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#IWD2022: Seven leading threats to women’s health — and steps to reduce mortality risk

#IWD2022: Seven leading threats to women’s health — and steps to reduce mortality risk
March 13
16:10 2022

While all humans will die eventually, some health issues can shorten a person’s life span. The good news, however, is that there are ways to reduce the risk of many such conditions.

It is, therefore, vital for women to know about health issues that increase risk of fatality so as to go for regular tests and carry out preventive measures where possible.

Heart disease

Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, refers to a disorder of the heart and blood vessels. Although it is often considered by some to be more of a problem for men, heart disease is said to be the number one killer of women, causing 35 percent of deaths among women globally, and killing more females than all forms of cancer combined.

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A 2019 global burden of disease study found that there are approximately 275 million women around the world with heart disease.

Ways to reduce the risk of heart disease include eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, keeping a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise.

Breast cancer

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Cancer is a large group of diseases that can start in almost any organ of the body when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably, go beyond their usual boundaries to invade adjoining parts of the body, and/or spread to other organs.

Breast cancer, in particular, arises in the lining cells (epithelium) of the ducts (85%) or lobules (15%) in the glandular tissue of the breast. Initially, the cancerous growth is confined to the duct or lobule (“in situ”) where it generally causes no symptoms and has minimal potential for spread (metastasis).

Over time, these in situ (stage 0) cancers may progress and invade the surrounding breast tissue (invasive breast cancer) then spread to the nearby lymph nodes (regional metastasis) or other organs in the body (distant metastasis).

In 2020, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685,000 deaths globally.

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Ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer include limiting alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, and breastfeeding.

Stroke

A stroke happens when either a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked by a clot, or the vessel bursts. When either of these occurs, the brain does not receive the oxygen-rich blood it needs and brain cells begin to die.

According to the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC), stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer does, making stroke the third leading cause of death for women.

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One can reduce risk of stroke by avoiding excessive drinking, exercising, avoiding illegal use of drugs, and curbing tobacco use.

Alzheimer’s disease

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Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), from 2000 to 2019, 65% of deaths from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia were women.

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Although there is no proven way to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, improving your cardiovascular function may help. Ways to do so include losing weight if overweight, exercising regularly, controlling your blood pressure, and keeping your cholesterol levels in the normal range.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin — a hormone that regulates blood sugar — or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. In the US, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in women — responsible for 2.7 percent of deaths.

Risk factors include obesity, high blood glucose, high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, physical inactivity, and smoking.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. The lungs are made up of small sacs called alveoli, which fill with air when a healthy person breathes. When a person has pneumonia, the alveoli are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen intake. Pneumonia is the eighth leading cause of death in women in the US, accounting for 2.1 percent of fatalities.

The risk of pneumonia can be reduced through regular washing of hands, not smoking, and eating fruits and vegetables to strengthen the immune system.

Kidney disease

The kidneys filter extra water and wastes out of the blood and make urine. Having kidney disease means the kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood the way they should.

While kidney disease can affect anyone, women tend to face more specific challenges linked to kidney disease. The risk of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD) is high in women as CKD affects approximately 195 million women worldwide and it is currently the 8th leading cause of death in women, causing 600,000 deaths each year.

Preventative measures include drinking plenty of fluids, exercising regularly, maintaining proper weight, not smoking, and getting checked regularly for diabetes and high blood pressure.

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