When many women think of the biggest risks to their health, they often think of diseases like breast or ovarian cancer. Or they may worry about getting osteoporosis or dementia. Some women are concerned about health conditions they may be more at risk for due to family history. But the one thing many women don’t put at the top of their list when it comes to maintaining their health is their lungs.
But they should. Here’s why.
Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in women. It takes more lives than breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined. In the U.S., one woman is diagnosed with lung cancer every 5 minutes, and one woman dies from the disease every 7 ½ minutes. And while lung cancer rates have been falling among men over the last few decades, they have been increasing in women. Additionally, younger women are getting lung cancer more often than younger men, although the cause of this is unknown.
Asthma, COPD and other lung diseases
In addition to lung cancer, other disorders affecting the lungs are on the rise for women, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and COPD. Women are more likely to have asthma than men and are more likely to die from it, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Women are also twice as likely to be diagnosed with chronic bronchitis as men. Rates of emphysema have increased in women in recent years but have decreased in men. And more women have died from COPD every year than men since 2000.
It is not known exactly why women are experiencing increasing rates of lung disease as rates in men for similar diseases are declining. One theory is that some causes of lung disease, like cigarette smoke and air pollution, may be more damaging to the lungs of women than men.
Lowering lung disease risk
Although you can’t eliminate all risk factors for lung disease and lung cancer, there are some things you can control. Here are 7 tips for lowering your risk:
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