The Top 5 Health Concerns of Women

Most women will place heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and obesity at the top of their list. Except for obesity, these are all diseases that we refer to as ‘chronic degenerative’ diseases or to put it in simpler terms, ‘wear and tear’ diseases. They do not appear overnight; you develop them over time. Before I dig a little deeper into each of these, I’d like to paint you a picture.

You’ve probably all seen this. A picture with a woman in her 80’s hiking up a mountain with other women half her age - next to a picture of a similar aged woman hunched over in a wheelchair. Such a striking difference! We all desire to be the hiking 80 year old, but in our hearts we fear we’ll end up in the wheelchair.

Unfortunately, far too many of us grow old and become the wheelchair-bound woman and far too few of us are still hiking in our 80’s. Some of you will blame your genes but the truth is, that for most diseases, genetics factors are responsible for less than 20% of the cause. The other more than 80% is reflected in your everyday lifestyle choices. AND not just the ones you make when you’re old but the ones you make TODAY!

So many diseases in our society can be prevented with just a few small changes that you follow through with every day. That’s what will REALLY make the difference – and determine how you live the rest of your life – in a wheelchair or hiking mountains.

Health Concern #1 – Heart Disease:

Heart disease is the #1 killer of woman in North America, most often from a heart attack. Sadly, over half of women who die from heart attacks have no prior symptoms and no warning. It doesn’t just affect the elderly – younger and younger women are developing this disease. Risk factors include smoking, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

What can you do lessen your risk of developing heart disease?

  1. If you smoke, quit.
  2. Achieve a healthy weight – staying within 10% of the recommended guidelines for your height and age is best.
  3. Eat healthy diet – low in processed foods and high in vegetables.
  4. Take a quality nutritional supplement. Make sure it includes adequate amounts of B Vitamins, Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Magnesium.
  5. Take a fish-oil supplement. The omega-3’s found in fish oil significantly reduce your risk of dying from a heart attack.
  6. Consider a grape seed extract supplement and/or Resveratrol to reduce inflammation in your body (the precursor to heart disease).

Health Concern #2 – Cancer

40% of women will develop cancer at some point in their lives. About 1 in 4 of us will die of cancer. The three most common cancers in women are breast, lung and bowel. The risk of cancer increases with age; ~60% of all deaths due to cancer occur after age 70.

Here’s an interesting fact about cancer. We all have cancer cells but most of the time our bodies know how to deal with these so that they don’t develop into a full-blown malignancy. It’s when these natural protective mechanisms stop functioning properly that our cancer cells grow out of control.

What can you do lessen your risk of developing cancer?

  1. Eat more cancer fighting foods – these are mostly your brightly colored fruits and vegetables. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends 6 to 9 servings every day. Other foods include green tea, nuts, and garlic.
  2. Avoid foods that promote cancer – worst culprits are white sugar, trans fats, and other highly processed foods.
  3. Avoid environmental toxins
  4. Stay active – a moderately active lifestyle reduces the risk of most cancers.
  5. Take a quality nutritional supplement – it can be next to impossible to get all the nutrients you need to keep your body functioning optimally from food alone.
  6. Reduce your stress and maintain a positive attitude towards life.

Health Concern #3 – Diabetes (Type 2)

While most commonly associated with being overweight, even those who have a normal weight can develop diabetes. Eating foods that spike your blood sugar is the biggest triggering factor for this disease. It is preceded by condition called metabolic syndrome that is characterized by a thickening around your middle, rising blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and difficulty losing weight. Diabetes is associated with an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease and foot problems.

What can you do lessen your risk of developing diabetes?

  1. Avoid or limit foods that spike your blood sugar including breads, pastas, cereals, rice potatoes and corn.
  2. Stay active – exercise helps stabilize your blood sugar.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight.
  4. Take a quality nutritional supplement – make sure it contains adequate levels of chromium, B Vitamins and Magnesium – as all of these play a role in blood sugar regulation. Resveratrol, green tea, cinnamon and alpha-lipoic acid have also been shown to be helpful in stabilizing your blood sugar.

Health Concern #4 – Osteoporosis

Fractures from osteoporosis (or thinning of the bones) are more common than heart attack stroke and breast cancer combined. At least 1 in 3 women will suffer from a fracture caused by osteoporosis. It is often called the ‘silent thief’ because your first symptom may be a fractured bone. While women often think it is a disease of the elderly, it can strike at any age.

It is often called a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences. In other words, building strong bones during childhood and adolescence is your best defense against developing osteoporosis later in life. But it’s never too late to start a lifestyle that maintains healthy bones.

What can you do lessen your risk of developing osteoporosis?

  1. Eat a protein rich diet – 20 to 25% of your calories should come from protein. Protein is a major component of healthy bones.
  2. Stay active, especially with weight bearing exercises. Walking is one of the easiest and best weight bearing activities.
  3. Take a quality nutritional supplement. Key nutrients for healthy bones include calcium, Vitamin D, magnesium, and Vitamin K.

Health Concern #5 – Obesity

One in 5 adult Canadians and one in 10 children are clinically obese. If you add in those who are clinically overweight it increases to 55% of adults and 20% of children. It is a major risk factor for developing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and cancer.

Most women who are overweight have tried multiple diets. Sadly, over 95% of those who lose weight on a diet gain it all back within 2 years. Not only that but the more diets you’ve been on, you more likely you are to be overweight.

There is no simple answer to this health condition. Your level of activity and the number of calories you eat are only a part of the picture. Stress, lack of sleep, eating foods that spike your blood sugar, a sedentary lifestyle, environmental toxins, nutritional deficiencies, and personal beliefs all play a role in whether or not you will be able to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Most importantly, you need to develop a lifestyle plan that works for you so you can live it for the rest of your life.

These are women’s top 5 health concerns – heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and obesity. What I want to leave you is the encouragement that you can live a healthy and vital life at any age. It all depends on the small choices you make every day. This is why I developed the 1st Get Healthy programs – so that women could discover and put into practice a better, healthier way of living!