The top health killers of women

These are the key health threats facing Australian women in 2019.

Women’s health outlooks have improved markedly over the past century, thanks to medical advances.

As we celebrate the resilience and achievements of women around the globe, it’s also important to shine a light on the issues – be they social, financial, medical or other – that still need to be tackled.

When it comes to health, there are still five major threats to women’s lives. We take a look at the diseases that are the biggest causes of death to women in Australia in 2019.


Dementia kills around 8800 women a year.

High blood pressure in your 30s or 40s means you are 73 per cent more likely to develop the disease.

Swedish researchers say staying fit may reduce the risk by around 90 per cent.

“It’s possible that improving people’s cardiovascular fitness in middle age could delay or even prevent them from developing dementia,” according to Helena Horder of the University of Gothenburg.

Heart disease

Every day, heart disease kills 22 Australian women and 90 per cent of women have one risk factor, such as high cholesterol, being overweight and not exercising.

“Typically, when we think of a heart attack patient, we see a middle-aged man who is overweight, has diabetes and smokes,” reports Chris Gale, professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Leeds.

“This is not always the case.”

Cerebrovascular disease

Stroke is a common form of cerebrovascular disease and by the age of 85, women have a one in five stroke risk.

UK researchers found a Mediterranean-style diet may reduce the risk for women after the age of 40.

Chronic lower respiratory disease

Last year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found asthma is a particular risk for women aged between 55 and 64 with this health issue.

“It’s important that women prioritise time to effectively manage and actively monitor asthma symptoms, so their conditions do not get worse,” says Dr Jonathan Burdon, Chair of the National Asthma Council Australia in a statement.

Lung cancer

By the age of 85, one in 21 women are at risk of lung cancer, says the Cancer Council.

An Australian study found 81 per cent of lung cancers are caused by tobacco smoke, so quitting is one of the most effective ways to avoid this disease.

Tips to stay healthy

Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella shares the following advice:

  • Purple, red and blue foods like berries, blueberries, plums, purple carrots, red cabbage and red apples are full of polyphenols which are disease-fighting antioxidants.
  • Choose a nutrient-dense breakfast, like bircher muesli or an egg on whole grain toast. If you eat breakfast, you’re likely to move more and burn more calories.
  • Our gut microbiota help our immune system and prevent allergies. Feed these bugs with whole grains like rice, oats, and rye and foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts.
  • Eat at least five serves of vegetables and two pieces of fruit a day. Research confirms a diet high in fruit and vegetables will decrease your risk of many diseases.
  • The basis of all modern disease is thought to be inflammation. Help control inflammation with good fats, like Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, linseeds and walnuts.

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Written by Sarah Marinos.