Top Women's Health Issues

Some health issues affect only women. Other conditions may occur in anyone but affect women in a unique way. For example, women are more likely to die after a heart attack. Sometimes, sexually transmitted disease symptoms can be more serious in women.1

Women also are more likely to develop:1,2

  • Stroke
  • Certain cancers
  • Urinary tract problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis

Heart disease

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in women. Although it is not always talked about in connection with women, heart disease is serious. It caused 1 in 5 deaths in women in 2019.3,4


Every year, about 55,000 more women than men have a stroke. Some strokes involve bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic). Others involve blockage of a blood vessel that causes impaired blood flow (ischemic).2

Signs of stroke are speech problems and numbness of the hands and feet. Pregnant women can have high blood pressure during pregnancy, which can increase the risk for stroke. This condition is called preeclampsia.2

Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States. A woman in the U.S. has a 12 percent chance of getting breast cancer. Monthly self-examinations and yearly mammograms can help find breast cancer.2,5

Women aged 40 to 49 should talk to their doctor about when to get a mammogram. Those with BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are more likely to get breast cancer. Their doctors may recommend 3D mammography. Making healthy lifestyle choices, such as exercising and quitting smoking, may help lower your risk of breast cancer.2,6


Diabetes is a long-lasting condition that affects how your body makes energy from food. Both men and women can get it. However, women with diabetes are 4 times more likely to get heart disease. Women also develop more problems from diabetes, such as blindness, kidney disease, and depression.2

The main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. During pregnancy, women can get gestational diabetes. This is a condition in which blood sugar level goes up and problems can happen.2,7

Ovarian and uterine cancer

Uterine cancer is the most common type of gynecological cancer in the United States. Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer. However, ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.8,9

Often, ovarian cancer has no symptoms until after it has spread to the rest of the body. Symptoms can be vague or like symptoms from other conditions.4

Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) happen when germs get into the urine tube (urethra) and spread. UTIs are common in women because their urethra is shorter than men's. This makes it easier for bacteria to reach their bladder.2

Signs of a UTI include:2

  • Urinating often
  • Pain or burning while urinating
  • Cloudy urine

A doctor can prescribe antibiotics to help clear up a UTI. If they are a frequent problem, other tests can be done to show whether the urinary tract is normal.2

Depression and anxiety

Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can affect anyone. However, women are about twice as likely to develop depression than men. Depression has been linked to chemical imbalances in the brain. Many factors may lead to depression, including:4

  • Environmental
  • Other mental health
  • Physical
  • Genetic

Women's chances of becoming depressed increase with hormonal changes such as those that happen in puberty, menopause, and pregnancy.4

Some anxiety is normal and helps keep us safe. If anxiety gets in the way of your daily life and lasts for weeks or more, talk to your doctor. Anxiety disorders can be treated with medicine and counseling to learn coping skills.4

Sexually transmitted infections and cervical cancer

There are more than 30 types of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common. It can be prevented with the HPV vaccine.2

HPV is common and often goes away by itself. In some cases, it can cause cervical cancer. Cervical cancer happens when cells grow abnormally in the lower end of the uterus (cervix). To diagnose cervical cancer, doctors use a routine Pap test. They also might perform a physical exam, a pelvic exam, or other tests.4

Your doctor will ask you about:4

  • Your health history
  • Symptoms
  • Risk factors
  • Family history of the disease


Osteoporosis makes bones weak, so they break more easily. Older women past the age of menopause are at higher risk for these fractures. Risk factors for osteoporosis include:2

  • Some medications
  • Early menopause
  • A low body mass index (BMI)
  • Cancer treatment
  • Family genetics

To reduce their chance of developing osteoporosis, women can:2

  • Eat more foods with calcium or take a calcium supplement
  • Do weight-bearing exercises
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is an illness in which abnormal bundles of fibers (neurofibrillary tangles) and clumps of protein (amyloid plaques) form in the brain. This damages healthy brain cells and impairs memory. About 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and more than two-thirds are women.10,11

Regular checkups

Schedule regular checkups with your primary care doctor so they can look for these conditions. Getting routine tests often leads to early detection and treatment of health concerns. Other things you can do to prevent disease include:4

  • Stay at a healthy weight
  • Eat nutritious foods
  • Exercise regularly
  • Quit smoking

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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