5 Women’s Health Threats Doctors Want You to Prevent

#1. Heart Disease

Why? Heart disease is as common in women as men, but women are more likely to die from heart disease than men are.

How? Take these steps to prevent heart disease:

  • Be physically active.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Maintain a normal weight.
  • Know your numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides).
  • Find healthy ways to deal with stress.

#2. Cancer

Why? Lung, breast and colon cancer are the top three causes of cancer death in women. And cervical cancer is easy to prevent and treat if caught early.

How? To reduce risk and even prevent some cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you:

  • Avoid tobacco.
  • Limit exposure to alcohol and ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Be physically active.
  • Get recommended screenings.
  • Be vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B.

#3. Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease – Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis, Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Why?  You may not think about respiratory disease as a major health concern, but it’s a growing problem for women.


  • Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Test for radon in your home.
  • Avoid asbestos, dust and chemical fumes.
  • Eat a healthy diet with a lot of fruits or vegetables to lower risk of lung cancer.
  • Get vaccinated for flu and pneumonia.
  • See your health care provider if you have a cough that won't go away, trouble breathing, pain or discomfort in your chest.

#4. Stroke

Why? Strokes can kill, and they can also leave people disabled. Most strokes are in women 65 and older, but they can happen at any age.

How? Prevent stroke by doing the same things you do to prevent heart disease!

#5. Unintentional Injury

Why? Injuries can cause pain and potentially lost time from work. Falls are a major cause of death in older women. Car crashes are a problem at any age. 

  • Failed suicide attempts are a leading cause of injury in younger women. Women are three times more likely than men to attempt suicide.
  • Intimate partner violence is another cause of injury. Twenty-nine percent of women experience it at some point in their lives, but compassionate help is available. 


  • Don’t drive when you’re tired, drinking alcohol or using drugs (including some prescription medications).
  • Wear your seat belt and drive safely.
  • Fix tripping hazards and other safety issues around your home.
  • Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home are working.
  • Use helmets and other safety gear when appropriate, such as when you’re cycling. 
  • Learn to swim.
  • Reduce stress by learning healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Get enough sleep. Reach out to a health care provider if you have problems sleeping.
  • Take thoughts of suicide seriously and seek help.
  • Deal immediately with behavior, relationship, anger, drug and alcohol problems and get help. Stop intimate partner violence before it happens.

Why Isn’t Alzheimer’s Disease on the List?

Most lists put Alzheimer’s as the #5 health concern for women. The steps above look at problems you can help prevent. Experts aren’t sure how to prevent Alzheimer's, but lifestyle changes may help reduce your risks.

If you have any questions about these or other health risks you may have, visit with your health care professional. Most medical problems are easier to deal with if you deal with them earlier.

Meet the Author

Razieh Hadian Jazi, MD is a Family Medicine Physician at Aurora Health Center in Milwaukee, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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