Here's how to lower your risk of common health conditions affecting women.
When it comes to women's health concerns, breast cancer often tops the list. But there are many other health issues that affect women—and in many cases, they affect women at a greater rate than men or have more serious consequences. In fact, you may be surprised by what some of the biggest threats are to women's health.
The good news is that if you know what you may be at risk for, there are often steps you can take to lower your risk. Here are some of the most common health risks affecting women and what you can do about them.
- Heart Disease: When it comes to major health risks facing women, this one takes the top spot. Heart disease leads to more deaths in women in the U.S. than all types of cancer combined. Strokes also affect more women than men and are the leading cause of long-term disability. You can lower your risk of heart disease-related complications by maintaining a healthy weight, following a heart-healthy diet, being physically active and not smoking. Getting your blood pressure checked regularly is also important. Knowing the signs of a heart attack or stroke so you can get medical care immediately can help save your life.
- Cancer: While breast cancer tops most women's list of health concerns, it is actually lung cancer that claims the most lives in women each year. The best way to lower your risk of lung cancer is to not smoke. If you already smoke, the sooner you quit, the better. Of course, don't skip mammograms and breast self-exams if you're a woman because breast cancer is also a leading cancer threat to women.
- Alzheimer's Disease: Almost two-thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer's disease are women, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop this disease during the rest of their lives as they are to get breast cancer. If you or a loved one are showing signs of forgetfulness or confusion, see a doctor.
- Diabetes: This chronic condition affects almost 25 million Americans and about half of them are women. Women are more likely than men to experience diabetes-related complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, blindness and depression, according to the CDC. To reduce your risk of developing diabetes, maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Have your fasting blood sugar levels checked regularly by a medical professional.
- Depression: Women are nearly twice as likely as men to experience depression. Some of this difference is related to hormonal fluctuations experienced during puberty, pregnancy and menopause, but biology isn't the only thing that increases women's risk of depression. Other risk factors include women being more likely to live in poverty, being overworked between jobs and home/family responsibilities and being more likely to experience sexual or physical abuse.
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Date Last Reviewed: March 15, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Dietary Review: Perry Pitkow, MD