Women's Health


Understanding risk factors

Learning what you can and can’t control

Part of learning how to take charge of your health involves understanding your risk factors for different diseases. Risk factors are things that increase your chances of getting a certain disease. Some risk factors are beyond your control. Risk factors for certain conditions that you have little or no control over include:

  • Family history
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Age

Your lifestyle practices can protect your health. Risk factors you can modify include:

  • Nutrition/diet
  • Physical activity
  • Use of tobacco
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Weight management
  • Safety practices such as the use of sunscreen and seatbelts
  • Stress awareness and response

Checklist of questions to ask your doctor or nurse

General health and wellness questions

  • How often do I need a physical exam, breast exam, pelvic exam and Pap test?
  • Do I need a flu shot or other immunizations?
  • Will changing my lifestyle (diet, exercise, smoking, drinking) help me avoid certain diseases?
  • What can I do to be healthier?
  • Is there any reading material or videotapes on these topics?
  • Are there support groups or community services that can help?

Treatment questions

  • How is this condition treated or managed?
  • What long-term effects (if any) will it have on my life?
  • How soon should treatment start? How long will it last?
  • Are there other treatments available?
  • How much will the treatment cost? Is it covered by insurance?
  • What are the treatment’s risks and side effects?

Medication questions (you can also ask your pharmacist)

  • What are the side effects?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • Are there foods, drugs, or activities I should avoid while taking this medicine?
  • Is there a generic brand available at a lower price?

For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health at Womenshealth.gov.

For recommended screenings and immunizations for women, visit http://womenshealth.gov/screening-tests-and-vaccines.