Michigan Association of Health Plans

6 Surprising facts about women’s health

This article appeared on the Commonwealth Care Alliance website. Read more here

May is Women’s Health Month, a time dedicated to prioritizing women’s health. It’s also an important reminder to women to take preventative health measures and educate themselves on their most common health risks. Here are 6 surprising facts you may not know about women’s health.

While women live longer than men, they don’t always age healthier.

In the US, women tend to live longer than men by about 6 years. This is because, in part, they tend to visit the doctor more often and maintain stronger social connections throughout life.

However, as women get older, they tend to experience more issues with mobility than men. This can impact their ability to walk, dress themselves, prepare meals, or get out of bed. And of course, with time, this affects their safety, independence, and quality of life.

One way to reduce the risk of these issues is by prioritizing mobility as we age. Start with a 10-minute walk a day to build a routine and improve health over time.

Osteoporosis and urinary incontinence are two conditions that can impact women more than men.

Due to menopause, women over 50 are 4 times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. Without treatment, osteoporosis can lead to bone fractures, loss of height, and reduced mobility. Women should talk to their doctor about their specific risks and all women over 65 should get screened with a bone density test.

Urinary incontinence is also linked to menopause, and it affects twice as many women as men. While it may be embarrassing to discuss urinary incontinence, there ARE treatment options. Be sure to talk to your doctor because you don’t have to live with it!

Women may also be at higher risk for heart disease than men.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both women and men, but women can be at greater risk because they’re more likely to experience delays in diagnosis. They also may receive less aggressive treatments. This can lead to worse outcomes.

The symptoms are also misunderstood. When you see someone on TV having a heart attack, you usually see someone having chest pain that radiates down from their arm. Both men and women experience these symptoms, but women may also experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back or jaw pain. We often ignore these symptoms because we don’t realize we’re having a heart attack. Women need to take action if they are having these “atypical” heart attack symptoms.

Women tend to experience more depression and anxiety than men.

In general, women tend to experience more depression and anxiety than men. But another big factor to consider is that women are not always prepared to live longer than men. If you lost your spouse, or never married, or your children moved far away, you’re at a higher risk for isolation.

At CCA, we believe that maintaining community is critical to aging well. That’s why our care teams include community health workers and behavioral health clinicians that connect members to programs, services, and providers that can help those who feel isolated or alone.

Beyond medical conditions, other factors can impact women’s health as they age.

Not having a financial safety net can be a big problem later in life. If you’re on a fixed income and you’re struggling to buy groceries or pay rent, that can have a big impact on your physical and mental health. Even lacking transportation to get to medical appointments or the grocery store can have an impact.

That’s a big focus for us at CCA. We offer a holistic approach to care that focuses on our members’ physical health, mental health, and social support needs. Social support needs may include things like access to housing, food, community resources, legal services, transportation, disability supports, and other services that are critical to aging well.

Preventive health can make a big difference in how well women age.

As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Here are some common screenings that women should consider as they age:

  • Annual mammograms
  • Regular colonoscopies
  • Cervical cancer or HPV testing screenings
  • Osteoporosis screenings
  • Depression screening

You should speak with your doctor about each of these screenings to see which one is right for you. Several other screenings may be appropriate based on your conditions and family history. Screening recommendations may vary, so keep up with annual wellness exams.

It’s important to remember that healthcare is personal. While I’ve shared some important tips for helping women age well, there is no substitute for talking to your provider to develop a personalized care plan. Be sure to engage with your doctors and your health plan to advocate for yourself and your needs.

And don’t forget—self-care is important too!

  back to blog