How to live longer if you are a woman

In most countries in the world, women live longer than men. Women probably have a few things to thank for their longevity:
– oestrogen has been shown to protect the female body against heart disease, at least until menopause.
– women may also be more likely to seek out a doctor’s advice for health problems, leading to an earlier diagnosis and treatment.

In an article published in, award-winning medical journalist Sharon Basaraba lists the top five causes of death for older women, in order of prevalence, and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Heart Disease

Blockages or narrowing of the arteries that carry blood to the heart are the most common causes of heart disease, and the main factor in heart attacks. A woman’s risk of heart disease increases after menopause.
What you can do to prevent it:

  • Don’t smoke, and if you do, try to quit.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get more exercise, especially aerobic exercise that elevates your heart rate. Aim for 30 minutes, 5 times per week.
  • Eat food that’s good for your heart: A plant-based diet that includes fruits and vegetables and whole grains that are high in fibre, as well as fish, legumes and nuts.
  • Find ways to reduce stress.

2. Cancer

Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in women, but breast and lung cancer rank as the deadliest. Lung cancer deaths are also on the rise.
What you can do to prevent it:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Limit yourself to 1 drink per day. Alcohol consumption has been linked to breast cancer.
  • Eat your fruits and vegetables. More research is demonstrating how a plant-based diet that includes foods like broccoli, cabbage, and nuts, can protect against cancer.
  • Exercise.
  • Watch for breast changes with a self-exam. Ask for a clinical breast exam done by your doctor, and have regular mammograms as prescribed.

3. Stroke

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, resulting in damage to brain cells. High blood pressure or hypertension is a contributing factor. You’re at greater risk of a stroke if you have a family history of coronary heart disease.
What you can do to prevent it:

  • Eat less salt, which can contribute to high blood pressure.
  • Control your diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can damage blood vessels and increase your risk of stroke.
  • Get your blood pressure tested.
  • Limit your use of alcohol to 1 drink per day; high alcohol intake can raise your risk of stroke.
  • Regular exercise and a healthy diet that’s low in saturated fats can lower your risk.

4.  Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases (COPD)

These include chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and are often referred to together as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. Cigarette smoking is the main cause, although other factors like air pollution and dust may play a role. COPD has no cure.
What you can do to prevent it:

  • Do not start smoking, or if you do smoke, quit.
  • Avoid second-hand smoke from other people.
  • Avoid exposure to air pollution like chemical fumes and dust.

5.  Alzheimer’s Disease

A progressive and irreversible disease that gradually destroys brain function and memory, Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. What causes Alzheimer’s is not fully understood but it is likely a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.
What you can do to prevent it:

  • Eat a nutritious diet. Research is ongoing into the connection between stroke, diabetes, obesity and decline in brain function.
  • Keep physically active.
  • Maintain social interaction.
  • Keep your brain engaged.

• Full article in