A Woman’s World
Although breast cancer and cervix cancer are often noted as the major health concerns for women, the fact is that women are also at greater risk of dying from Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension or stroke in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties than men.
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, women represent 50.9% of the population in our three counties. Yet, over a 6-year period, from 1999-2004, women represented 71% of all deaths from Alzheimer’s, 63.8% of the deaths from hypertension and 62.1% of the deaths from stroke in these same counties.
So it’s time to take steps to reduce your risks of these diseases so you are not part of the statistics.
- American Cancer Society Recommendations for Early Breast Cancer Detection
- The American Cancer Society believes the use of regular mammograms, MRI (in women at high risk), clinical breast exams, and finding and reporting breast changes early offers women the best opportunity for reducing the breast cancer death rate through early detection. This combined approach is clearly better than any one test.
- Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health.
- Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a periodic (regular) health exam by a health professional preferably every 3 years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year.
- American Cancer Society Recommendations For Cervical Cancer Screening
- All women should begin cervical cancer screening about 3 years after they begin having vaginal intercourse, but no later than when they are 21 years old. Screening should be done every year with the regular Pap test or every 2 years using the newer liquid-based Pap test.
- Beginning at age 30, women who have had 3 normal Pap test results in a row may get screened every 2 to 3 years. Another reasonable option for women over 30 is to get screened every 3 years (but not more frequently) with either the conventional or liquid-based Pap test, plus the HPV DNA test. Women who have certain risk factors such as diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure before birth, HIV infection, or a weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy, or chronic steroid use should continue to be screened annually.
Stroke Prevention Tips from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Signs & Symptoms of Stroke
With timely treatment, the risk of death and disability from stroke can be lowered. It is very important to know the symptoms of a stroke and act right away.
All of the major symptoms of stroke appear suddenly, and often there is more than one symptom at the same time.
If you think someone is having a stroke, you should call 9–1–1 or emergency medical services right away.
Things you can do to lower the risk of stroke include:
- Prevent and control high blood pressure. High blood pressure is easily checked and all adults should have their blood pressure checked on a regular basis. It can be controlled with lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, regular physical activity, not smoking and keeping a healthy weight, and with medicines when needed.
- Prevent and control diabetes. People with diabetes have a higher risk of stroke, but they can also work to reduce their risk. Further, recent studies suggest that all people can take steps to reduce their risk for diabetes. These include weight loss and regular physical activity.
- Prevent and control high blood cholesterol. High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, which can increase the risk for stroke. Preventing and treating high blood cholesterol includes eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and higher in fiber, keeping a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise. All adults should have their cholesterol levels checked once every five years, and more often if it is found to be high.
- Excessive alcohol use can increase the risk of high blood pressure. People who drink should do so in moderation.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Proper diet and regular physical activity can help to maintain a healthy weight.
- Get regular physical activity. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate level physical activities for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
- Practice good nutrition. Along with healthy weight and regular physical activity, an overall healthy diet can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This includes eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lowering or cutting out salt or sodium, and eating less saturated fat and cholesterol to lower the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease which can lead to stroke.
- No Tobacco. Smoking injures blood vessels and speeds up the process of hardening of the arteries. Further, smoking is a major risk for heart disease and stroke. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Quitting smoking lowers one’s risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Stroke can run in families. Genes play a role in stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and vascular conditions. It is also possible that an increased risk for stroke within a family is due to factors such as a common sedentary lifestyle or poor eating habits, rather than hereditary factors.
- Treat atrial fibrillation (an irregular beating of the heart). It can cause clots that can lead to stroke. A doctor can prescribe medicines to help reduce the chance of clots.
Hypertension Tips from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
When blood pressure stays consistently too high for too long, it is called hypertension. High blood pressure or hypertension for adults is defined as a systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or higher or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mmHg or higher.
There are several things that you can do to keep your blood pressure healthy. These actions are almost the same as the steps to reduce your risk of stroke and they should become part of your regular lifestyle:
- Prevent and control high blood pressure.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Be active.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Moderate alcohol use.
- Prevent and control diabetes.
- Don’t use tobacco.
- If your doctor prescribes medications, use them.
- Genetic Factors. Genes can play a role in high blood pressure. It is also possible that an increased risk of high blood pressure within a family is due to factors such as a common sedentary lifestyle or poor eating habits. Therefore, lifestyle factors should be considered for preventing and controlling high blood pressure.
Alzheimer’s Disease Risk Reduction Tips from the Centers for Disease Control
AD usually begins after age 60. The risk goes up as you get older. Your risk is also higher if a family member has had the disease. AD has no known cure, and the secrets to preventing it are not yet known.
The risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease (AD) appears to be increased by many conditions that damage the heart or blood vessels. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. There also appears to be an increased risk of AD in older people who had serious or repeated head injuries when they were younger. Genetics might affect the risk of AD in some people, depending on the presence of other risk factors.
Some of the risk factors associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease are unavoidable, such as aging and genetics. And while we need to learn more about risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, current information suggests that it may help to keep your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol at healthy levels, to avoid tobacco and excess alcohol. We may also be able to help reduce the risk by preventing or controlling diabetes, hardened arteries, smoking, lack of exercise, and mental inactivity.
Note that any single risk factor by itself does not necessarily mean a person will or will not develop AD. The combination of risk factors determines overall risk.
Some other simple steps you can take to help prevent many of the other diseases that affect us include:
- The American Cancer Society recommends an annual skin examination for anyone aged 40 or older.
- The American Medical Association recommends that people ages 40 to 64 get their eyes examined by an ophthalmologist every two years. For those over 65, the AMA recommends yearly exams. The exams should include tests for glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts.
- The American Diabetes Association recommends a fasting plasma glucose test every three years for people aged 45 or older. If you have high risk factors (a family history of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, are African-American, Native American or Hispanic) you may need to be tested more often.
- The American Cancer Society recommends colon cancer screenings for both men and women from age 50 on who are at "average" risk (no family or personal history of colon cancer or intestinal polyps) as follows:
- A fecal occult blood test every year
- A flexible sigmoidscopy every five years
- Double contrast barium enema every five years
- Colonscopy every 10 years
- The American Medical Association recommends a electrocardiogram every 3 to 5 years for anyone who has two or more of the risks related to heart disease (family history, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes and/or high blood pressure).
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a pneumonia vaccination for anyone 50 or older.