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Top 5 critical health risks every woman should be aware of

Common women health issues that every female should be aware of - Great Eastern Life Malaysia

Women's health concerns are often under-addressed and under-researched even in developed nations. Studies show alarming statistics that 47% of women report feeling dismissed about their health concerns,1 and that misdiagnosis rates for females are significantly higher than for males.2      

It's essential to recognise that as a society, we can do better to safeguard women. Women play a crucial role in advocating for themselves, taking a stand, and actively seeking the healthcare they need. 

In our pursuit of advocating for women's health and well-being, we'll explore the top 5 critical health risks and/or diseases that are common in females, along with proactive measures. This includes:

  • Cancer
  • Reproductive and Maternal Health
  • Heart Disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Autoimmune Diseases

Health Risk #1: Cancer 

While cancer is a prevalent concern both among males and females, women are more likely to develop certain forms of cancers, with breast, ovarian, and cervical cancers being among the most common.3,4 While genetic factors play a role, many risk factors are linked to lifestyle choices. The good news is, you have the power to make informed choices that can significantly reduce your risk.

How to mitigate risks 

Regular screenings are vital for early detection, giving you a head start in managing the disease. Schedule your mammograms, pap tests, and other recommended screenings based on your age and health history.

Promote a healthy lifestyle by prioritising a well-rounded diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while being mindful of limiting processed foods and sugary drinks. Incorporate regular exercise into your routine, striving for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week. 

Lastly, safeguard your health by avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, and managing your weight to further minimise the risk of cancer.

Protection plans to consider  

GREAT Multi Cancer Care offers comprehensive cancer insurance, providing you and your family an added layer of financial security with early protection against tumours, and additional benefits to aid your recovery. 

Health Risk #2: Reproductive and Maternal Health 

Beyond cancer awareness, women's health encompasses a vast field, including critical concerns related to reproductive health and maternal well-being. Conditions like endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affect millions of women globally, impacting fertility, quality of life, and even potentially leading to health complications.5,6 Understanding these conditions and proactively managing them is crucial.

How to mitigate risks 

Empower yourself by learning about common reproductive health issues like endometriosis and PCOS. Resources like our article "Irregular Periods: When a Check Up Is Needed" can provide valuable information and give you insight on when to seek medical advice.

Early diagnosis and proper management can significantly improve your quality of life and protect your health. This may involve medication, lifestyle changes, or even surgical interventions depending on the specifics of your situation. 

As for maternal and prenatal care, priority during pregnancy is paramount for both maternal and foetal health. Regular checkups, screenings, and consultations with your healthcare provider ensure potential problems are identified early and managed effectively.

Protection plans to consider 

Having a comprehensive and up-to-date medical policy will help ensure you can get the treatment when you need it most. You can consider the Smart Baby Shield Plus, it’s a plan that offers coverage for prenatal care, delivery, postnatal care, and even your newborn's early health needs, all while protecting your financial future.

Health Risk #3: Heart Disease 

Coronary heart disease is on top of the list of female diseases as well, claiming the lives of more women than any other cause. A recent study found that a staggering 80% of women between 40 and 60 have at least one risk factor for this silent killer.7 Even more concerning, the symptoms often differ from those in men, making diagnosis even more challenging.

How to mitigate risks 

Beyond the essentials of diet, exercise, and weight management, prioritising stress management and adequate sleep further strengthens your heart health.

Chronic stress is a silent threat to your heart. It can elevate blood pressure, increase inflammation, and harm the function of your blood vessels – all of which significantly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.8 Techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and spending time in nature can effectively manage stress. 

Just like stress, inadequate sleep can wreak havoc on your heart health. When you don't get enough sleep, your body releases stress hormones, disrupts blood sugar control, and increases inflammation, all of which contribute to heart disease risk.9 Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, wind down with relaxing activities before bed, and optimise your sleep environment for darkness, quietness, and coolness.

Get regular checkups to monitor your high blood pressure and cholesterol values as they are key indicators of cardiovascular health. High blood pressure (hypertension) and elevated cholesterol levels can contribute to the development of heart disease.10 Persistent high blood pressure puts extra strain on your heart, leading to potential damage to the arteries, while high cholesterol can result in the buildup of plaque in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems. 

Be sure to follow your doctor's recommendations for the prevention and management of heart disease. 

Be aware of atypical heart attack symptoms in women, which can include fatigue, shortness of breath, jaw pain, and neck pain.12,13 Don't dismiss any unusual symptoms; seek immediate medical attention. Most importantly, early detection is key. Schedule regular health checkups to stay ahead of potential problems and maximise your chances of successful treatment in the event of any health issues.

Protection plans to consider 

Smart Multi Critical Care is our critical illness plan that not only offers protection for over 180 other critical illness conditions across early to advanced stages, but also provides you double protection against heart attacks and strokes. 

Health Risk #4: Osteoporosis 

This health risk weakens your bones, making them fragile and more prone to fractures or breaks in serious situations. Women are at higher risk of suffering from osteoporosis, with the chance of developing it increasing as women undergo menopause due to the drop in the body’s ability to produce oestrogen.14,15,16

How to mitigate risks 

Regular weight-bearing exercises like walking, dancing, or using resistance bands stimulate bone growth and are great for combatting the risks of osteoporosis. 

As for nutrition, calcium and Vitamin D are your bone-building best friends. Ensure your diet includes calcium-rich foods like dairy, leafy greens, and tofu, or consider supplements if needed, whereas Vitamin D from sunlight exposure and dietary sources like fatty fish and fortified foods are crucial for calcium absorption. Do avoid smoking and try to moderate alcohol intake as they deplete bone density and weaken your skeletal structure. 

And of course, do schedule regular checkups and bone density scans, especially after menopause, as they can help identify early signs of osteoporosis and allow for timely intervention.

Protection plans to consider 

Having a medical insurance plan such as our Smart Multi Critical Care plan will help keep you protected from various health risks that could occur with age, as it covers all your medical needs up to the age of 80.

Health Risk #5: Autoimmune Diseases 

Autoimmune diseases occur when your body’s natural defence system (the immune system) becomes confused and attacks healthy cells and tissues.11

In a healthy body, the immune system distinguishes between foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria and normal cells. However, autoimmune diseases cause this distinction to break down, leading to inflammation, pain, and sometimes lasting damage to various parts of the body like joints, skin, organs, or glands.

Women are more susceptible to some autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis just to name a few.11,17,18 Additionally, studies have found that women with autoimmune diseases experience an average diagnostic delay (of up to 4.1 years).19

How to mitigate risks 

Start by educating yourself about autoimmune diseases and their potential symptoms. For instance, sweating when it’s hot is perfectly normal, but if it leads to rashes or skin inflammation, you might be looking at an autoimmune condition. Awareness is the key to unlocking early diagnosis and better management. What this also means is to go for regular checkups with your healthcare provider. List down the concerns you have and the symptoms you’ve identified and they will take it from there.     

Sun exposure also plays a role as exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can trigger certain autoimmune diseases or exacerbate its symptoms, especially those with lupus. This means that if you were to go out doors, make sure to wear protective clothing and use a sunscreen. Otherwise, minimise sun exposure.

Last but not least, manage your stress levels. Excessive levels of stress can weaken your immune system, which may trigger autoimmune responses. Try and make time for activities such as yoga, or even simple relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing exercises. A little mindfulness goes a long way!

Protection plans to consider 

Our critical illness plan covers the above autoimmune diseases as well as a large range of other critical illnesses, offering you peace of mind that you’ll be protected.

Women often need to juggle numerous roles in our daily lives, but taking care of our health should never take a backseat. Schedule that checkup, explore preventive steps, and consider incorporating healthy habits like maintaining a balanced diet into your routine. Additionally, connecting with your life planning advisors can help you explore comprehensive medical plans when navigating any unexpected health journey with confidence.





















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