As Women’s History Month marked a century of (mostly) progress, the Centers for Disease Control spotted a worrisome trend: The longevity gap between men and women—one place in life where women have always had the edge—is closing.
Rama Harouni, the director of women’s health at Las Vegas’ K|E Center for Advanced Medicine, blames women’s increasing engagement in risky behaviors traditionally more prevalent among men. For instance, the percentage of female binge drinkers in Nevada rose from 11.2 percent in 2009 to 12.3 percent in 2010, and while the male smoker population decreases, the number of women lighting up holds steady at around 20 percent.
Here is Harouni’s guide to what females should do to turn this trend around, at each stage of life:
Teen years—Watch your body-mass index. Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, the No. 1 killer of American women.
20s—Begin annual Pap smears and HPV tests that look for female cancers.
30s—Kick the habit. Smokers over 35 on birth-control pills have a seven-times higher risk of stroke than nonsmokers.
40s—Start getting mammograms every other year—yearly if you’re at high risk for breast cancer.
50s—Yearly colonoscopies aren’t just for men; now’s the time, ladies.