Health Risk Factors for Women

If women want to remain healthy and avoid sickness and disease, they need to be proactive. Having a regular check-up is the most effective way of staying healthy. Regular checks will hopefully pick up early signs of disease and/or illness. The main health risks that women face over their lifetime are coronary heart disease, stroke, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, lung cancer and breast cancer.

Coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease affects 3.4 million Australian women each year. It is believed that poor lifestyle choices contribute to almost 80% of heart disease conditions. If you wish to avoid heart disease, your first goal should be to quit smoking and to maintain a healthy weight. From the age of 30, have your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels checked every two to five years.

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In Australia, strokes kill more women than does breast cancer. Strokes occur when the supply of blood to the brain is suddenly disrupted. The risk of stroke can be lowered by reducing alcohol intake, being physically active, watching your weight and monitoring your blood pressure. Diabetes also increases the risk of stroke so having a diabetes assessment is also a good idea. Early detection of risk factors followed by effective control can greatly reduce the chances of a stroke.

Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

Forgetting simple things, losing car keys or forgetting someone's name is not necessarily indicative of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia followed by vascular dementia. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 50 to 70% of cases. Confusion, change in personality, withdrawal and an inability to function at an everyday level may be early warning signs of dementia. There are reasons to believe that the same factors that influence heart disease may also influence the onset of dementia. One of the most common causes of chronic disease is obesity so ask your General Practitioner to check your waist and body mass index at your next visit. Studies by the University of California, San Francisco, found that brain training may reverse memory decline related to age. So a 'use it or lose it' attitude is a good idea. Take up new activities such as learning a language. Challenge your mind with chess or cryptic puzzles. Join a group, volunteer and keep in touch with family and friends.


Smoking causes up to nine out of ten cases of lung cancer. By the age of 50, the risk of developing lung cancer increases. Passive smoking has also been linked to lung cancer. Giving up smoking is paramount if you wish to live longer and be healthy. If you quit, your body will do a good job of recovering its healthy status so do whatever it takes to quit.

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Lung cancer

Lung cancer can also be caused by exposure to environmental substances such as certain chemicals. If you work in this field, ensure any protective clothing you wear is in top condition.

Breast cancer

The risk of dying from breast cancer, for Australian women, has gone from 1 in 29 in 1982 to 1 in 37 in 2007. Although there is a genetic risk, a healthy lifestyle will go a long way to protecting you from breast cancer. Exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, getting enough sleep and limiting alcohol consumption will all help in protection. Get to know what is normal for your breasts as regards look and feel. Report any changes to your doctor. In Australia, mammograms are free for women over 50 and are recommended every two years. If there is a family history of breast cancer, mammograms are recommended more often.

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All these health risks are minimised by choosing a healthy lifestyle. Keep your weight within reasonable limits, don't smoke, drink in moderation and exercise regularly. In fact, the advice is the same for all health problems.