- Heart disease
27.2% of deaths
The Women's Heart Foundation reports that 8.6 million women worldwide die from heart disease each year, and that 8 million women in the U.S. are living with heart disease. Of those women who have heart attacks, 42% die within a year. When a woman under 50 has a heart attack, it's twice as likely to be fatal as a heart attack in a man under 50. Almost two-thirds of heart attack deaths occur in women with no prior history of chest pain. In 2005, the American Heart Association reported 213,600 deaths in women from coronary heart disease.
22.0% of deaths
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2009 an estimated 269,800 women will die of cancer. The leading causes of cancer deaths in women are lung (26%), breast (15%), and colorectal cancer(9%).
7.5% of deaths
OFten thought of as a man's disease, stroke kills more women than men each year. Worldwide, three million women die from stroke annually. In the U.S. in 2005, 87,000 women died of stroke as compared to 56,600 men. For women, age matters when it comes to risk factors. Once a woman reaches 45, her risk climbs steadily until at 65, it equal that of men. Although women aren't as likely to suffer from strokes as men in the middle years, they're more likely to be fatal if one occurs.
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases
5.2% of deaths
Collectively, several respiratory illnesses that occur in the lower lungs all fall under the term "chronic lower respiratory disease": chronic obstructed pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Typically, about 80% of these diseases are due to cigarette smoking. COPD is of particular concern to women since the disease manifests differently in females than males; symptoms, risk factors, progression and diagnosis all exhibit gender differences. In recent years, more women have been dying from COPD than men.
- Alzheimer's disease
3.9% of deaths
Several studies involving European and Asian populations have indicated that women have a much higher risk of Alzheimer's than men. This may be due to the female hormone estrogen, which has properties that protect against the memory loss that accompanies aging. When a woman reaches menopause, reduced levels of estrogen may play a role in her increased risk of developing Alzheimer's.
- Unintentional injuries
3.3% of deaths
Under 'unintentional injuries' are six major causes of death: falling, poisoning, suffocation, drowning, fire/burns and motor vehicle crashes. While falls are of significant concern to women who are frequently diagnosed with osteoporosis in their later years, another health threat is on the rise -- accidental poisoning. According to the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Johns Hopkins, in a six-year study between 1999 and 2005, the rate of poisoning deaths in white women age 45-64 increased 230% as compared to the 137% increase experienced by white men in the same age.
3.1% of deaths
With 9.7 million women in the U.S. suffering from diabetes, the American Diabetes Association notes that women have unique health concerns because pregnancy can often bring about gestational diabetes. Diabetes during pregnancy can lead to possible miscarriages or birth defects. Women who develop gestational diabetes are also more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes later in life. Among African American, Native American, Asian American women and Hispanic women/Latinas, the prevalence of diabetes is two to four times higher than among white women.
- Influenza and pneumonia
2.7% of deaths
Public awareness of the dangers of influenza has spiked due to the H1N1 virus, yet influenza and pneumonia have posed ongoing threats to elderly women and those whose immune systems are compromised. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to influenzas such as H1N1 and pneumonia.
- Kidney disease
1.8% of deaths
Although the average woman is less likely to suffer from chronic kidney disease than a man, if a woman is diabetic, her chance of developing kidney disease increases and puts her equally at risk. Menopause also plays a role. Kidney disease occurs infrequently in premenopausal women. Researchers believe that estrogen provides protection against kidney disease, but once a woman reaches menopause, that protection is diminished. Researchers at Georgetown University's Center for the Study of Sex Differences in Health, Aging and Disease have found that sex hormones appear to affect non-reproductive organs such as the kidney. They note that in women, the absence of the hormone testosterone leads to a more rapid progression of kidney disease when they are diabetic.
1.5% of deaths
The medical term for blood poisoning, septicemia is a serious illness that can rapidly turn into a life-threatening condition. Septicemia made headlines in January 2009 when Brazilian model and Miss World pageant finalist Mariana Bridi da Costa died from the disease after a urinary tract infection progressed to septicemia.
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"Estimated New Cancer Cases and Deaths by Sex, United States, 2009." American Cancer Society, caonline.amcancersoc.org. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
"Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics - 2009 Update at a Glance." American Heart Association, americanheart.org. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
"Leading Causes of Death in Females, United States 2004." CDC Office of Women's Health, CDC.gov. 10 September 2007.
"Women and Diabetes." American Diabetes Association, diabetes.org. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
"Women and Heart Disease Facts." Women's Heart Foundation, womensheart.org. Retrieved 10 September 2009.
"Women More Likely To Suffer Kidney Disease If Diabetic." MedicalNewsToday.com. 12 August 2007.