National Women’s Health Week is celebrated from May 12 – 18 this year, and it is imperative to shed light on women’s lung health.  While various health issues affect both genders, lung diseases can manifest differently in women, necessitating specific attention and awareness.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a progressive lung condition that affects millions of individuals around the world. While it is commonly associated with male smokers, COPD also poses a significant threat to women’s health. COPD is not only more prevalent in women than previously thought but also presents differently in female patients, experiencing worse lung function and health-related quality of life than men. This rise can be attributed to varying factors, including evolving smoking habits, exposure to indoor air pollutants, and biological variances, making women more susceptible. Smoking continues to be a primary cause of lung diseases and other health complications in women. By offering assistance, resources, and guidance on smoking cessation techniques, women can be empowered to quit smoking and reduce their risk of developing lung-related ailments.

A critical aspect of women’s lung health involves hormonal influences that can impact disease progression or exacerbations in women with COPD and asthma Estrogen, a pivotal hormone in female physiology, is linked to the inflammatory response in the lungs. Additionally, women typically have narrower airways than men, rendering them more prone to airway obstruction and restricted airflow.

Sleep apnea is frequently underdiagnosed in women, leading to diverse health issues. Hormonal fluctuations may increase the risk of sleep apnea during pregnancy or menopausal phases. Hormonal imbalances in women with conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may further elevate the risk of sleep apnea. Recognizing sleep apnea symptoms such as excessive daytime drowsiness, anxiety, headaches, and snoring can prompt women to seek medical attention for enhanced sleep quality and overall well-being.

National Women’s Health Week reminds women to prioritize self-care, including lung health. Encouraging routine check-ups, adopting healthy lifestyle choices, and fostering open dialogues about lung health can empower women to manage their health proactively. Let us collectively support and empower women on their journey towards optimal lung health and overall well-being.

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Resources: CDC, NHLBI, ALA