NEWSWEEK COVER: 'Health For Life: The New Keys to Women's Health'

Heart Disease - America's Number One Killer of Women, Yet New Survey Shows

Only 13 Percent Consider It Their Greatest Health Risk

Sixty Percent of American Women Consume Alcohol on Regular Basis; Heavy Female

Drinkers More Vulnerable to Infertility, Osteoperosis and Cancer

May 02, 2004, 01:00 ET from Newsweek

    NEW YORK, May 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Every year a quarter of a million women
 die of heart disease -- more than the total number killed by breast cancer,
 diabetes and Alzheimer's combined-making it America's No. 1 killer of women,
 as well as men. But women who have heart attacks are treated less
 aggressively, fare worse and die at higher rates than men, report General
 Editor Claudia Kalb and Correspondent Karen Springen in the May 10 Newsweek
 cover story (on newsstands Monday, May 3). And a new survey by the American
 Heart Association found that only 13 percent of women say they consider heart
 disease their greatest health risk, while barely more than one third have
 discussed the condition with their doctor.
     (Photo: )
     No magic pink pill is going to eliminate heart disease in women, but new
 guidelines from the American Heart Association spell out how to ward it off.
 Unhealthy habits account for a whopping 82 percent of heart disease in women,
 which puts lifestyle interventions at the top of the list. It can never be
 said too many times: stop smoking, get at least 30 minutes of exercise most
 days of the week and eat lots of fruits and veggies, report Kalb and Springen
 in Newsweek's special report "Health for Life: The New Keys to Women's
 Health." With reports from experts at Harvard Medical School, Newsweek
 examines a range of hot topics in women's health, including the latest on
 drinking, breast cancer, sexual desire and hormone replacement therapy.
 Highlights of the cover package:
     * Springen and Senior Editor Barbara Kantrowitz report on new evidence
       about the devastating effects of alcohol on women. Researchers say that
       about 60 percent of American women consume alcohol on a regular basis
       and about 5 percent average two or more drinks a day. For women,
       anything more than one drink a day (five ounces of wine or a 12-ounce
       bottle of beer) is considered risky. Women who start drinking young and
       become heavy drinkers as they get older are more vulnerable to a range
       of major health problems, from infertility to osteoporosis to cancer.
       Some studies indicate that women in unhappy or stressful relationships
       are the most likely to turn to alcohol for comfort. Depression is a
       common trigger for drinking in women. What women should watch for,
       doctors say, is a pattern of using alcohol to be less stressed or angry.
       But ultimately drinking becomes as big a problem as depression and can
       even exacerbate negative feelings.
     * Correspondent Anne Underwood reports that despite breast cancer
       statistics -- 215,000 new cases a year and 40,000 deaths -- it is one
       malignancy that doctors think they're finally starting to beat. "Almost
       every month, I have a drug or an option I didn't have the month before,"
       says Dr. Kimberly Blackwell, a medical oncologist at Duke University. At
       every step of the process, from surgery to chemotherapy and radiation,
       doctors are experimenting with new techniques that are making treatment
       less painful and toxic, yet more efficient at wiping out tumor cells.
       "The improvements are incremental, but each step is taking us closer to
       better outcomes, with longer and better survival," says Dr. David
       Johnson, president-elect of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
     * If you were to ask women about their sex lives, more than a third would
       voice concern, according to a 1999 analysis of the University of
       Chicago's National Health and Social Life Survey. In this comprehensive
       look at American sexual behavior, one woman in seven reported problems
       with arousal and one in five reported low sexual desire. Is a new Viagra
       the answer? Until recently, drugmakers assumed that sildenafil (the
       active ingredient in Viagra) would give women the same boost it does
       men. But that hope fizzled when studies showed the drug was no more
       effective than a placebo, report Jan Shifren, M.D. and Nancy A. Ferrari.
       Depression, stress, past experiences and relationship conflicts can
       easily thwart sexual pleasure and, for women, the first step to a better
       sex life may be simply to talk about it.
     * Special Correspondent Anna Kuchment reports that scientists are finding
       new evidence women's friendships have played a crucial role in human
       evolution. Just as our ancestors shared child-care duties while men were
       out hunting, contemporary females come together during times of war or
       famine to pitch in with material and emotional support. "Female ties
       have evolved to ensure that certain vital functions important to life
       get maintained," says Shelley Taylor, a professor of psychology at UCLA
       and author of "The Tending Instinct." Human and primate studies suggest
       that friendship does for females what status does for males -- that it
       enhances their own sense of well-being while improving their children's
       prospects for survival. And several studies have shown that married
       women are more likely to turn to their girlfriends than to their
       husbands for emotional support.
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SOURCE Newsweek