Four Top Diseases In Women Often Preventable

Managing chronic conditions, maintaining healthy lifestyles key to beating odds

DAYTON, Ohio (April 11, 2013) – A list of the top four diseases found in women may appear daunting, but there’s hope in the fact that women have the ability to redirect their well-being by taking control of their health.

Heart disease tops the list of ailments that threaten women’s health, and it is followed closely by cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While there may be no complete cures for these issues, but there are certainly things women can do with the help of their primary physician to lessen the risk factors.

Unfortunately, not all women take the time to listen to their body and give it the priority it needs when it comes to preventative care.

“Women need to understand that symptoms are your body’s way of telling you there is a problem,” said Dori Thompson, MD, a Premier HealthNet physician who practices at Springboro Family Medicine. “That is why you have a symptom. It is a red flag, a trigger that maybe something is wrong and the earlier you discuss it and have it looked at, the earlier we can diagnose it and treat it more effectively.”

According to the CDC, the most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease, which is the narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Coronary artery disease can lead to a heart attack, but a woman’s risk for the disease can be reduced by lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, stress reduction and a healthy diet. Risk factors for heart disease as well as a stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes, Dr. Thompson said.

Heart disease is often thought of as a man’s disease, she said. While the disease is a bit more common in men, it is becoming more prevalent in women. In fact, under the age of 50, women’s heart attacks are twice as likely as men’s to be fatal, according to the Women’s Heart Foundation.

Chronic lower respiratory disease (CLRD) includes asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In 2011, the CDC announced that deaths from CLRD were on the rise and that it had surpassed stroke as the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Risk factors for CLRD include primarily smoking and repeated exposure to harsh chemicals or fumes, air pollution or other lung irritants. A woman’s best defense against CLRD is to stop smoking, Dr. Thompson said.

“Many believe that the number one cancer death in women is breast cancer,” Dr. Thompson said. “Breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women; however, lung cancer kills the most.” According to the CDC, the leading cause of cancer death in women is lung cancer followed by breast cancer and colorectal cancer. Some of the risk factors include smoking, especially for lung cancer, and family history, particularly with breast cancer. Also, early onset of menstruation, late onset of menopause and never giving birth to a child are risk factors for breast cancer.

“The good news is that some of the risk factors that can lead to most of these diseases are preventable or manageable. That’s why it’s important for women to make annual preventive visits and have health screenings to detect disease early. A primary care physician can also help create a plan to manage risk factors through lifestyle changes and medication,” Dr. Thompson said.

“Women are nurturers and often that means we are taking care of everyone else,” Dr. Thompson said. “I always tell women that just as you’re instructed on an airplane to put your oxygen mask on your face before you help anyone else, you have to put your health first.”

View frequently asked questions about women’s health.


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