Mother’s Day kicks off a special health observance each year – National Women’s Health Week. Driven by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, this annual initiative encourages women of all ages to check in on their individual health needs. Here, we’re breaking down information about some common health concerns plaguing women and highlighting steps you can take to improve, and learn more about your overall health.
Health Threats Facing Women
It’s important to be aware of common diseases that can affect all women, even though each woman’s risk may be different. Consider the following facts about some common health concerns:
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S. – responsible for 1 in 3 deaths each year, according to the American Heart Association.
- Only 44% of women recognize heart disease as their number one health threat.
- Most cardiac (and stroke) events can be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices and education.
- Breast, colorectal, endometrial, lung, skin, ovarian, and cervical cancers are some of the cancers that affect women most often, according to the American Cancer Society.2
- Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the U.S.2
- Almost all cervical cancers are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection (STI).3
- Approximately 15 million women – about 1 in 9 adult women – in the U.S. have diabetes, according to the Office on Women’s Health.
- Women of certain racial and ethnic groups – American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, Hispanic, and Asian – are at greater risk.
- Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease by about 4 times in women, (but only about 2 times in men.)5 Stroke, blindness, problems during pregnancy, and kidney failure can also be caused by diabetes.
An additional health concern among both women and men continues to be COVID-19. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks COVID-19 as the third overall cause of death in the U.S. for 2021 – killing 60,000 more people than in 2020.6 The CDC recommends checking your COVID-19 community level to stay aware of local risk and what prevention steps you should take.
How to Prioritize Your Health
While health improvements can look different to each person, there are certain steps that every woman can take for a healthier lifestyle, including:7
- Checking in with your healthcare provider: periodic visits like a well-woman exam provide an opportunity to assess your overall health and keep you up-to-date with crucial preventive care like PAP smears, physical exams, cholesterol screenings, and more.8
- Staying active: regular physical activity can improve your overall health and help reduce your risk for chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, depression, anxiety, and dementia. The CDC recommends that adult women get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week.9
- Choosing healthier foods: eating well-balanced meals that include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, and extra sugars can support heart health8 and overall health. Visit nutrition.gov for more healthy eating tips.
- Taking stock of your mental health: depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions affect more women than men; or women differently than men.10 Take time during National Women’s Health Week to take care of your mental health by practicing self-care, managing stress, creating good sleep habits, and checking in if you feel like you need support.8
- Making healthy lifestyle choices: practicing safe behaviors like quitting smoking, not texting while driving, and taking steps to protect your sexual health – like getting tested for STIs – can additionally support your overall health.
If you have questions about what better health looks like for you – consult your healthcare provider to see if it’s time for your annual physical or well-woman exam. They may order laboratory testing to help you get a better picture of your overall health.
Learn More About Your Health
BioReference and GenPath® Women’s Health, a division of BioReference, provide a number of tests that can supply you and your healthcare provider with essential information about your health. From heart health testing to STI screening, BioReference | GenPath can support your journey to better health by helping you know where you stand.
This National Women’s Health Week, take the time to prioritize your health and encourage the women in your life to do the same. If you’re one of the many women that has had to delay routine healthcare due to the COVID-19 pandemic, consult your healthcare provider to see if it’s time for a check-up and download our patient guide to help you prepare for your visit.