How much do we know about our personal health risks? While overall health can vary greatly between people, women are at particular risk for 5 serious health conditions. Luckily, there are proactive steps we can take to reduce our chances of joining their statistics.
Women are at particular risk for heart disease, breast cancer, lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and complications from diabetes. By being proactive about these conditions and taking charge of certain lifestyle choices, women might be able to reduce their personal risks and improve their quality of life.
The best first step is to learn more about these health threats and then determine what we can do to reduce risk...
While heart disease is the leading cause of death in all Americans, women are less likely to survive heart attacks when they do strike. This is because women don’t always experience the tell-tale chest pain, instead having vague symptoms that can mimic other conditions. These symptoms can include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Pain in the jaw, neck, shoulder, back, or stomach
- Fatigue or shortness of breath
Diabetes complications, menopause, and hypertension during pregnancy can increase heart attack risk, as can depression, smoking and inactivity. Risk can be reduced by exercising regularly, eating a variety of healthy foods, not smoking, and keeping blood sugar levels under control.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in women, and breast cancer is among the biggest threats. Women in the U.S. have a 1-in-8 chance of developing invasive breast cancer ---about 125 times higher than the risk in males.
While genetics can play a role, lifestyle factors like diet, tobacco use and alcohol consumption are also important. Reduce chances of developing breast cancer by living a healthy lifestyle and performing regular self-exams. Anyone over 45 years of age should consider talking to their doctor about their personal risk factors and to see if they need a mammogram.
Women are more susceptible to certain lung conditions, including autoimmune lung diseases and pulmonary hypertension. Women are also more likely to die from common conditions like asthma and COPD. This may be due to a higher sensitivity to the damaging effects of smoking. Chances of developing lung disease can be reduced by exercising regularly, staying up-to-date on yearly wellness exams, and not smoking. A smoker who wants to quit should research available treatment methods as well as consulting their doctor about treatment options.
Women are more likely than men to develop Alzheimer’s disease, which currently affects about 5.7 million Americans. While there currently isn’t a cure, a healthy lifestyle and early detection may improve overall prognosis and quality of life. High cholesterol levels and a history of heart disease may increase Alzheimer’s risk, but working to stay active, social, and mentally fit may reduce those risks.
Women with diabetes are at higher risk for complications, which can include depression, blindness, and deadly effects on the kidneys and heart. Fluctuations in hormones can play a dangerous role, making it more difficult to control blood sugar during certain times of the month. Pregnancy and menopause can pose hormonal issues of their own, both of which can also affect blood sugar levels. Risks can be reduced by exercising regularly, eating a variety of healthy foods (consult with a doctor about best foods to avoid diabetes), and avoiding simple carbohydrates and sugar.
While certain health risks can come with being a woman, you can limit many of them by being proactive about your health. You are your biggest advocate, and you have more control over your health than you think. Consider what steps you can take to reduce your personal risks today.
~ Here’s to Your Health and Wellness