According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), women live over five years longer than men in current times. This represents a dramatic increase over the one-year difference in longevity in 1920. Health awareness coupled with improved health screenings and prevention account for this improvement. There are still five major health concerns to which women and their primary care physicians should pay special attention:
1. Heart Disease
Women tend to be under-diagnosed with this often-fatal disease. Attention must be paid to symptoms other than traditional chest pain; shortness of breath, jaw pain, nausea and shoulder discomfort are presenting factors in women.
2. Breast Cancer
This is the most common cancer in women and can be diagnosed early through a mammogram. White women have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Twice as many women are affected by depression than men, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Hormonal changes, marital issues and chronic illness are often the root of depression in women. Having a reason to get out of bed every morning, like work or volunteering in the community, is the key to reducing the risk of depression.
Women account for 68 percent of osteoporosis cases. This disease is "largely preventable," according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Eating a diet rich in calcium is a life-long preventive measure to avoid osteoporosis.
5. Autoimmune Disorders
There are over 80 autoimmune diseases in which the body's immune system attacks the body and destroys tissue; lupus and multiple sclerosis fall into this category. Vague symptoms often delay the diagnosis of these diseases.
Family history, race, increasing age, obesity, smoking and other risk factors contribute to the five main health concerns for women. Several risk factors are out of your control, but there are others that you can work on improving or eliminating by living a healthy lifestyle. What can you do to improve your overall health and reduce your risk of developing the five top health concerns for women?
- Eat a healthy diet, rich in calcium and vitamin D.
- Exercise regularly, especially weight-bearing exercises.
- Get regular health screenings, mammograms, and blood pressure and cholesterol screenings.
- Reduce stress.
- Stop smoking.
- Lose excess weight.