety, and somatic complaints are three disorders, which more women are diagnosed with, according to the World Health Organization. Unipolar depression, which is a condition of persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, is twice as common in women as it is in men. It is also predicted to be the second leading cause of global disability burden of both genders by 2020. The incapacity associated with mental illness is most heavy in people, most of whom are women, who experience three or more disorders at the same time.

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2. Don’t pay so much attention to the BMI number

BMI is shorthand for body mass index and is calculated based on a person’s height and weight. BMI levels and broken down into four: underweight, normal, overweight, and obese. Though some in the medical field consider it a fine gauge for obesity, others think it is obsolete. Critics such as Scott Kahan, director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness, say BMI doesn’t capture the full picture of the person. He says a person may be overweight but their cholesterol and blood pressure levels might be good.

It’s a simple number that doesn’t take into consideration where, for example, most of the body fat is located. While two people of the same height may weigh the same, and therefore have similar BMIs, if most of the fat in one is on the belly, he or she may have increased risks of certain conditions.  Because abdominal fat is deeper and surrounds the internal organs, it may increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. BMI is still measured by many doctors to assess weight, and this is how the average weight of men and women has changed since the 1970s.

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3. Know the signs of an eating disorder

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. It breaks down signs of eating disorders — such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating — into two categories: emotional and behavioral and physical. Emotional and behavioral symptoms include: preoccupation with weight, food, and dieting; discomfort eating with others; mood swings; being overly concerned about body image; withdrawing from friends. Physical symptoms include: fluctuations in weight; menstrual irregularities; trouble focusing; dizziness and fainting; sleep problems; cuts and calluses on finger joints (from induced vomiting).

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4. Know the risks of heart disease

Only about 56% of women are aware that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, according to the CDC. One in about five female deaths were attributed to heart disease in 2017. Heart disease is the No. 2 killer, after cancer, only among Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander women. Activities and conditions that increase the risk of developing heart disease include eating an unhealthy diet rich in processed and fatty foods, being physically inactive, having diabetes, being overweight, and drinking too much alcohol. In general, one in every four deaths in the United States is caused by heart disease — and these are the states with the most heart disease.

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5. Know the symptoms of a heart attack in women

A major difference in heart attack symptoms in men and women is chest pain — women may or may not experience chest discomfort, according to the American Heart Association. While angina (chest pain caused by restricted blood flow to the heart) might be a missing symptom in men too, it is far more common in women — and when chest pain occurs, it is often not severe. Women are more likely to experience vague heart attack symptoms such as stomach, neck, and jaw pain, nausea, sweating, dizziness, and unexplained fatigue.