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5 Main Health Risks for Women - Infographic

By Matt Durkin MSc Nutrition Specialist  Thursday 18th July, 2013
5 Main Health Risks for Women - Infographic

What are the most common health risks seen in women? More importantly, how can you identify these problems and take preventative steps? Read on to discover the top health risks for women…

Heart Disease 

There are around 500,000 women in the UK who have suffered a heart attack. Unfortunately, heart disease tends to be under-diagnosed in women, which often means that once the condition is discovered, it can be tricky to treat. 

Lifestyle changes that may help include eating a healthy diet that is high in fibre and low in saturated fats, whilst limiting alcohol consumption. It is also important to exercise on a regular basis and reduce stress as much as possible. 

For improving cardiovascular function alongside a plethora of other health benefits, all adults between the ages of 19-64 are recommended to participate in a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorously intense aerobic activity or a mixture. This can be over a range of exercise modes and activities so make sure you find one that you enjoy and can stick to over the long term. 

Cancer 

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. The most common symptom is a lump in the breast, and although 9 out of 10 lumps are found to be harmless non-cancerous growths, it is essential to have them checked by a doctor. 

To reduce your risk of breast cancer, try to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. Those with a high antioxidant content are good options, such as blueberries, goji berries and grapeseeds. Also, take care to protect your skin when out in the sun, and examine yourself regularly. 

Osteoporosis 

Back pain can affect women of all ages. However, if you are post-menopausal and you notice unexplained back pain, it could indicate the onset of osteoporosis. Thinning bones remain hidden inside the body, which means that many women are not aware of osteoporosis until they have a fracture. 

There are certain lifestyle changes that may help to prevent or reduce the onset of osteoporosis. Firstly, it is very important to keep active and make sure you include muscle strengthening activities into your weekly physical activity regime.

Alongside aerobic activity guidelines, the NHS recommend that all adults partake in at least two sessions of muscle strengthening activity per week that trains all the major muscle groups of the body. 

This type of activity does not just strengthen muscle, but also our joints, connective tissues and bones. Resistance training results in the deposition of calcium onto our bones, which in turn increases our bone mineral density, giving us a stronger frame. 

To support this process it is important that you consume adequate levels of calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D is especially important as it helps the absorption of calcium and phosphorus which is needed for optimal bone health. 

Stroke 

Strokes can arise quickly and without warning. It is estimated that 150,000 people each year suffer a stroke in the UK, 75% of which are in adults over the age of 65. 

If you are at risk of stroke, limit the amount of alcohol you consume and eat a healthy and nutritious diet. Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, particularly those that are high in fibre. Regular exercise is also important to improve blood flow around the body. 

Vaginal Infections 

It is not uncommon for women to experience vaginal problems from time to time. These can be caused by natural changes to the body, or through use of certain hygiene products. If you suffer from a recurring vaginal infection, try wearing cotton underwear, and avoid products with harsh irritants. 

Supplements for Women 

Although it is possible to obtain all the essential nutrients through food, many women fall short of achieving the amounts needed to support optimal health. Furthermore, the aging process and specific health conditions may require nutrients in varying amounts. For these reasons, supplementation is often utilised.

Here is a list of supplements that are popularly taken by women to stay healthy and also be able to keep up with the demands of day-to-day living:

Multivitamins

A complete multivitamin and mineral supplement can provide women with all the nutrients they require, particularly iron, selenium and folic acid. A multivitamin can act as a safe and cost effective insurance policy, ensuring that the body has a rich supply of all the nutrients essential for health. 

Vitamin D / Calcium

Although the recommended calcium intake is quite easily obtained through the diet by ingesting dairy products, people who are lactose intolerance or vegan are very likely to benefit from calcium supplementation.

On the other hand, an adequate intake of vitamin D through the diet is difficult to achieve. Although in the UK we can synthesise all our vitamin D needs through the sun in the spring and summer, this is hard to achieve at other times of the year. As a result, the government now recommends that everyone take 10mcg of vitamin D daily through the autumn and winter months.

Alongside aiding the absorption of calcium and phosphorus for bone health, vitamin D helps maintain normal teeth and also support normal muscle and immune function.

Fish Oils

The Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These essential fats have a wide range of roles in the body such as supporting healthy cardiovascular function, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, supporting brain function, vision and psychological wellbeing. 

Probably the most well-known fish oil is cod liver oil. This supplement stands out from other fish oils as it is rich in vitamins A & D. Because of the rich vitamin A content, this may not be the best supplement for women who are pregnant or are trying to have a child.

For individuals who have a fish allergy or are vegetarian, flaxseed oil may be a good alternative. 

Starflower / Evening Primrose Oil

The oil from the starflower plant is nature’s richest source of Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA) which is an omega 6 fatty acid. This important nutrient is also present in high levels in evening primrose oil. GLA is thought to be beneficial in regulating hormone levels, promoting a healthy heart, skin, eyes and joints, and may also assist weight management. 

Cranberry Extract

Cranberry extract supplements are also very popular with women as they are effective at helping to combat the occurrence and symptoms of urinary tract infections. It is thought that the active ingredients in cranberries have the ability to stop bacteria latching onto the walls of the urinary tract, reducing incidents of infection. 

Red Clover/Soy Isoflavones

Another supplement that many women swear by are red clover or soy isoflavones that contain plant based nutrients that are though to play a similar role in the body to estrogen. These products may help to balance hormone levels and control symptoms of the menopause. 

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