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Key nutrition issues for women

Every woman is different and should discuss with a physician and dietitian specific, individual health and diet concerns. But overall, things have changed for women over the past century. In 1900, women in the United States were most likely to die from infectious diseases or complications from pregnancy and childbirth. Today, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), 63 percent of American women die of heart disease, cancer or stroke — the same leading causes of death as men.

Women tend to live longer than men, but on average, women experience 3.1 years of disability at the end of life.

To stay as healthy as possible as long as possible, women should get regular medical checkups, including tests for diabetes, osteoporosis, cholesterol and blood pressure. The AHRQ has online guidelines about when to start such tests and how often to get them.

Women should also refrain from smoking. In 2002, 80,163 females were diagnosed with diabetes, osteoporosis, high cholesterol and high blood pressure which is approaching the number of lung cancers in men — 100,099 in 2002.

In addition, women need to get more active. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, fewer than three in 10 women engaged in regular leisure-time physical activity, compared with 36 percent of men. Such activity not only reduces death rates and decreases risk of disease, but also reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Becoming more active could also help women lose weight and possibly prevent or reduce the effects of diabetes: 62 percent of American women are overweight, while 8 percent have diabetes.

Making sure you get enough iron is another diet-related health issue for women. About 10 percent of women of child-bearing age in the United States are iron deficient, and 5 percent of women suffer from iron-deficiency anemia. Lean red meat and fortified cereal would be good choices to boost iron stores.

A balanced diet is a good foundation for good health. Follow the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, focusing on their emphasis on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and dairy, and preference of poly- and monounsaturated fats rather than saturated and trans fats. Portion control is always key. For guidelines, see

This article originally appeared in Chow Line (5/05/06), a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2008.

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