Avoid these behaviors, and you can decrease your risk for the top threats to women’s health.


Smoking greatly increases your risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Studies show that light or occasional smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke have the same effect on your lungs as chain smoking.

Poor Diet

A diet high in fat, sodium, and sugar can have negative health effects such as increases in cholesterol and blood pressure. If left untreated, high cholesterol and high blood pressure can increase the risk for problems such as heart attack and stroke.

Sedentary Lifestyle

If you avoid exercise, you may be in for trouble. An inactive lifestyle has been linked to many of the nation’s top health concerns, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Getting proper exercise—30 minutes a day at least four days a week—can be cheap, easy, and low impact. More important, exercise is essential for lifelong health.


Although occasional stress is often unavoidable, persistent or chronic stress can be harmful. It may elevate levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which signal the body to increase heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose to help you deal with a perceived threat. Chronic stress can lead to heart disease and other significant health issues.

Excessive Drinking

One serving of wine or spirits every day may cut your risk of heart disease, but more isn’t better. Your chances of some cancers and other problems go up if you consume more than one serving a day.

Unsafe Sex

A healthy sex life is important to both your physical and emotional well-being. But be careful not to take it too far. Unsafe sex can lead to serious, lifelong conditions such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) and genital herpes. Although there is no such thing as sex that is 100 percent risk free, practicing safer sex can greatly reduce your risk for developing any type of sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Sun Exposure

Limit your exposure to the sun, especially if you aren’t wearing sun-protective clothing or sunscreen. Unprotected exposure to the sun’s rays or using tanning beds increases your chances of skin cancer.

Excess Weight Gain

Being overweight is one of the most common risk factors for many of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease. Maintaining a healthy weight is a positive step toward cutting your risks.

Ignoring Your Doctor

Modern medicine is often miraculous, but if you don’t comply with your doctor’s instructions for dealing with a condition, you increase your risk of complications as well as up the chances of making the situation worse. Take all medicines your doctor prescribes, even if you feel better before the entire prescription is completed. Some conditions have specific diets that help your body cope naturally. Sticking with your plan paves the way for a happier journey toward wellness.