Chronic diseases is a significant global public health issue. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that chronic lifestyle diseases will account for 70 percent of global deaths by 2030. Women worldwide face unique health concerns due to unhealthy ways of living. Most women are hardwired to look after families first without paying attention to their own health and in fact neglecting it on most occasions. And this is further compounded if they are working women trying to balance home and work. Balancing home and work is a difficult process and requires considerable skill.

This may lead to irregular meal patterns, missing meals, lack of sleep, stress, lack of physical activity, addictions, poor relationships—all of which contribute to the development of lifestyle diseases (chronic diseases or non-communicable diseases).

What are some major lifestyle diseases in women?

Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and some types of cancer are some of the lifestyle diseases. They can lead to loss of independence, years of disability, or death, imposing a considerable economic burden on health services.

What can you do to keep lifestyle diseases at bay?

Maintaining a healthy weight, regularly exercising, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases by 80 percent. An unhealthy lifestyle forms the root cause of all lifestyle diseases, as they often originate in childhood, develop silently over time, and manifest without warning, also called silent killers.

Women over 40 are more prone to heart diseases. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What increases the risk of lifestyle diseases in women?

1. Unhealthy eating habits

Unhealthy meal patterns and irregular meal timings lead to hidden hunger, which means loss of micronutrients leading to deficiencies.

2. Stress:

Stress, lack of sleep, and lack of physical activity contribute to weight gain. Stress and lack of sleep increase the levels of the hormone cortisol, which leads to inflammation in the body. Cortisol increases hunger and cravings, leading to weight gain. This may lead to pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, hormonal problems, and finally PCOS.

3. Age

Women are at a high risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes as early as 35 years of age. Heart disease is the leading cause of preventable death among women.

4. Menopause

Before menopause, a woman’s own estrogen helps protect her from lifestyle diseases, especially heart disease, by increasing HDL (good) cholesterol and decreasing LDL (bad) cholesterol. Women have greater overall cholesterol levels than males do after menopause. Triglyceride levels are a significant factor.

lifestyle diseases in women
Menopause can bring with it many diseases. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

5. Diabetes

Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease in women more than it does in men with risk factors like obesity, hypertension, and high cholesterol. Diabetes doubles the risk of a second heart attack and heart failure in women who have already had a heart attack.

6. Metabolic syndrome

Women who have metabolic syndrome, which includes a large waist, high blood pressure, glucose intolerance, low HDL cholesterol, and high triglycerides, are more likely to develop heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

7. Smoking

Compared to men, women who smoke are more likely to experience a heart attack. Cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases are all influenced by persistent, low-grade inflammation.

lifestyle diseases in women
Think twice about smoking! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How can women avoid lifestyle diseases?

Adopting healthy behaviours, improving physical activity, stopping tobacco, a high-fibre, low-fat diet to control body weight, good sleeping habits, avoiding excessive alcohol, coping with stress, and seeking support as needed, reduces the risk of death due to lifestyle diseases.

Women with disabilities need the same general health care as women without disabilities.

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