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Houston, Texas

People discussing health of women with disabilities
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Health Risks for Women with Physical Limitations poster text in English

Are you a woman with physical limitations?

When we refer to women with physical limitations, we mean women who have significant difficulty with any of the following:

  • lifting 10 pounds
  • walking up 10 steps without resting
  • walking ¼ mile
  • standing for about 20 minutes
  • bending down from a standing position
  • reaching up over the head or reaching out
  • using fingers to grasp or handle something
  • holding a pen or a pencil

24% of women in the U.S. have some type of activity limitation. The chances of having a limitation increase sharply as women age.*

Women with 3 or more physical limitations are*:

  • 8 times more likely to have osteoporosis
  • 6 times more likely to have diabetes
  • 4 times more likely to have depression
  • more than twice as likely to be obese
  • almost 3 times more likely to have high blood pressure
  • 7 times more likely to be unable to access care
  • 4 times more likely to have a specialist as their usual source of care
  • 3 times more likely to delay care due to cost
  • more likely to have difficulty obtaining:
    • mental health care
    • eyeglasses
    • dental care
    • prescriptions
  • less likely to have private insurance

[*Statistics drawn from the 1994-95 National Health Interview Survey - Disability Panel]

You may be able to improve your health by:

  • increasing your level of physical activity
  • increasing your social activities
  • reducing calories, fats, and carbs in your diet
  • talking to your doctor about side effects of medications you're taking
  • getting recommended preventive health services:
    • blood pressure check
    • cholesterol check
    • dental exam
    • diabetes screening
    • bone density test
    • colon cancer screening
    • hearing exam
    • breast self exam or clinical exam
    • mammogram
    • pap smear
    • vision exam
  • talking to other women with physical limitations about how they stay healthy

Many women's limitations are not immediately visible. This can cause additional problems such as:

  • limited support, understanding, and assistance from family and friends
  • accusations of faking, being lazy, or seeking attention
  • pressure from family, friends, employers, and co-workers to do more than they really can
  • damage to weakened muscles that are being overused or worked too hard
  • pressure not to use assistive devices (such as a cane) that might be helpful
  • medical professionals not taking new symptoms seriously
  • problems with self-esteem and depression

These same problems are common among women who have conditions that worsen over time.

To help avoid these problems:

  • explain the facts about your limitations to family, friends, bosses, and co-workers
  • request reasonable accommodation for your limitations from your employer
  • find alternative ways to get things done
  • ask for help when you need it
  • re-think the division of responsibilities in your family
  • ask questions and demand answers from health professionals
  • purchase assistive devices that would make your daily activities easier
  • spend more time with people who are supportive and understanding and less time with those who are not
  • control feelings of shame and guilt
  • respond to criticism and put-downs with a calm, neutral, confident voice
  • make happiness, fun, and fulfillment higher priorities than pride and appearance

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