6 Alarming health threats to women

May 12, 2012 at 6:55 a.m. ET

There's a good chance you've heard that heart disease and breast cancer are the No. 1 and 2 causes of death for women in the US. However, did you also know that depression and chronic lower respiratory diseases are also top causes of death for both younger and older women in the US? Before you skip that doctor's appointment for a work meeting or work through a cold, check out these 6 health risks women face and important (and easy) ways you can prevent them.

Woman at doctor's office

Even in today's world of advanced medicine, it's increasingly important to take charge of your own health and take a stand against the problems you can prevent. Check out how you can fight these 6 scary health threats and live a longer, healthier and happier life!

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of the disease today. Unlike Type 1, which is genetic, Type 2 is completely lifestyle-driven and is often caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. Type 2 diabetes affects the way your body uses blood sugar, or glucose, and poorly controlled diabetes can lead to heart disease, eye problems, nerve damage and other complications, including death. According to the CDC, nearly 10 million women in the US have Type 2 diabetes, including a large percentage of young women -- some even in their late teens.

So how can you prevent your chances of getting Type 2 Diabetes? According to Dr. Marcell Pick, the answers are simple. Start simply by exercising. Getting regular exercise, because it lowers blood sugar, keeps your cholesterol levels balanced and improves circulation, which work to keep your blood vessels and body strong. It's also important to eat a healthy diet, filled with fruits, vegetables, whole-grain carbohydrates and healthy fats.

Learn about Paula Deen admitting to having Type 2 diabetes >>


Did you know that nearly 12 million women in the US suffer from a depressive mental disorder, while only 6 million men suffer from similar disorders? Although the exact reasons for this aren't known, many experts believe hormonal changes trigger the condition, especially postpartum and during menopause. Women also tend to experience certain symptoms more often than men, including seasonal affective disorder and atypical depression, which can lead to substance abuse and weight gain.

Since depression is a clinical mood disorder, it can't necessarily be prevented as easily as strictly physical ailments. However, if you do feel overwhelming sadness, have suicidal thoughts or find it hard to get out of bed in the morning, seek immediate help from your doctor. Finding a treatment or getting an answer on you diagnosis is the first step towards overcoming it.

Learn more about how depression and stress affect health>>

Chronic lower-respiratory diseases

Diseases like bronchitis, asthma and emphysema are major causes of concern for women, especially those who smoke, live in a very polluted area or work in crowded office buildings. In fact, COPD is the fourth-leading cause of death for women in the US. Men typically have a higher rate of this, but this is changing. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that women began experiencing more severe forms of the disease and more hospitalizations due to COPD starting in the mid-1990s, and COPD deaths have also increased among women.

Some forms of COPD, like asthma, are mostly genetic, however, emphysema, which is often caused by prolonged smoking, can be prevented or controlled by the cessation of smoking. In addition, limiting your exposure to indoor or outdoor pollutants, like air pollution, secondhand smoke or mold/dust can also prevent the disease from getting worse or help prevent an episode.

Up next: More alarming health threats to women >>

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