Guest Column

Gender influences various health issues


Osteoporosis is more common in women.

Symptoms of coronary artery disease and heart attack may be different between men and women.

Women have a harder time quitting smoking than men.

Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression.

Even the results of common screening tests may be different between the sexes.

These are just a few of the health differences between men and women.

I encourage all women to schedule your annual women's well-visit with your doctor to talk about preventive care and screenings that check for risk factors for chronic conditions and early signs of disease. Women should consider a variety of screenings depending on their age or risk factors.

In particular, there is a focus on significant health disparities affecting women of color.

About 700 women still die each year in the U.S. from complications due to pregnancy. American Indian, Alaska Native and Black women are two to three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two out of three pregnancy-related deaths are considered preventable.

It's a good practice to consult your doctor about contraceptives and sexually transmitted infections. Testing for cervical cancer will help detect the high-risk human papillomavirus virus which can lead to cervical cancer. And, mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it's easier to treat and before it's big enough to feel or cause symptoms.

Some diseases such as diabetes are not so easily detected without medical tests. Women can develop diabetes during pregnancy known as gestational diabetes. Others may want to be screened for diabetes mellitus, a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar, after pregnancy.

Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression, with some experiencing mood symptoms related to hormone changes during puberty, pregnancy and perimenopause. Anxiety screenings may also be appropriate given the high levels of anxiety disorders pregnant or postpartum women experience, as well as women who may be victims of domestic violence.

As I noted earlier, women have a harder time quitting smoking than men because they metabolize nicotine, the addictive ingredient in tobacco, faster than men. Metabolism differences may explain why nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches or gum, work better in men than women.

Knee injuries, such as ACL tears, are more likely to occur in women and girls while playing sports. This difference is due to aspects of a woman's anatomy.

And, because there may be differences in symptoms of coronary artery disease and heart attack between women and men, the results of common screening tests may also be different. These differences can lead to a misdiagnosis.

For women aged 50 and continuing to age 75, there are additional health concerns:

• Colorectal cancer screenings are encouraged.

• And osteoporosis is more common because they have less bone mass than men and can experience more bone loss during hormonal changes at menopause.

It's also very important to be attentive to mental health, including managing stress and getting enough sleep, getting active and attending regular checkups and well-women visits with a primary care physician or advanced care practitioner.

Amidst all of these medical warnings and concerns, there is good news. Women can begin and achieve better health at any age or life circumstances. Understanding these key women's health issues is an important step on the way to better health.

Dr. Kimberly Winter is a family medicine physician with New West Physicians located in Highlands Ranch.


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