women

You eat well, exercise and take your multivista, but new research suggests you could be missing some of the biggest risks to your future health.

What do you fear could be putting your future health most at risk? Insisting on a natural tan? Popping painkillers at the first hint of a headache? Friday-night cocktails? In fact, the latest research suggests genuine threats to our long-term health lie in areas we rarely give a second thought. According to experts, our skin colour, blood group and where we live all paly a huge part, but as so few of us realise the impact of these factors, we’re missing the chance to rewrite their effects.

You eat well, exercise and take your multivista, but new research suggests you could be missing some of the biggest risks to your future health

You eat well, exercise and take your multivista, but new research suggests you could be missing some of the biggest risks to your future health

‘It’s very important to eat well and exercise regularly particularly to feel good in the short term, but having an awareness about these other risks gives you the inside track on long-term disease prevention,’ says women’s health expert Marilyn Glenville. ‘You can’t change your skin colour, your blood group or the town you’ve lived in for the past 20 years, but by knowing the risks you face you can make all kinds of lifestyle changes to protect yourself.’

Here’s how to arm yourself against the three most surprising risks.

1.    Your skin colour

The world of science has long debated whether it’s your ethnicity itself that makes you more prone to certain diseases, or the lifestyle that goes along with it. There’s no easy answer but what is clear is that there are strong links between certain conditions and the colour of your skin.

YOU HAVE: BLACK SKIN

Your risk: Breast cancer

Although black women are less likely to develop breast cancer in the first place, when it does develop, the survival rates are poorer, researchers say. Tumours are often more advanced when discovered, and have spread to the lymph nodes.

Although black women are less likely to develop breast cancer in the first place, when it does develop, the survival rates are poorer, researchers say

Although black women are less likely to develop breast cancer in the first place, when it does develop, the survival rates are poorer, researchers say

Fight back:

‘The most important thing is early diagnosis,’ says Kris Hallenga, founder of the breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel! (coppafeel.org). ‘Familiarise yourself with what’s normal for your books, and check for changes at least monthly. Decide a date that’s hard to miss, maybe the first of the month, or pay day to do your check. That way, if your doctor asks how long a lump’s been there you can say, “It’s been there for 33 days” and they’re much more likely to take action, rather than sending you away and telling you to come back in two weeks.

“It’s not just about lumps and it’s not just the boob area; check right up to your armpit and collarbone. Look for lumps or bumps, skin texture changes, constant pain, and changes to your nipple is it becoming inverted, is it crusting, is there discharge? The best place is in the shower, think: shampoo, conditioner, boob check.’

YOU HAVE: ASIAN SKIN

Your risk: Type-2 diabetes

Nearly half of British Asians don’t realise it but this group is at far greater risk of developing type-2 diabetes than the general UK population. Pakistani women are five times as common for Bangladeshi women; and for Indian women, the risk is two and a half times greater.

Nearly half of British Asians don’t realise it but this group is at far greater risk of developing type-2 diabetes than the general UK population

Nearly half of British Asians don’t realise it but this group is at far greater risk of developing type-2 diabetes than the general UK population

Fight back:

‘Generic factors increases the risk,’ says Professor Kamlesh Khunti, professor of primary care at The Leicester Diabetes Centre. ‘But while our genes haven’t changes for 50,000 years, the prevalence of type-2 diabetes has increased dramatically in the last 30 or 40 years, so that tells us that while genes play their part, our lifestyle has had a huge impact and we’re in charge of that.’ Here’s what you can do:

·         Mix up your workout. A recent study found that people who did 30 minutes of weights five days a week could reduce their risk of developing type-2 diabetes by up to 34%. If they combined that with cardio, the figure rose to 59%. Aim to get your pulse racing five times a week for around 60 minutes, whether that’s a brisk walk, a circuits class, a light jog or even a spring clean.

·         Watch your waist. Having a lot of fat in your abdomen, around your liver and pancreas, increases your risk of diabetes. ‘South Asians are genetically predisposed to abdominal obesity, so be aware of any weight gain around your middle’, says Professor Khunti. ‘Aim not to exceed a 30 inch waist and try to limit saturated fats and increase the fibre in your diet.

·         Take the test. The Diabetes Risk Score questionnaire on the diabetes UK website (diabetes.org.uk/riskscore) asks you to answer seven questions. It then tells you whether you’re high risk and need a blood test, so it’s a good and simple starting point.

YOU HAVE: WHITE SKIN

Your risk: Osteoporosis

White women are around 20% more likely to develop the brittle bone disease osteoporosis than other ethnic groups because white people’s bones are less dense.

White women are around 20% more likely to develop the brittle bone disease osteoporosis

White women are around 20% more likely to develop the brittle bone disease osteoporosis

Fight back:

·         Use it or lose it. ‘Improve bone density by including both weight bearing exercise (think running, skipping, dancing, aerobics) with resistance work (press ups, lifting weights)’, advises Marilyn.

·         Eat for healthy bones. Eat plenty of calcium rich foods, like milk, yoghurt, dried fruit, sesame seeds, leafy green veg, tofu and sardines bones included which contain the bone-strengthening combo of calcium and vitamin D.

‘Without vitamin D you can’t absorb calcium, and around 25% of us are deficient in the UK’, says Marilyn. Order a finger-prick test at naturalhealthpractice.com ($165.5) to find out your levels. ‘It’s important to test because while it’s fine to take vitamin D within a multivitamin, if you take too much on its own it could damage your kidneys.’

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