How Far We've Come: Women's Health

You may remember a time before mammograms and bone density screenings were common medical tests. These advances are just the beginning of the modern landscape of women’s healthcare.

Today, doctors and researchers understand more about women’s health than ever before.

What’s equally important, though, is that women understand these issues and what they can do to be as healthy as possible. Even the most advanced treatment can’t fix everything. A lifestyle that helps prevent disease is one that includes eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and staying on top of checkups and routine screenings.

Women also need to stay informed. So please read on.

Heart Disease
How far we’ve come: That the American Heart Association created the Go Red For Women campaign is, in itself, a sign of the increased emphasis on women’s heart health. Experts now know that women and men may experience different heart attack symptoms. But even more recently, researchers discovered that women’s smaller blood vessels can make it tougher to diagnose their heart disease.

According to Malissa J. Wood, MD, a cardiologist and Go Red For Women spokeswoman, a heart catheterization—in which a tiny tube is inserted into a blood vessel and threaded to your heart—might not be enough to detect problems with a woman’s arteries.

“Women may need other kinds of testing, such as a scan with a stress echocardiogram, to see whether they have small-vessel disease,” she says.

What’s next: What’s next is up to you. Women haven’t achieved equality when it comes to the treatment of heart disease. Wood says women are less likely  than men to be offered heart valve surgery or attend cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack. So, take charge of your own healthcare and make sure you ask the right questions of your doctor. Be sure to follow your doctor’s orders. If your cardiologist prescribes cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack (and she should!), don’t put it off.

Prevention is another area that needs continued focus. “There’s little time spent looking at things you can do 25 years before you have a heart attack to prevent one in the first place,” Wood explains. “Women need to make sure their doctors are educating them and offering them every treatment option, and they need to make the healthy lifestyle changes that make a difference.”

Learn about Gwinnett Medical Center’s state-of-the-art cardiac care and find educational information on how you can keep your heart healthy at gmcheart.org.


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