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Women's Health

Need for Women's Health Education is Strong

Raising awareness of women's health issues is important, because most women mistakenly rate themselves above average in their health habits, a recent survey shows.

Nearly two-thirds of American women give themselves a "B" (above average) grade or better when it comes to caring for themselves, found the "Be Good to HER" Women's Health Survey by General Nutrition Centers (GNC). Specifically, 64 percent of women overall gave themselves an "A" or "B" when asked to grade how well they take care of themselves.

About twice as many women between the ages of 45 and 65 rated themselves an "A" as did women between the ages of 18 and 34, the survey found.

These findings came on the heels of a USDA Food Consumption Survey, which revealed that adult women are failing to meet the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for six vital nutrients, including iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, vitamin B6 and vitamin E.

Discrepancies Found

Two-thirds of women take vitamins; of those, 80 percent take them every day, the GNC survey found. However, less than half — 47 percent — take multiple vitamins to keep them healthy. These findings are evidence that women need to step up their nutritional routine, said GNC, especially since health experts increasingly are claiming that many of the RDA standards are too low.

"With today's hectic lifestyles, it's rare that people eat a well-balanced meal. Taking a multiple vitamin, fortified with calcium, iron and folic acid, can provide the nutritional insurance that women need," said John Troup, Ph.D., GNC's vice president of nutrition and scientific affairs.

With regard to calcium, although nearly two-thirds of the women polled (63 percent) knew that it reduces the risk of osteoporosis, only one in 10 women actually get the U.S. RDA of calcium, which is the amount found in three glasses of milk (1,000 mg.), according to the survey.

In addition, 57 percent were aware that iron plays a role in anemia, but only 15 percent knew folic acid can help prevent neural tube birth defects, the survey found.

"Calcium, iron and folic acid are crucial to a woman's wellness," Troup said, "especially since osteoporosis affects about 20 million American women, and neural tube birth defects are the most frequently occurring, permanently disabling birth defect."

Tracking Women's Healthy Lifestyle Attitudes

Four out of five women said that eating healthy foods is the best thing they do for their bodies; however, a recent study conducted by the federal government found that not one person out of 20,000 consumed 100 percent of the U.S. RDA for 10 vitamins and minerals.

"With more and more people eating their meals away from the home, it's nearly impossible to get the RDA of all nutrients. People often overestimate how well they are eating," said Troup.

When it comes to health risks, women are most worried about cancer (41 percent) and, specifically, breast cancer (17 percent). Coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of death among women, ranked third, with just 15 percent of respondents describing it as a concern.

Other survey findings:

"Mom" beat out celebrities like Cindy Crawford, Jane Fonda and Oprah Winfrey as women's female health and nutrition role model.

Women polled most wanted to tone their stomachs (47 percent); legs came in a distant second at 21 percent.

Address: General Nutrition Centers, 921 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

© 2001 Health Resources Publishing