Most medical research is conducted with cisgender men in mind. This is a serious, potentially lethal problem for cis women and some transgender folks. While men and women can experience many of the same health issues, they can present themselves through different warning signs.
A man with an oncoming heart attack might have pain on the left side of his body, while a woman is more likely to feel pain in her neck, back, or jaw. Because this isn't well publicized, women can easily overlook potentially serious symptoms and not seek treatment until it's too late. What's more, symptoms of ailments that cis men are less likely to develop, including most autoimmune diseases, are poorly understood, meaning people may not be aware of their warning signs.
While these and other factors can make it a challenge for women to take charge of their health, awareness of potentially troubling symptoms may be life-saving. If you have these symptoms, don't panic; being bloated doesn't automatically mean you have cancer, and jaw pain doesn't guarantee an impending heart attack. Most of these symptoms have a variety of explanations, ranging from serious to mundane. That said, if you're experiencing the symptoms on this list - or any other unusual symptoms - check in with a doctor to get to the bottom of the issue.
If you do have a serious health concern, taking notice and starting treatment is far better than ignoring the issue only to regret it later.
Bloating can stem from a variety of factors, ranging from eating foods that don't agree with you to PMS symptoms. Bloating that persists for a week or more could indicate ovarian cancer - especially when paired with symptoms like bleeding or unexplained weight loss.
Waiting a short amount of time to see if the bloating goes down on its own is fine, but if it persists, visit a doctor.
If your foot falls asleep once in a while, it's nothing to worry about - especially if you were sitting on it or otherwise cutting off circulation. But if that prickly pins-and-needles feeling creeps up on you regularly, it could be a sign of multiple sclerosis. Otherwise known as MS, this is an autoimmune disease that targets the central nervous system. Spinal cord lesions resulting from MS can cause persistent numbness in the feet.
This numbness can, however, also signal numerous other conditions, including diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, stroke, cardiovascular problems, and more. If you're having more than occasional foot numbness, get it checked out.
When most people think about heart attacks, they assume they'll feel pain in their chest or left arm. While this type of pain can indeed signal a heart attack in women, other types of pain can also herald heart failure and shouldn't be ignored, especially when combined with more symptoms. Neck, jaw, and back pain are among the most important signs.
How can you tell if the pain you're experiencing is a heart attack warning or the result of bad habits, such as poor posture or clenching your jaw? Pain that appears out of nowhere, or that starts during exertion and improves during rest, is a worrying sign. Similarly, pain that can't be linked to a specific muscle or joint, pain that spreads from the chest, or pain that's concentrated in the lower left jaw are all worth addressing with a doctor.
Finally, while left arm pain in men can signal heart problems, women can experience warning pain in either the right or left arm.
If you want to shed some pounds, you might be tempted to ignore a sudden drop in your weight; however, losing more than 10 pounds without changing your diet or increasing your exercise levels is abnormal. Hyperthyroidism may be to blame, a condition that causes your body to produce too much thyroxine. It is fairly manageable with a doctor's help, but can cause serious problems if left untreated. If a thyroid issue isn't to blame, unexplained weight loss can also be caused by esophageal, stomach, pancreatic, and lung cancers.
Unexplained weight gain can also signal a variety of problems, including hypothyroidism and ovarian cancers, among other things.