Health Threats to WomenWomen and men face different health risks. Knowing is half the battle of prevention, but many women in the U.S. don’t know the threats they are up against. Do you know the top three health threats? (Surprisingly to many, number one is not breast cancer).

The good news is that women can take action to combat the leading contributors of these threats. Find out what to be aware of to maximize your health today.

Heart Disease

Heart disease causes 27% of female deaths – more than all cancers. Nearly half a million women die of heart disease every year, but only 13% of Americans know that heart disease is the number one health threat for women.

Fortunately, the best thing women can do to combat heart disease is not smoking (or quitting ASAP). Next, they can focus on eating a balanced diet with limited saturated and trans fats, and plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat proteins (poultry, fish, eggs), and nuts. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, adults should have no more than a teaspoon (or 2,300 mg of sodium) a day.

Cancer

Cancer is the second most dangerous health threat to women. Cancer accounts for 22% of female deaths in the U.S. annually, which is 270,000 women. Some people are surprised that breast cancer isn’t the deadliest. According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer claims 70,000 women’s lives per year. And while more men are diagnosed, more women live with the disease. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society estimate that 40,000 women will die this year from breast cancer.

A woman’s lifestyle choices can help prevent at least one-third of all cancers. To decrease risk, avoid tobacco, limit processed meats, exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, drink alcohol in moderation, and protect skin from the sun.

Stroke

Strokes are the next dangerous risk to women in the U.S. It’s not only the leading cause for long-term disability, but also causes 8% of female deaths. Women are more affected than men; 60% of strokes in a given year happen to women.

It’s critical that all women learn to recognize the signs of a stroke. Call 911 if your leg, arm, or face feels numb or weak; you have trouble speaking, seeing, or understanding; or you experience confusion or a sudden, severe headache.

Because high blood pressure is the biggest contributor to the risk of stroke, it’s important to monitor blood pressure. For most people, a healthy goal is to maintain blood pressure of less than 120/80, but consult with your doctor as for some people, a different goal (such as 140/90) is more appropriate. To achieve a healthy blood pressure, reduce salt, avoid high-cholesterol foods, get more exercise, and eat four to five cups of fruits and vegetables daily.

Additional Resources:

American Cancer Society

American Heart Association

American Lung Association

National Stroke Association