Nutrition - A Women's Issue?

By Anita Romaniw

While women are generally in charge of the family's nutritional needs, they often jeopardize their own health with poor eating habits. North American women are uniquely at risk for many nutrition-related diseases like heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, osteoporosis and weight-related illnesses. Consider the following statistics.

Heart Disease

  • number 1 cause of death in women

  • one out of every two women will die of heart disease

  • excess body weight, especially in the abdominal area, places women at greater risk for heart disease

  • other contributing risk factors include low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes

Cancer

  • second leading cause of death in women

  • diet may play a role in preventing or altering progression of breast, colon and ovarian cancers

Osteoporosis

  • more than 25 million women in North America have this incurable bone disease

  • adequate calcium intake throughout life is important in building strong bones

  • other dietary factors like caffeine, alcohol, protein and sodium intake can compromise bone health

Diabetes Mellitus

  • half of those with diabetes are women

  • women with diabetes have twice the risk of heart disease than men with diabetes

  • women with diabetes are at greater risk for endometrial cancer and complications during pregnancy

Weight

  • at least 1 in 4 women are overweight

  • being overweight can increase a woman's risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, gallstones and cancer

  • women adopt destructive eating habits in the pursuit of thinner bodies... many women are unhappy with their body size

Prevention

Prevention and early intervention are the most effective ways to deal with the weight-related issues facing women. Even a modest 10% weight loss may improve heart related and diabetes health risks.

Eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains can prove positive action towards reducing breast and colon cancer rates. Such a diet would be low in fat, high in fibre and would contain ample amounts of anti-oxidants like vitamins A,C,E and beta carotene.

Registered Dieticians and Nutritionists are calling for increased health promotion activities, health services, research and advocacy on behalf of women. As it stands now, women may have a longer life expectancy than men, but they do not necessarily lead healthier lives.

 

Anita Romaniw, B.A.Sc., R.D.N., is the Community Nutritionist at the Upper Fraser Valley Health Unit, Abbotsford, British Columbia. She works mainly with women in her private practice, "Power to Be".
Telephone: (604) 864-3400

 

 


 
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