Annual Primary Care Physician Visits an Important Part of Women’s Health

Overall Wellness Plays Key Role in Disease Prevention for Women

DAYTON, Ohio (November 21, 2011) – While most women realize that pregnancy, breast cancer and menopause are health concerns that require ongoing attention, Premier HealthNet, the Miami Valley’s largest primary-care physician network, is reminding women there are other important health concerns women need to be aware of as they manage their overall health. In fact, many diseases and health risks most commonly associated with men, such as heart disease and stroke, are equally of concern for women too.

“When we think of women’s health, many people think of that pink ribbon and breast cancer,” said Dr. Melinda Ruff of Centerville Family Medicine. “However, people need to know that it’s not only breast cancer, but lung cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and a whole host of other conditions that are also major health concerns for women.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, which accounts for approximately 25 percent of female deaths annually, followed by cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease and Alzheimer’s disease. This information likely comes as a surprise to many women, as heart disease is traditionally thought to be much more common in men. However, statistics compiled by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reveal that women account for nearly half of all heart attack deaths in the United States, making heart disease an equal concern for both women and men.

Even when health concerns, like heart disease, are common among both women and men, Dr. Ruff noted that the conditions often affect women differently.

“It’s why we always tell patients to consult their primary care physician if they notice any unusual symptoms,” Dr. Ruff said.

While women suffer from many of the same conditions as men, women are more prone to develop some of them than men, including osteoarthritis, obesity and depression. Osteoarthritis can affect both men and women as early as age 18, but the disease is more prevalent in women.  Obesity is another condition that tends to affect women in greater numbers. According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, while more men than women tend to be overweight, more women tend to suffer from obesity. Even though women’s health issues are varied, there are certain steps women can take to improve their overall health. A healthy diet and regular exercise not only positively impact an individual’s physical health, but improve mental health too, Dr. Ruff said. Additionally, not smoking, limiting alcohol and managing stress are also keys to healthy living.

Regular visits to a primary care physician are equally important, Dr. Ruff said, because they help to prevent and treat all types of health issues. Yearly screenings allow physicians to monitor everything from blood pressure and cholesterol to pelvic exams and the identification of potential risk factors that could lead to more serious health conditions in the future.

“Screenings and vaccines are so important for early detection and prevention of any disease—from cervical cancer to osteoporosis,” said Dr. Ruff. “As women, we tend to take the role as caregiver for everyone else in our family, but we need to take time out of our lives and busy schedules to care for ourselves too.”

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