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Know the risks of women’s leading health concerns

Alicia Colombo

As we celebrate Women’s History Month in March, women are encouraged to make their health a priority. Take the time to learn more about your risk for common medical conditions that affect women.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women. In women, the condition is responsible for 29% of all deaths, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Risk factors for heart disease include increasing age, family history of heart disease, race, smoking and high cholesterol, according to The American Heart Association.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and is the second leading cause of death for women (after lung cancer). The American Cancer Society lists the following among risk factors for breast cancer: increasing age, genes, family history of breast cancer and race.

Osteoporosis, often referred to as “brittle bone disease,” affects 44 million Americans, of which 68% are women, reports the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Risk factors for osteoporosis include increasing age, thin-boned frame, ethnicity and family history of the disease.

Depression appears to affect twice as many women as men. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that about 12 million women are affected by a depressive disorder each year, compared to about 6 million men. Risk factors for depression include family history of mental health conditions, heart problems, serious chronic illness and marital problems.

Autoimmune diseases are a group of disorders in which the immune system attacks the body and destroys or alters its tissues. There are more than 80 serious chronic illnesses in this category, including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), 75% of autoimmune diseases occur in women. By themselves, each disease appears to be uncommon – except for diabetes, thyroid disease and lupus. But as a group, the disorders make up the fourth-largest cause of disability among American women.

Tips for women’s health

According to the CDC, women can take the following steps to improve their physical and mental health:

  • Talk regularly, as needed, to your doctor online, by phone or email. Don’t let several years go by before you schedule a “well visit” appointment. You don’t have to feel poorly to get a check-up.
  • Stay physically active. Walking is one of the best ways to stay active.
  • Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet.
  • Prioritize your mental health. Stay in touch with people who make you happy and feel connected
  • Practice healthy behaviors.
Categories: Health Milestones eNews


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