Tag Archives: women’s health

5 Key Health Priorities for Women

From youth to adulthood and beyond, there are certain health priorities every woman should focus on. Dr. Carla Rafferty, an expert in women’s health and family medicine at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, shares her thoughts on five key areas of women’s health.

1) Important Screenings and Procedures

One of the first screenings women need to consider is a Pap test, which screens for cervical cancer—or even signs of early progression towards cervical cancer. Most women should have had their first Pap test by age 21.

Mammograms are another essential screening. “The guidelines have changed a bit,” notes Dr. Rafferty, “but for the most part, starting around age 40 is when a woman should be thinking about getting her first mammogram. Breast cancer is an important thing to detect early, as it is very treatable.”

The third recommended screening is a colonoscopy, or some other type of less-invasive screening like a stool assessment. Dr. Rafferty states that women should think about this screening around age 50, unless they have risk factors that necessitate screening earlier.

2) Pregnancy

Women who want to get pregnant, or are already pregnant, may not know everything they need to know to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Dr. Rafferty recommends asking your primary care provider for guidance and advice, or turning to trusted resources either online or within the community. Overall, women can ensure that both they and their unborn babies stay healthy by taking prenatal vitamins, quitting smoking and abstaining from alcohol and drugs.

3) Mental Health

Often tasked with being the “caregivers” of their families, many women may not realize how much the stresses of daily life can impact their mental health. It’s important to reach out for help when feeling overburdened. “Every one of our primary care offices has embedded social workers, and even the nurses you might talk with on the phone are a good place to start,” notes Dr. Rafferty. Keeping your mind healthy is just as important as a healthy body.

4) Menopause

The milestone often referred to as “the change of life” is not an easy time for many. Women may experience fatigue, hot flashes, decreased libido, difficulty losing weight, mental fog, mood swings and vaginal dryness. “All of these changes can weigh heavily—not only on a woman’s body, but also on her mental state,” cautions Dr. Rafferty.

Dr. Rafferty advises women try to maintain a regular exercise regimen, eat a healthy diet, quit smoking and get adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D. “Menopause also increases a woman’s risk of heart disease,” she adds, “so eating healthy and exercising are also ways to help prevent that risk.”

5) Age-Related Conditions

As women age, they become more at risk for certain conditions. Osteoporosis is one that tends to impact women more severely than men. Dr. Rafferty notes that this bone-weakening disease leads to further difficulties as well, but there are ways to combat it. Proper nutrition and physical activity, particularly doing weight-bearing exercises, will help strengthen bones. Women are often advised to get bone density screenings as they get older, and medications are available to address the disease.

Two additional age-related conditions are heart disease and dementia. Women can monitor the risk of both by maintaining regular visits with their primary care provider.

For women of all ages, Dr. Rafferty has one final piece of advice: don’t put off caring for your health. “If you think something isn’t right, it’s always better to get checked out than to delay.”

To listen to the full interview with Dr. Carla Rafferty on our new Allied and Well podcast, click here.

Dr. Carla Rafferty, Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana
Quick Women's Health Tips

Quick Women’s Health Tips

It’s Women’s History Month, which makes it the perfect time to talk about your health and issues with these quick women’s health tips.

Prenatal care and care after you give birth are key parts of a healthy pregnancy. Learn more about your pregnancy care.


Your yearly well-woman visit with your doctor is the right time to talk about issues like endometriosis and menopause and to get routine screenings for breast and cervical cancer and bone density.


Women are more likely to die from a heart attack, and one of the reasons for that is not knowing the heart attack symptoms for women, which are different than for men.

Women and Heart Attacks


Women are more likely to show signs of depression and anxiety than men.

Depression and Anxiety in Women


STDs can affect women more seriously than men, which makes screenings and the HPV vaccine very important.

STDs' Impact on Women


Osteoarthritis, which affects more women than men, can hurt your ability to be independent later in life.

Osteoarthritis and Women


Women are more likely to suffer from urinary tract issues throughout their lives.

UTIs and Women
Fibroid Awareness Week

Fibroid Awareness Week

It’s Fibroid Awareness Week. Fibroids are muscular tumors, usually benign, that grow in the wall of the uterus for women.

Fibroids can be as small as an apple seed or as big as a grapefruit. 20% to 80% of women develop them by age 50.

Fibroid Size and Frequency


Not all women with fibroids have symptoms, but those who do can have pain, pressure on the bladder, frequent urination, or even a swollen abdomen.

Fibroid Symptoms


Risk factors for fibroids include age, family history, ethnic origin, obesity, and eating habits, like eating too much red meat. Eating plenty of green veggies is associated with a lower risk of fibroids.

Risk Factors for Fibroids


If you get pregnant and have fibroids, you might have more problems during your pregnancy. OB-GYNs are used to this situation, though, so talk to your doctor about your fibroids when you find out you’re pregnant.

Pregnant with Fibroids


Your doctor can diagnose you with fibroids through an exam or imaging tests like ultrasounds, X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans.

Diagnosing Fibroids


There are treatments for fibroids, including meds and surgery, if you have pain, they’re large, or you want to get pregnant.

Fibroids and Your Future
Cervical Health for Women

Cervical Health Awareness Month 2015

Each day this week for Cervical Health Awareness Month, we shared videos with more info about cervical health and cancer.

See the scope of cervical cancer and learn about making a difference:


Cervical Cancer is the second most common cancer for women. Hear some survivors’ stories:


Hear about one woman’s journey to inspire Cervical Cancer awareness before she dies:


The way that doctors talk to patients about the options available to them makes a big difference. Here is some advice for doctors on recommending HPV vaccines:


Hear another woman’s story of facing cervical cancer and her message of prevention:


For those suffering and recovering from cervical cancer, yoga can provide welcome relief and therapy:


HPV, which causes cervical cancer, can be prevented with the vaccine. And cervical cancer is highly treatable if caught early through regular Pap tests. Learn more: