Here’s the thing: if you take the right steps, the health threats that pose the highest risk for women are mostly preventable.
According to both Mayo Clinic and the U.S. Department of Health’s Office on Women’s Health, visiting your doctor for preventative screenings and to talk about your risk factors for the most common complications is the first and most important step you can take.
And of course, leading a healthy lifestyle that includes plenty of exercise, a nutritious diet, getting adequate amounts of sleep, managing stress and avoiding habits such as smoking and texting while driving all come together to reduce your risks and improve your overall health.
Consulting with your doctor is absolutely the most important preventative step you can take. However, increasing your awareness about health issues that pose the greatest risk for women is also essential.
To celebrate National Women’s Health Week (May 10 to 16), we spoke with several experts and rounded up a list of important (and likely surprising) facts that you may not have known about your health.
Read on to find out the leading causes of death for women, and the smart healthy lifestyle strategies you can implement to protect against them.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death among women.
Behind heart disease and cancer, stroke is the third leading cause of death for women, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A recent survey from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center revealed that most women don't know the risks or symptoms females face when it comes to having a stroke. The survey results found that only 11 percent could identify female-specific risk factors like pregnancy, lupus, migraines and oral contraception or hormone replacement therapy. “Women may have more headaches with their strokes,” said Dr. Diana Greene-Chandos, neurologist and director of neuroscience critical care at the OSU Wexner Medical Center. “They actually can have hiccups with a little bit of chest pain with their stroke symptoms, sometimes sending them down the pathway of looking for either heart disease or indigestion.” Greene-Chandos suggested that both women and men monitor their blood pressure to make sure it stays below 140/90. To measure your overall risk for stroke, you should consult your doctor, but there are also self-tests available online, like the one offered by the stroke experts at OSU.
Resistance training is extremely important.
It's becoming less common, but there are still many women who avoid resistance training (e.g. any type of strength training like lifting weights or bodyweight exercise), either because they think it will make them look "too muscular" or because they simply aren't aware that it's actually an essential part of maintaining overall good health. And it’s especially important for women when it comes to preventing osteoporosis, which causes bones to become weak and brittle, and therefore, more likely to break. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), about 80 percent of the 10 million Americans who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis are women and it’s estimated that a women’s risk for breaking a hip is equal to her combined risk for breast, uterine and ovarian cancer. And that risk increases greatly after menopause, when a woman can lose up to 20 percent of her bone density in seven years. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that practicing regular resistance training is an effective way to build and support bone mineral density, and research shows that high-impact exercises like gymnastics, basketball or plyometric exercises are also effective for building bone mass and protecting bone health.