Published on: May 20, 2017
by Lucie van den Berg for Herald Sun:
Unhealthy habits are driving up rates of disease and dementia in women, despite decades of public health promotion.
Women are still more likely to suffer vascular disease and stroke than men, and face a higher risk of developing cognitive impairment and dementia, but the risks can be reduced by healthy lifestyle changes.
Research by the University of Melbourne has found that most females are not meeting the health guidelines that can help reduce the risk of death, disability and morbidity.
Less than a quarter of women do the recommended 75 minutes of exercise each week, only 20 per cent eat enough fruit and vegetables and more than half are overweight.
“It’s a dire situation,” lead researcher and neurologist Professor Cassandra Szoeke said.
“Women have higher rates and are more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks, ischaemic heart disease, stroke, than men.”
To determine how many women were complying with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Guidelines for healthy living, Prof Szoeke looked at an online survey of 26,000 women.
The results, published in PLOS ONE, found only 30 per cent of women were eating sufficient fruit, vegetables, fish and legumes, and doing enough physical activity.
Almost two in five had more than three health risks, such as poor nutrition or low levels of physical activity.
“Women who reported not coping well with home or work stressors had more health risks, supporting previous research that psychological stress is detrimental to health and wellbeing and can increase the likelihood of unhealthy behaviours,” Prof Szoeke said.
Personal trainer Rebecca Joseph said women should be exercising at least two to three hours a week.
“Finding the right balance of exercise and eating right is the key to maintaining a healthy weight,” she said.
The research found that women who had good social support had less risk factors, suggesting friends, family and communities played a key role in improving lifestyles.
The research paper said public health programs had been successful in raising awareness about the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of disease, but improvements had not been equally distributed across the sexes.
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