The top three causes of death for women (in the US) are cardiovascular disease (24%), cancer (22.2%) and stroke (6.3%) – all of which can often be fought off with healthy lifestyle choices. The small decisions that we make, whether for the better or for the worse, can really add up when it comes to keeping or obtaining good health. In fact, a healthy diet during adolescence has been associated with reduced odds for developing such diseases like breast cancer. By choosing not to smoke, to eat a healthy diet and to engage in physical activity, we can do our part in preventing such deadly diseases and live long healthy lives instead. Knowledge is power and the only way to make lasting change is through education, therefore, today I want to share with you 7 ways to fight off the top three causes of death for women.
1. Maintain an Optimal Weight
One of the most important ways to fight off the top three causes of death for women is to maintain a healthy weight. Although it is easier said than done, maintaining a healthy BMI (18.5-24.9) lifelong is key to fighting off disease. Obesity is the primary risk factor for cardiovascular (heart) disease which is the number one cause of death for women. You can achieve this goal by following some of the information that follows!
2. Eat a High Fiber Diet
Fiber is found in plant based foods like nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes and it is not able to be digested or absorbed by your body. Since it is indigestible, it passes through your entire GI system, carrying toxins and wastes out of your body. With every additional serving of fiber, your risk for developing cardiovascular disease is reduced by 4% and for stroke by 5%. In order to up your fiber intake to the recommended 30 grams per day for prevention, aim to eat at least 4.5 cups of fruits and veggies per day, at least 3 servings of whole grains per day, and 4 or more servings of nuts, legumes and seeds per week!
3. Choose Lean Proteins
In order to do your very best to prevent future disease, it is best to choose lean protein sources, like fish, Greek yogurt, beans, chicken/turkey breast, and organic tofu instead of red and processed meats. Not only will lean proteins help your immune system and body stay strong, but it also provides several other benefits as well. Fish like wild Alaskan Salmon, mackerel, Black Cod, and Albacore Tuna are all high in omega-3 fatty acids which may reduce inflammation and are associated with a decreased risk of some cancers.
4. Replace Refined Carbs with Healthy Fats
Studies have suggested that a diet high in refined carbohydrates, like soda, white bread, white pasta, cakes, pies, doughnuts, pastries, white bagels, etc., are really to blame in regards to poor health. These kinds of foods are high in calories and low, if not void, of nutritional qualities; therefore, these foods lead to unintentional weight gain without providing any health benefits. You should limit your sugar consumption to no more than 100 calories per day from added sugar. The easiest way to do this is to get rid of low nutrient sweetened beverages from your diet. Instead of looking at it like you are giving something up, swap these foods with healthy fats (in moderation!) instead. Nuts and nut butters, seeds, avocados, olives, etc., are all great sources of healthy fats!
5. Limit Processed Foods
Processed foods, fast foods, packaged meats and sugar sweetened beverages are four components of the standard American diet that have wreaked havoc on the health of our nation. Like refined carbohydrates, these foods do not provide your body any of the disease fighting properties that it needs. Instead, they are high in sugar, sodium, unhealthy fats, chemicals and preservatives, all of which carve the path toward disease.
Exercise is one of the best ways to combat disease - especially the top three causes of death for women. Exercise is like a miracle drug for your body, strengthening not only your muscles but your bones and joints too. Exercise helps keep your arteries clean so that your heart doesn't have to overwork to send blood throughout our body. Exercise acts like a natural energy and mood booster too! You should aim for 150 minutes or more of exercise per week, in bouts of at least 10 minutes or more at a time. Mix up your activity by including both cardiovascular exercises, like walking, running, riding a bike, etc. along with strength/resistance training a few days per week.
7. Avoid Nutritional Deficiencies
No vitamin can provide what actual real food does, however, in order to fight off disease it is necessary to prevent any nutritional deficiencies. A healthy diet rich in the foods mentioned above will often provide your body all of the nutrients it needs, however, an unhealthy diet will lead to nutritional deficiencies in a matter of time. A few nutrients that play key roles in preventing the top three causes of death for women include antioxidants (found in plant based foods), fiber, Vitamin D and omega-3s. Talk with your doctor before taking any supplements but start to pay attention to your diet to see that you are getting a wide variety of foods to ensure that you are getting these key nutrients!
As women, we must stand together and help each other live healthier lives! As diseases like cardiovascular disease continue to increase in women, you and I both play a role in decreasing its incidence by encouraging one another to eat healthy, get active and maintain a healthy weight. What can you do to play a role in helping other women live healthier lives?