While good health can never be guaranteed, certain lifestyle habits can reduce your risk of experiencing a number of health conditions. Health concerns most prevalent in women are different from those in men, and what’s most unique about them is that many are preventable.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, heart disease is the number one killer of women over the age of 55 in Canada. Most women will have at least one risk factor for heart disease by this time in their lives. While some risk factors, such as age, menopause and family history, can’t be prevented, a number of lifestyle changes will reduce the risk of heart disease. High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and obesity are all risk factors for heart disease that are either preventable or manageable by avoiding smoking, staying physically active and eating a balanced diet low in fat and rich in fibre.
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Certain cancers, including breast cancer and skin cancer, are more prevalent in women than in men. Avoiding cigarette smoking, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly are all excellent ways to help lower your risk of developing cancer. While consuming some alcohol can help protect against cancer, consuming too much increases your risk. Aim to have no more than one drink per day, which equates to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor. Because skin cancer is a concern, it’s important to limit sun exposure and to wear sunscreen on a daily basis. Finally, cancer is less deadly when detected early, so talk to your doctor about cancer screenings.
This condition, which results in the loss of bone mass, has a large impact on women in Canada; Osteoporosis Canada reports that at least one in three Canadian women will suffer a fracture caused by osteoporosis. Luckily osteoporosis can be prevented, and it’s best to begin taking measures to do so in childhood and early adulthood. If you have a daughter, be sure to include her in your preventive habits. Diet is a key player in the prevention of osteoporosis, so make sure you’re consuming enough calcium, which can be found in dairy products, soy products and dark greens, as well as getting enough vitamin D through adequate sun exposure or supplements. Strength training and weight bearing exercises are other good ways to build bone mass.
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Respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis and emphysema, have been on the rise in women over the past 10 years. One of the most important things to do to prevent respiratory conditions is to avoid tobacco smoke. This means you should avoid smoking as well as being exposed to second-hand smoke. Also aim to avoid inhaling pollutants; be sure to use safe cleaning products and to allow for proper ventilation when using such chemical products as paint. Another measure to take is to ask your doctor about vaccinations for the flu and pneumonia.
Alzheimer’s and dementia
The Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto has reported that approximately 75 per cent of the individuals in Canada who are diagnosed with the disease are women. While there is no proven way to prevent Alzheimer’s, a number of measures can be taken to protect your brain. This condition shares some risk factors with heart disease, so eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly to maintain a healthy weight are strongly recommended. Engaging your brain is another good way to prevent Alzheimer’s. Keep your brain active by completing puzzles, using your non-dominant hand and maintaining an active social network.