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Women's Health Risks

Risk Factors That Can Keep You from Living a Healthy Life

Some diseases cannot be avoided. However, there are things all women can do to improve their health. Making healthy choices can help prevent or delay many of the common chronic diseases seen in women. Major threats to women’s health include:

  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • stroke
  • chronic lower respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis
  • diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s

You can choose to improve your health. Ten ways to live a longer, healthier life are listed below. 

Quit Smoking

Smoking significantly increases your risk of:

  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • stroke

It’s also associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and lower respiratory disease.

If you smoke, talk to your doctor about getting help to quit. It’s not enough to just cut back. Even light smoking can still damage your health.

Secondhand smoke is also dangerous. If you live or work with smokers, try to help them quit. If you can’t, find a way to minimize your exposure to their smoke.

Eat a Healthy Diet

The right diet can greatly improve your long-term health. A diet high in fat, sodium, and sugar can increase your cholesterol and affect your blood pressure. This can then increase the risk of problems such as heart attack and stroke.

Cardiovascular diseases aren’t the only ones affected by diet. Eating a healthy diet may also reduce your risk for cancer and diabetes. A healthy diet is one rich in:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • whole grains

Live an Active Lifestyle

Regular physical activity is important for maintaining your health. This doesn’t mean you have to try to run a marathon. Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, at least four days a week, is enough to help keep your body feeling strong.

Regular exercise can reduce your risk of a number of conditions including:

  • obesity
  • high cholesterol
  • heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes

Exercise also helps ward off depression. You may not be excited about starting, but you’ll feel better when you finish.

Reduce Sources of Stress

Occasional stress is unavoidable. Chronic stress can take a significant toll on your body. Stress isn’t just a mental phenomenon. It creates physical changes in your body.

Stress elevates the hormones cortisone and adrenaline. These hormones can affect your heart rate. They can also elevate your blood pressure and blood sugar. Chronic stress increases your risk of:

  • heart disease
  • depression
  • obesity
  • sleep problems
  • skin problems
  • stomach problems
  • difficulties with memory

If you can’t get rid of sources of stress, look for better ways to manage it. Look for support from your family and friends.

Avoid Excessive Alcohol Use

Moderate drinking probably won’t damage your health. Some scientists think a glass of wine a day may even be good for your heart and other organs. However, more isn’t better. Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to:

  • pancreatitis
  • certain cancers
  • heart damage
  • stroke
  • liver disease
  • accidental injury
  • suicide

Practice Safe Sex

A healthy sex life is important to both your physical and emotional well being. However, it’s important to make smart choices about sex. In other words, the healthy is just as important as the sex life. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can have lifelong health effects.

Practicing safe sex can help to reduce your risk of contracting an STD. However, safe sex isn’t perfect, even if you always use it for vaginal, oral, and anal sex. It’s important to be regularly screened for STDs.

Left untreated, bacterial STDs like chlamydia can cause serious health problems, such as infertility. Infection with HPV puts you at risk of developing cervical and other cancers. Herpes can be painful, and it increases your risk of HIV.

Reduce Sun Exposure

Lying in the sun may feel good. However, too much sun exposure is bad for your health.

If you’re going to spend time in the sun, wear protective clothing or sunscreen. Unprotected exposure to the sun’s rays or tanning beds increases your chances of skin cancer.

Avoid Excess Weight Gain

Obesity is a risk factor for many of the leading causes of death, including:

  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • stroke
  • diabetes
  • kidney disease

Maintaining a healthy weight is one way to reduce your risk of developing these conditions.

Manage Chronic Diseases

If you have chronic diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, it’s important to keep them under control. People with diabetes who manage their blood sugar are much healthier than those with unregulated blood sugar levels. They have less nerve damage and other systemic problems. Women who manage their cholesterol and blood pressure are less likely to die of heart attacks and stroke.

Managing your chronic disease isn’t just about helping control your symptoms. It’s about improving your overall health.

Listen to Your Doctor

Modern medicine provides tools and understanding to maintain good health. However, treatment plans don’t work if you don’t follow the instructions. When your doctor is treating you for a condition, it’s important to use any treatments as you are told. If you don’t, you’ll increase your risk of complications. You may also up the chances of making the situation worse.

If you’re given antibiotics, it’s important to take the whole prescription. Keep going even if you feel better before the pills are gone. If you don’t, there’s a risk of creating antibiotic resistance. If a resistant infection comes back, it may be harder or impossible to treat.

Some conditions require specific diets to help your body cope naturally. Sticking with such a plan helps you stay healthy. It may also make any medical treatment more successful. 

Content licensed from:

Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed on: Sep 11, 2014: George Krucik, MD, MBA

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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