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Women's Health

Women's Top 5 Health Concerns

From heart disease to breast cancer to depression, WebMD gives you the inside info on why women are at high risk for these problems but may not know it.
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Heart Disease continued...

The American Heart Association lists risk factors for heart disease as:

  • Increasing age
  • Male sex (men typically develop heart disease at a younger age)
  • Heredity (including race). People with family history of the disease have greater risk. So do African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and some Asian-Americans.
  • Smoking
  • High blood cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity and overweight
  • Diabetes

"The burden of heart disease in women is very great," says Gregory Burke, MD, professor and chairman of the department of public health sciences at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. "The earlier folks adapt healthier behaviors, the lower their overall risk for heart disease or stroke outcomes."

Burke says people can reduce their risk of heart disease by modifying lifestyle to include a well-balanced diet and exercise.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. It is second to lung cancer as the leading cause of death for women.

Experts say the fear of breast cancer can sometimes be exaggerated, stopping women from going to their doctors for screening, or pushing women to make rash decisions about mastectomy, when it may it may not be necessary.

"There's a lot of treatment for breast cancer," assures Diane Helentjaris, MD, immediate past president of the American Medical Women's Association. "It's not a death sentence."

She urges women to keep their emotions in perspective and to educate themselves about the issues.

The American Cancer Society lists the following as risk factors for breast cancer:

  • Increasing age
  • Genes. Nearly 5% to 10% of breast cancer is linked to mutations in certain genes (most commonly, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes).
  • Family history of the disease
  • Personal history of the disease
  • Race. White women have a slightly greater risk of getting breast cancer compared with African-American women. Yet African-Americans have a greater chance of dying from this disease.
  • Earlier abnormal breast biopsy
  • Earlier chest radiation
  • Early onset of menstruation (before age 12) or menopause after age 55
  • Not having children
  • Medication use, such as diethylstilbestrol (DES)
  • Too much alcohol
  • Obesity

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