Top 5 Health Risks for Women
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Only 13% of American women feel they are personally at risk for heart disease, although it continues to claim more lives than the next six causes of death combined.* Each year, millions of women die from causes that are at least partially preventable. Read on to learn about the biggest threats to your health, and how to protect yourself and your loved ones.
1. Heart Disease
Heart disease is often thought of as primarily affecting men, although in the United States more women die of heart disease each year than men – nearly 500,000.*
Help protect yourself from heart disease by:
- - Not smoking, and limiting your exposure to secondhand smoke.
- - Getting tested regularly for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, and keeping these conditions under control.
- - Eating a healthful diet (one that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and limits saturated fats) and maintaining a healthy weight.
- - Getting adequate exercise – at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
- - Drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all.
- - Discussing your risk factors and your family's medical history with your physician.
- - Knowing the often-subtle symptoms of a heart attack.
The most common cause of cancer death for U.S. women is lung – not breast – cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2005, about 73,000 women died of lung cancer, roughly 40,000 women died of breast cancer and approximately 28,000 American women died of colorectal cancer. An equal number of women and men die of colorectal cancer each year, yet it is another disease mistakenly believed to primarily afflict men.
To reduce your risk of cancer, follow the same tips for preventing heart disease. In addition, refrain from chewing tobacco, avoid excessive sun exposure and get regular preventive health screenings.
Of the nearly 163,000 Americans who die of stroke each year, roughly 60% are women.** Stroke is more than just the third-leading cause of death of American women; it's also one of the leading causes of disability.**
Some risk factors for the disease (such as family history; age; sex; race; and a history of migraines, autoimmune diseases and clotting disorders) can't be controlled, but two major risk factors – smoking and high blood pressure – can be minimized by following the same steps that help prevent heart disease. Use of birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy may also increase the risk of stroke.** To minimize the damage caused by a stroke, know the warning signs so that you can get help immediately, if necessary.
4. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
The fourth most-common cause of death, COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, but not asthma or other obstructive diseases. The leading cause of COPD is smoking, so prevent the disease by not smoking and by limiting your exposure to secondhand smoke and air pollutants.
5. Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disease that afflicts an estimated 4.5 million Americans and ultimately leads to death.*** Researchers have yet to unlock the mysteries of preventing Alzheimer's. Some experts theorize, however, that preventing serious head injury and maintaining good cardiovascular health might reduce the risk of the disease.
For More Information
To learn more about preventing these and other common causes of death – such as diabetes, accidents, pneumonia and influenza – consult your health care provider.
* Source: American Heart Association, www.americanheart.org.
** Source: American Stroke Association, www.strokeassociation.org.
*** Source: Alzheimer's Association, www.alz.org.
A Checklist for Your Next Checkup
Without regular health care and screening tests, it's possible to overlook the symptoms of a condition until the disease is advanced. Ask your physician if the following screenings and immunizations may be appropriate for you.
- Blood pressure test
- Cholesterol and triglyceride tests
- Thyroid stimulating hormone test (TSH)
- Blood sugar test
- Pap test and pelvic exam
- Body mass index (BMI) calculation
- Sexually transmitted disease screening
- Fecal occult blood test
- Colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy
- Digital rectal exam
- Mole exam
- Bone mineral density test
- Influenza, pneumococcal and/or diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis booster vaccinations
Know the Signs of Stroke
- - If you experience any of the following symptoms, even temporarily, get help immediately:
- - Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- - Trouble seeing out of one or both eyes; blurred or double vision
- - Confusion; trouble speaking or understanding
- - Loss of balance or coordination, trouble walking or dizziness
- - A severe headache of unknown cause
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