Numerous studies have confirmed a link between the role that nutritional imbalance can play in a number of serious illnesses. Cancer, heart disease and diabetes are all linked in part to nutritional imbalances – in particular, the consumption of too much saturated fat. Nutritional deficiencies such as lack of certain vitamins, perhaps due to not eating enough fresh fruits or vegetables, can also cause problems.
There are a number of health conditions and diseases that are more prevalent – some even exclusive – to women. For example, osteoarthritis is more prevalent in women, while women can also experience a vast range of symptoms due to the menopause. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also states that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, even though it’s perhaps one of the most under-reported. These differences between men and women may well be due to hormonal changes that occur after puberty, as well as differing lifestyles.
In general, women like you and me may need to watch out for the following conditions. But it’s important to take into account things like hereditary factors, lifestyle, and age, before causing yourself any unnecessary worry. Speak to your doctor if you’re unsure.
A Few Health Conditions Particular to Women
Scoliosis and Sodium
Underweight women with lower levels of body fat or estrogen, for instance, are at a greater risk of developing scoliosis. Taking vitamin B6, vitamin C, and tryptophan supplements may help to prevent its onset. Premenopausal women may see symptoms such as hot flashes alleviated by reducing their consumption of caffeine, hot peppers and sodium.
Sodium is also known for making the body hang onto excess fluids, which causes bloating, particularly before menstrual cycles and can be particularly dangerous if you have high blood pressure or any related conditions. One simple way to alleviate symptoms is by checking food labels to ensure that you’re not taking in too much sodium through your diet. Don’t add salt to food, either. If you find that you’re still feeling bloated despite reducing your intake through diet, see your doctor about taking a natural diuretic, or try something like licorice – it can be surprisingly effective.
Calcium and Vitamin C
During menopause, the decrease in estrogen levels often requires more calcium to offset loss of bone density. This doesn’t mean that you can “regrow” bone, but it may help to prevent breakages and keep your bones healthy and strong. According to a report by The Institute for Medicine of the National Academies, postmenopausal women experience a decline of calcium absorption by an average rate of 0.21 percent/year, so it’s important to increase your intake to account for this decrease in absorption. You could do this through a calcium supplement, or through your diet.
Not all supplements are completely safe, as I’ve explained before. Studies have shown a link between taking high doses of vitamin C supplements and developing age-related cataracts, for example. The link is not associated with consumption of fruits and vegetables; rather, this link is with regards to the consumption of supplements alone, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The recommended daily intake for women under 50 is 1,000 milligrams and 1,500 milligrams for those 51 and older. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new supplement, particularly if you already take medication.
The Public Health Service recommends that women who want to get pregnant or who are pregnant take folic acid, as it is found to reduce the occurrence of neural tube defects (NTDs) in foetuses. Taking folic acid as directed has been found to reduce this risk by as much as 50%-70%. Not only that, but it promotes heart health and can protect against colon cancer. The Institute of Medicine recommends daily folic acid intake of 400 milligrams daily for childbearing women who are not pregnant and 500 to 600 milligram doses for pregnant and breastfeeding women, respectively.
If you’re concerned about developing any of the conditions outlined above, or believe you’re suffering from any symptoms, see your doctor.