Making women’s health, physical, psychological, emotional, and social wellbeing a priority, has never been more important. During National Women’s Health Week (NWHW), we’re arming you with some attention-grabbing datapoints to share with your patients to amp awareness and spark actions toward making their own health a priority.
Still heart sick
Heart disease is still the number 1 killer of women. Your patients may be aware of that stubborn fact, but what they may not know is that women are up to 3 times more likely to die following a serious heart attack than men according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Although the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women is usually lower than in men, women have a higher mortality and worse prognosis after acute cardiovascular events. These gender differences exist in various CVDs, including coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure and aortic diseases (Zujie et al, 2019).
Not immune from autoimmune
Autoimmune diseases are more prevalent in women, affecting up to 10% of the world’s population, with approximately 80% of those affected being female. Women are 5 to 8 times more likely than men to have thyroid problems and 1 in 8 will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime, according to the American Thyroid Association (ATA). The risk of Hashimoto’s disease, for example, the most common cause of hypothyroidism, is about 10 times higher in women than in men.
80% destined for HPV
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). It’s so common that almost every sexually active individual will be infected with HPV at some time in their life if they don’t receive the HPV vaccine, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. And when it comes to women, 80% will contract at least 1 type of HPV at some point in their lifetime. Women often do not realize that they have HPV because it may be asymptomatic or go away without treatment. Patients should be made aware of the linkage between HPV and serious illnesses like cervical cancer but also counseled that there’s a vaccine available to help prevent the infection.
Infertility by the numbers
According to the CDC, about 12% of women in the United States aged 15 to 44 have difficulty becoming pregnant or staying pregnant, making infertility more common than patients may think. The organization reports several factors your patients may be unaware of that increase their risk of infertility, including age, smoking, excessive alcohol use, and emotional stress. Perhaps CDC’s most startling statistic patients should learn is that undiagnosed STDs causes infertility in more than 20,000 US women a year.
The sadder sex
Women are 2 times more likely to suffer from depression and other mental health issues than men, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. In other data, the 2021 Women’s Health Survey conducted by MDVIP, a national network of primary care doctors, showed that COVID-19 was especially trying on both women’s physical and mental health. In the survey, over 2 in 5 respondents admitted they’d developed unhealthy habits (44%), and over half reported they felt more stressed, anxious, or depressed during the pandemic (53%).
Failing US moms
US rates of maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity—“near-miss” events that could have resulted in death—have been rising for decades, with troubling increases in recent years. Between 2018 and 2020, the US maternal mortality rate increased from 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births to 23.8. For comparison, in 2020, the US maternal mortality rate was more than 2 times higher than that of 10 other high-income countries, including Canada, the UK, and Germany. A 2022 CDC report suggests most pregnancy-related deaths in the US are preventable.
Delivery isn’t the only health risk to women in the US. They die even more often from homicide than they do from pregnancy-related causes and they’re frequently killed by a partner, according to a 2021 study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Homicide also ranks among the top 5 causes of death for girls and women up to age 44 in the US overall.
Overweight and underactive
According to a survey conducted by the CDC, over 1 in 3 women in the US over the age of 20 are obese. While conscious that excess pounds are unhealthy, patients are often unaware the degree to which obesity puts excess strain on the body and leads to a myriad of health complications like heart disease and diabetes. In fact, one-third of women die from heart disease and over 30% of women have hypertension. Even your patients who believe they are making healthy lifestyle choices may be surprised to learn that 2022 research from the University of Essex found women to be 34% less likely to do enough strength training and meet overall exercise guidelines compared to men.
Our troubled teen girls
The 2021 data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which examines health behaviors and experiences among US high school students, reveals a particularly stark increase in widespread reports of harmful experiences among teen girls. Nearly 1 in 3 seriously considered attempting suicide, up nearly 60% from a decade ago, and 1 in 5 (18%) reported experiencing sexual violence in the past year, up 20% since 2017 when CDC started monitoring this measure.
Alarms save lives
Of course, statistics about women’s health don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re linked to access to affordable health care, healthy food, and affordable housing; inequities in clinical studies in females; underappreciation of the differences in which diseases present in women—and a myriad of other factors.
While the stats may appear discouraging, each one may have the power to reach a patient when delivered with the caring counsel that partnering with you in preventive and routine care can provide. They are also solid steps toward them taking control of their health and avoiding becoming one of those numbers.
The contents of this feature are not provided or reviewed by NPWH.