Women are the key to maintaining healthy families and as the main caregivers; women often tend to overlook their health. Whether citing lack of time, lack of access to facilities, lack of child care, monetary costs, or simply not being aware of community or health services, women are at a higher risk of preventable diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), some of the leading causes of death for women are Heart Disease, Cancer, Chronic lower respiratory diseases, Stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Diabetes, Influenza and Pneumonia, and Kidney disease. These diseases and conditions are preventable. Taking small steps today can mean great strides tomorrow for you and your family. Understanding the risk factors is the first step.
- Both heart disease and stroke risk factors include hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure), high cholesterol, being overweight, smoking, diabetes, and lack of exercise. Many women may not be aware of their risk, due to not experiencing any symptoms from hypertension and high cholesterol.
- Risk of breast and cervical cancer can be reduced through the important role of routine screenings such as mammograms and a Pap smear.
- Although diabetes was once seen in older adults, today, diabetes does not discriminate on age. Diabetes’ main risk factor is being overweight due to poor diet and inactivity. According to the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation (NIHCMF), “Diabetes is associated with heart disease, stroke, blindness and kidney failure … and the risk of death due to heart disease and stroke is twice as high for diabetics compared to those without diabetes…”
- Another concern for women’s health is Osteoporosis, a common bone disease, weakens bones and in turn increases risks of sudden and unexpected fractures. Risk factors include diets not having sufficient vitamins and minerals over a lifetime. Other factors include older age and being underweight.
- Women who are overweight are at a higher risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and others.
The good news is that knowledge is power. The first step in prevention is identifying the risks. Talk to your doctor if you feel you are at risk of any of these chronic diseases and ask what you can do to reduce the risks. Screenings are an important step. Eating nutritious foods, increasing exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent many chronic diseases. A healthy diet can help prevent hypertension and reduce blood cholesterol levels. Reducing the number of meals eaten outside the house will reduce the number of higher-fat and higher-calorie foods. Find meal nutritious, simple, low cost, family-friendly meal ideas at dinnertonight.tamu.edu
According to the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation, “increasing physical activity can reduce the risk of death from heart disease; lower the risk of developing diabetes; decrease the risk of developing colon cancer; and increase muscle and bone strength…” Additionally, the CDC recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week and two or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities. Walking, jogging, and dancing are all good exercises. These small changes can add up to a big difference.
Take ownership of your health. Visit https://www.cdc.gov/women/, www.healthfinder.gov, www.chosemyplate.gov, or http://walkacrosstexas.tamu.edu/ for more information on starting a healthier lifestyle. For local programs, visit your local health department, federally qualified health centers and clinics, join a local running or bicycle club, or join us for our eight-week walking challenge as Denton County Walks Across Texas! (More information at denton.agrilife.org).
For more information on making women’s health a priority, contact Courtney Davis, Denton County Extension Agent for Family and Community Health at 940-349-2882 or email@example.com.