A Closer Look at Women’s Health - Part 1

03 / 07 / 2024

In addition to several aspects of the empowerment of women on International Women’s Day on March 8th, we would like to bring up a largely unrecognized issue of the rising rates of chronic health conditions in women. Did you know that many health issues affect more women than men?

 


The most common cause of death among women is cardiovascular disease (CVD); and yet, only 56% of American women and even health care providers are aware of this fact. In the United States, more than 60 million women are living with some form of CVD and account for one-third of all deaths worldwide. There is a higher prevalence of obesity and uncontrolled blood pressure and diabetes in women than men, all of which can cause several cardiovascular complications including strokes. Most of the strokes occur due to blockages in the blood vessels of the brain and kills more women than men. While risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, smoking and family history apply to everyone, women have some unique risk factors for stroke, which include pregnancy, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, and frequent migraines.


While women are concerned about breast cancer, it is estimated that one in three women will die of heart disease or stroke, compared with one in forty women who will die of breast cancer. Breast cancer accounts for about 12% of all new annual cancer cases worldwide. Although it occurs in men, it is 100 times more common in women resulting in 685,000 deaths globally.


Women constitute nearly 80% of the population affected by autoimmune disease and have disproportionately high disability associated with this spectrum of conditions. Autoimmune illnesses occur when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive and attacks its own healthy cells. Some of the most common autoimmune diseases are lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and multiple sclerosis.


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease accounting for up to 70% of all dementia cases and the most frequent cause of memory loss, cognitive deficits, and behavioral changes. More than five million people in the United States are currently diagnosed with AD and nearly two-thirds of them are women. In post-menopausal women, loss of estrogen production, increased triglycerides and low levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) have been linked to increased risk of cognitive decline and AD. It is estimated that AD could reach up to 16 million by 2050 unless new treatments or interventions to prevent or delay its onset are identified.


Osteoporosis increases the chances of falls and fractures leading to more complications. Among the ten million Americans with osteoporosis, 80% are women. Advancing age as well as decreasing levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone increases the risk of osteoporosis.


Women have a higher rate of urinary tract infections, due to a shorter length of the urethra. This makes women more prone to bacterial transmissions in the genital area. Moreover, women are also prone to diseases of the reproductive system.


Current research and treatments most commonly focus on a single disease. However, many people suffer from multiple coexisting health problems. While women are affected excessively by several chronic conditions, they are disproportionately excluded from clinical research because either they are in the child bearing age or have health problems and do not meet the eligibility criteria. Consequently, doctors treat each condition separately which results in prescribing multiple medications, the interactions of which are largely unknown. This often leads to developing new health problems and more medication.


In our next issue of the Health Science News Page, we will further elaborate on the important role of micronutrients in maintaining women’s health through different stages of life.

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