Women’s Top 5 Health Concerns

Heart Disease

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says heart disease is responsible for about 29% of deaths in women. This is because women are under-diagnosed and often times when the disease is discovered it is too late to cure it. Women tend to be under-diagnosed because symptoms might be common, including nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, jaw pain and shoulder pain.

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease can be caused by:

  • Increasing age
  • Smoking
  • High blood cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

You can reduce your risk of heart disease by maintaining a balanced diet and exercising.


Breast Cancer

The most common cancer among women is breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Unknown
    Increasing age
  • Genes
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Race
  • Earlier abnormal breast biopsy
  • Earlier chest radiation
  • Onset of menstruation before age 12 or menopause after age 55
  • Not having children
  • Medication use (diethylstilbestrol)
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Obesity

You can reduce your risk of breast cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, quitting smoking, and keep up with appropriate screenings for breast cancer.



Sixty-eight percent of the 44 million Americans with osteoporosis are women according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Because bone mass is built until the age of 30, it is important to take care of your bone health throughout all stages of life, including childhood, in order to prevent osteoporosis. Although damage can be done early on, it’s never too late to keep strong bones because your body will work to repair any bone damage

Risk factors for osteoporosis include:

  • Female sex
  • Increasing age
  • Small, thin-boned frame
  • Family history
  • Sex hormones
  • Anorexia
  • Diet low in calcium and vitamin D
  • Medication use (glucocorticoids or some anticonvulsants)
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol

You can prevent osteoporosis by having adequate calcium consumption and by doing weight-bearing physical activity.



According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 12 million women are living with depression. Hormonal changes can often trigger depression in women, especially after pregnancy and before or during menopause.

Risk factors for depression include:

  • A previous depressive episode
  • Family history of depression
  • History of heart problems
  • Serious chronic illness
  • Marital problems
  • Substance abuse
  • Use of drugs (medicines for high blood pressure or seizures)
  • A stressful life event
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Thyroid disease
  • Recent serious illness or surgery
  • Childhood history of physical or sexual abuse
  • Being a worrier or overly anxious
  • Having an eating disorder or an anxiety disorder

To help reduce risk of depression, some psychologists suggest finding a reason to get up in the morning, such as work, community, love, pets, and volunteering.


Autoimmune Diseases

The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) reports that about 75% of autoimmune diseases occur in women. Autoimmune diseases are a group of more than 80 serious chronic illnesses where the immune system attacks the body and destroys or alters tissues. These include lupus, multiple sclerosis, and thyroid disease.

Significant research still needs to be done on autoimmune diseases. It is difficult to determine risk factors because the causes for these diseases are still unknown. Many believe genetic, hormonal and environmental factors to play a large part. Eating healthy foods, getting regular physical activity, resting, and reducing stress may help prevent autoimmune diseases.

Many women go undiagnosed because symptoms are nonspecific. Most women visit multiple doctors before getting the proper diagnoses, so it’s important to be persistent if you know something is wrong with you.


Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works