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Diseases more likely to affect women than breast cancer

Kristen Fischer is a writer living at the Jersey Shore. In addition to writing for SheKnows, she has penned articles for Prevention, Health, Woman's Day, BELLA, and New Jersey Monthly. Kristen enjoys spending time with her family, friend...

Heart disease and Alzheimer's more common in women than breast cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, women have a 1 in 8 chance of getting breast cancer. These diseases are even more likely to affect you.

According to Jessica Shepherd, M.D., strokes kill twice as many women as breast cancer every year, though many women think that breast cancer is more prevalent. She said about 55,000 more women than men experience a stroke each year — seven out of 10 women say they weren’t aware of that fact, she added.

"Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women, but stroke is high on this list as well," Shepherd said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the top five causes of death in women (as of 2010) are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. Shepherd said that one in four American women will die from heart disease.

About 1 in 8 (12%) women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. In 2014, about 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.

Common diseases in women

There are still plenty of diseases and conditions women can get, many that are more common than breast cancer... and yes, some that can cause death.

  • Heart disease is the top killer of women--more deadly than all forms of cancer, including breast cancer. It causes 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute. Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease. The American Heart Association notes that breast cancer claims 1 in 31 women per year. In the U.K., it kills five times more women than breast cancer.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is more common than breast cancer, lung cancer and HIV, a study showed.
  • Women are more likely than men to develop Alzheimer’s disease, partly because we live longer and the chances for the disease increase with age--but genetics can play a role too, a study suggests. Older women are nearly twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as they are to get breast cancer, according to this report from the Alzheimer’s Association. About 1 in 6 women over 65 will get Alzheimer's disease, while just 1 in 11 men will get it.
  • Osteoarthritis and osteoporosis are also more common in females, and are more common in women than breast cancer.
  • Endometriosis affects more than 176 million women across the globe--it's more common than breast cancer and diabetes.

Maximize your well-being

Crilley recommends routine exams with physicians and recommended screenings.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has an updated list of health screenings for women, which was published this year. Some screenings include those for diabetes, depression, cholesterol, sexually transmitted infections, blood pressure and osteoporosis. Cancer-related screenings can include those for HPV, lung cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer and breast cancer. Those who have relatives with breast, ovarian or peritoneal cancer may want to seek BRCA gene screening.

Controlling weight, eating well and refraining from cigarettes are also "highly beneficial" ways to maintain overall health, Crilley said.

Making time for self-care

"Women take so much time to care for their families as well as fostering their careers, they often forget about themselves and neglect their health care," Shepherd said. "The relationship they have with their doctor should be such an important one, as talking openly to a physician can often help detect disease." She recommended scheduling annual exams and screenings — and making sure not to skip these important events.

Shepherd has another piece of advice for women who want to stay healthy: "Ladies, talk to your doctors and make sure you feel comfortable with them... it can save your life."

In other words, the gift of gab may just save your life — so speak up and take charge of your health!

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