The deadliest threats to women may not be what you think. According to the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these are the leading causes of female fatalities in the U.S.:
1. HEART DISEASE, 22.3%
One in four females die from heart disease, making it the number-one killer of women in the United States. Frighteningly, nine in 10 women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease, commonly caused by blockage in the coronary arteries. Women are likely to experience different symptoms than men, which can include discomfort in the back, shoulders, arms, stomach, jaw, neck or throat, inability to sleep, shortness of breath, lightheadedness or dizziness, nausea or vomiting or breaking out into a cold sweat.
2. CANCER, 21.1%
According to the American Cancer Society, breast, colorectal, endometrial, lung, cervical, skin and ovarian cancers are the most likely cancers to affect women. For most of these cancer types, regular screenings can help find them early when they are easier to treat. Lifestyle choices like exercising, eating healthy and not smoking can reduce your risk.
3. CHRONIC LOWER RESPIRATORY DISEASES, 6.2%
This category covers a range of conditions, including chronic obstructed pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking accounts for about 80 percent of cases, but genetics, pollutants at home or work and respiratory infections also can be factors, according to the CDC.
4. STROKE, 6.1%
Women have more strokes than men and die from them more often, according to the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, which report that one in five women has a stroke at some point in her life. Risk increases with some factors that are exclusive to women, including pregnancy/preeclampsia, birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. Some warning signs include face drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulty.
5. ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE, 5.7%
Roughly 13 million women in the U.S. either are living with Alzheimer’s or caring for someone who has it, according to the Alzheimer’s Association — which also notes that women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as breast cancer. Women live longer than men, which could explain why their risk is greater, but experts are considering whether biological or genetic variations or differences in life experiences may play a role.
6. UNINTENTIONAL INJURIES, 4%
Injury death rates for women reportedly are lower for women than men at all ages. However, they are the leading cause of death for women ages 18-34, most commonly from car accidents. Falls were the top fatal accident for women over 75.
7. DIABETES, 2.7%
Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease by four times in women, according to the CDC, and women also are at higher risk for diabetes-related complications like blindness, kidney disease and depression. About 15 million women nationwide have diabetes, and women who are overweight, over age 45, had diabetes during pregnancy, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol or have a genetic disposition are most at risk of developing the condition.
8. INFLUENZA AND PNEUMONIA, 2.3%
While most of us have experienced the flu as a nuisance, the illness can be fatal. The most vulnerable populations are children under age 5, the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic health problems. If someone contracts a second infection like pneumonia while already fighting the flu, they are in greater danger of hospitalization or death. The flu vaccine is between 40 and 60 percent effective most seasons, according to the CDC, and even for those who still get sick, their illness is generally less severe.
9. KIDNEY DISEASE, 1.8%
Chronic kidney disease affects a reported 195 million women worldwide, causing about 600,000 deaths annually. Females with CKD experience issues like irregular periods, sexual dysfunction, bone disease and depression. Women with CKD are less likely to become pregnant, but if they do, they are at higher risk for high blood pressure and premature birth. Experts advise limiting alcohol, not smoking, getting at least 30 minutes of exercise daily and maintaining a healthy diet to help prevent this condition or keep it from getting worse.
10. SEPTICEMIA, 1.6%
While sepsis — a bacterial blood infection — can affect anyone, it is most common and most dangerous in pregnant women, people with chronic conditions or weak immune systems, adults over 65, those who have recently undergone surgery and children less than I year old. Prompt treatment, typically with antibiotics, is key — as septic shock may occur and is fatal in over two thirds of cases.