We thought we’d take this opportunity to reflect on a couple of health concerns that women face and the benefits of making just a few healthy life choices. At the turn of the century, most of the illnesses that affected our lives were a result of infection. Modern medicine has meant we’ve conquered most of those problems in developed countries, however, our lifestyle choices play a massive impact on our health.
With the three different concerns to women’s health that are discussed here, there are modifiable (lifestyle choices) and non-modifiable risk factors that may make some women more predisposed than other women. Although there are some things we don’t have control over (non-modifiable), it’s important to feel empowered by the choices you can make which will positively influence your quality of life.
1. Heart Disease
This affects both men and women and is a major concern across most developed countries. In fact, in cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of illness and death among Australian and American women. Australian women are almost three times more likely to die from CVD than breast cancer. Although heart disease is responsible for one in every four female deaths in the United States, only 54% of women recognise it’s a concern. Risk factors that increase your risk of heart disease include a poor diet, lack of exercise, overweight and obesity, diabetes, smoking and genetics.
Visit heart foundation to understand more about the different factors linked to CVD.
2. Breast Cancer
Breast cancer, which is more common in developed countries is becoming more treatable. The biggest factor for survival is early detection! So please, check yourself for lumps, keep up to date with the recommended screens from your doctor and remind your female friends to do the same. If in your family history, someone has had breast cancer or other forms of cancer you can be more susceptible to breast cancer along with weight gain post-menopause, being overweight or obese, smoking and the consumption of alcohol and processed meats.
Click here for more information on the different risk factors.
This is a condition in which a person loses bone density and increases the risk of fractures. 89% of people diagnosed with osteoporosis are women. Due to the rapid decline in oestrogen during menopause, women lose bone density at an earlier age and at a faster rate than men. Your risk of osteoporosis is increased by age, alcohol, genetics, lack of exercise, low body mass, smoking and steroid use. Women are at a greater risk of osteoporosis from the age of 60, whereas men are more vulnerable once they reach 70 years of age.
What Can YOU do?
Here are just three small changes you can make on a daily basis to greatly improve your health and reduce your risk of lifestyle-related diseases.
1. Exercise Regularly
Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day has been proven time and time again. A World Cancer Research Fund report demonstrated that vigorous exercise (e.g. running or cycling) reduces the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by 10% compared to less active women. Another study found that walking and lifting moderate weights halved the risk of dying of breast cancer.
Exercise also helps to lower blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol levels and stress which are all contributing factors for heart disease. A 2013 study showed a 29% reduction in coronary heart disease events in women who performed higher levels of physical activity. Regular exercise promotes anti-inflammatory responses inside the body thus taking the pressure off the cardiovascular system.
To look after bone health a combination of strength training and impact based exercise is essential. It promotes bone density growth and maintenance and prolongs the onset of osteoporosis.
2. Eat Well
We’re not asking you to throw out all your treats, give up meat or alcohol but consider what you consume and if it’s in moderation. Food is fuel and making decisions about what you put in your body has a direct effect on your health.
We have the simple 80:20 rule. Eat plenty of unprocessed food 80% of the time, and don’t beat yourself up for the other 20%. Aim for as many fresh fruits and veg as possible, steer clear of processed meats and refined carbohydrates and try to avoid sugary beverages – they are a fast way to put on weight and provide no nutritional benefit to your body.
Maintaining a healthy weight is key to avoiding heart disease and cancers. Having a healthy diet and exercising regularly is the best way to lose unnecessary kilos and maintain a healthy size. Ensure you have calcium-rich food in your diet daily and get enough vitamin D (sunshine) to ensure maximum calcium absorption.
3. Quit Smoking
Yep. We all know cigarettes are terrible for your health. It goes far beyond lung or mouth cancer. Smoking hardens your arteries thus increasing your risk of heart disease and has been linked to higher rates of osteoporosis.
Happy’s Women’s Health Week! Although we covered some health concerns affecting women, men – you can take the advice too!
Interested to find out more? Contact the team now to book a confidential discussion about how to support your workforce with an integrated wellbeing program.