Leading Health Concerns for Women (From Summer 2008 newsletter)

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Dr. Kimberly Hindman, ND, LAc.

1820 SW Vermont, Suite C

Portland, OR 97219

(503) 784-1027

Leading Health Concerns for Women (From Summer 2008 newsletter)
This issue will continue my series on prevention and will focus on women’s health issues. Most of women’s health is divided into three stages based on menstrual development. Based on this, I’ve written three different articles in this issue for women in teen years, child-bearing years, and menopause. However, there are some health concerns all women should be aware of.

In 2004, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) rated the leading causes of death for women of all ages and races. Heart disease was at the top at 27.2 percent, closely followed by cancer at 22 percent. Stroke was the third top cause, but only accounting for 7.5 percent of deaths. Chronic lung diseases were at number 4 at 5.2 percent, and Alzheimer’s disease was at number 5 at 3.9 percent. So cardiovascular disease (which generally also includes stroke) and cancer account for over half the deaths in women each year. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has slightly different statistics, but also listed heart disease as the leading cause of death (56%), followed by stroke (15%), lung cancer (11%), chronic lung disease (11%), and breast cancer (7%). The NIH says that heart disease is the “number one killer of women regardless of race or ethnicity”. It occurs at younger ages than most people expect, and the risks rise in middle age. Many women who have heart attacks never fully recover because women often ignore the warning signs of a heart attack longer than men do. This may be because women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, dizziness, cold sweats, nausea, anxiety, or back/jaw pain rather than the classic “heart attack” symptoms of chest and left arm pain or squeezing pressure.

Based on these statistics, women should definitely continue to have screenings and tests for cancer, especially if there is a positive family history, but heart and vascular health should be top priority. Many of the easiest ways to improve your heart health are found in the basic treatment guidelines: move every day; eat a balanced diet with lots of essential fatty acids; use apple cider vinegar to reduce LDL and triglycerides; and use probiotics and castor oil packs to improve liver function and cholesterol processing and production. It is also important to find the cause of high blood pressure and to manage or reduce stress as much as possible by finding sources of joy in everyday life. Maintaining a healthy weight will directly help the heart as well as decrease the risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, which can also affect heart health. Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the US, and is a major cause of heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer– the top three causes of death for women according to the NIH!
The three most lethal types of cancer for women are lung, breast, and colorectal cancers.

Again, the basic treatment guidelines are one of the best ways to prevent cancer by minimizing exposure to toxins; providing optimum nutrition, elimination, and immune system functioning; and keeping hormones in balance.

Osteoporosis is another major health concern for women. While osteoporosis in and of itself is not life-threatening, there are many women who die from pneumonia or other infections acquired while in the hospital due to a broken hip. Osteoporosis can also have a huge impact on a woman’s quality of life in later years. Many women feel that if they take enough calcium, bone health won’t be an issue. However, bone is a complex matrix of calcium, magnesium, trace minerals, and protein. Excessive calcium intake can block magnesium absorption that may actually lead to imbalances in bone strength. As is the case with so much of health, bone health is about balance– balance of the types and amounts of minerals, balance between weight-bearing exercise and rest to allow for rebuilding and repair.
The other area where many women express health concerns relates to menstrual health. I find that menstrual problems need to be addressed in light of all hormones, especially cortisol levels/patterns from the adrenal glands. For many women, menstrual issues began in their teen years; we may need rebalance the systems that developed before menses started to achieve balance in the present and improve the experience of menopausal changes.
© Kimberly Hindman, 2008

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