Examining women's health Magazine: Scientific American publishes a guide that outlines new medical findings and suggests measures to ensure well-being.

July 12, 1998|By Connie Koenenn | Connie Koenenn,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Women's health gets a head-to-toe examination in a stand-alone issue of Scientific American . Titled Scientific American Presents Women's Health: A Lifelong Guide, the 120-page magazine, published for summer 1998, outlines new findings in specific age groups from the teens to 70s and older and examines lifelong measures to ensure good health.

After years of treating women like "men with a uterus," said editor Carol Ezell, researchers are finding definite gender differences in many areas, including addiction, depression and autoimmune diseases, as well as in reactions to pain and anesthesia.

"Several things were new to me," said Ezell. "Despite our emphasis on breast cancer today, most of the experts downplayed the importance of breast cancer, to emphasize heart disease. One researcher cites heart disease and stroke as the No. 1 cause of death among American women - more than the next 16 causes combined."

Among other findings:

* Women are two to eight times more likely than men to develop a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee. Researchers found that these injuries often occur during ovulation - suggesting that estrogen may play a role.

* Sixty-six percent of sexually transmitted diseases occur in people younger than 25.

* Twenty million U.S. women - nearly one in seven - have migraines.

* Half of all women will acquire one or more sexually transmitted infections during their reproductive years.

* Twelve percent of U.S. women - compared with only 6 percent of U.S. men - have suffered from clinically significant depression at some time in their lives.

* Six hundred thousand women worldwide die each year from complications linked to pregnancies.

* The so-called breast-cancer genes account for only 5 percent of the 180,000 breast cancer cases that occur every year in the United States.

* One in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.

* One in five women older than 65 develops some form of heart disease.

* Forty-four percent of women - compared with 27 percent of men - who have a heart attack die within a year.

* Women who smoke the same amount as men have twice the risk of developing lung cancer.

* Women who smoke have 6 percent less bone mass by age 80 than nonsmokers.

* Black women with cardiovascular disease are 69 percent more likely to die than white women.

* Twenty million American women are affected by osteoporosis.

* Women around the world live longer than men - sometimes by as much as 10 years. In the United States, life expectancy at birth is 79 years for women, 72 years for men.

Teens and 20s

* Pelvic exam and pap test: Begin at 18 or when sexually active.

* Blood pressure test: At least every two years.

* Skin exam: Every three years.

* Cholesterol test: Every five years.

* Breast exam: Every three years by doctor; self-exam monthly.

* STD test: Consult physician.

* Dental exam: Regularly.

30s and 40s

* Mammogram: After age 40, annually or every other year/conflicting opinions.

* Diabetes test: Every three years if older than 40 and overweight.

* Skin exam: Annually after 40.

* Pelvic exam: Annually.

* Pap test: At least every three years.

* Rectal exam: Annually after 40.

* Cholesterol test: Levels often increase sharply between 40 and 60. Consult doctor.

* Dental exam: Regularly.

50s and 60s

* Heart disease screening: Annually or every other year/conflicting opinions.

* Colorectal cancer screening: Annually or every other year/conflicting opinions.

* Mammogram: Annually or every other year/conflicting opinions.

* Pelvic exam and pap test: Annually; 60 percent of cervical cancers are diagnosed at this age.

* Hearing test: Immediately, if you suspect hearing loss.

* Bone density exam: Consult doctor.

* Eye exam: Every one to two years.

70s and Older

* Heart disease screening: Annually.

* Colorectal cancer screening: Annually.

* Mammogram: Annually.

* Skin exam: Annually.

* Bone density exam: Consult doctor.

* Pelvic exam and pap test: Annually.

* Hearing test: Consult audiologist, if necessary.

* Vaccinations: Tetanus every 10 years; pneumonia one-time; influenza annually.

* Eye exam: Every two years; annually if diabetic.

* Dental exam: Annually.

- Scientific American

Pub Date: 7/12/98

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