Addressing Gender Bias in Medicine for National Women’s Health Week

May Womens Health Week Stat - IG-01.jpg
Yesterday marked the first day of National Women’s Health Week (May 12-18, 2019), and as such it is important to discuss the inherent gender bias in medical research and treatment and the ways in which the medical community are attempting to rectify said bias.

Many women, particularly women of color, often report feeling dismissed or undermined by medical professionals regarding a variety of physical or mental issues. This can and often does have dangerous consequences. Examples include how women of color are at least three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes, and how women, in general, are less likely, in comparison to men, to survive a heart attack..

According to the “Women in Pain” survey conducted by National Pain Report in 2018, 65 percent of women patients felt doctors took their pain less seriously because they were female, and 84 percent felt they had been treated differently by doctors because of their sex. Many women would often report that they were told that their issues were psychosomatic or stress-induced, with many symptoms being chalked up to poor diet and exercise. While it certainly is possible for stress or anxiety to cause physical problems, that certainly is not the case every time—and even when it is, the underlying mental issues need to be taken seriously as well. Continue reading

Unraveling Individual Variability in Hormonal Mood Swings

Guest post by Brenda Patoine

The stereotype of women’s “inexplicable” mood swings has long provided fodder for comics and cartoonists, but for scientists trying to understand the underlying biology, hormonal depression is no joke.

Endocrine-related affective mood disorders show up in different forms in different phases of life, from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) during otherwise normal menstrual cycling, to post-partum depression following childbirth, to mood disruptions around and after menopause. Yet these disorders don’t affect all women, and in fact, most women do not experience them.

“How is it that some women experience a change in affective state as a result of hormones whereas a majority of women do not?” Peter Schmidt, M.D. asked in a July 8 webinar sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). “That really is the million-dollar question.”

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The Power of Stress

I get anxious and stress about things at times. Butterflies flutter in my stomach and I sometimes lose sleep depending on how anxious I am. I can almost feel my mind racing during these times of stress. According to recent research, my brain may be working extra hard even in regular situations. The good news: anxiety can serve a purpose.

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Meat and Mental Health

When I told my friends I was giving up eating meat for six weeks, they were encouraging, but also skeptical that I could abstain for that long, since most of my favorite meals are meat dishes. I’ve had one slip-up so far (I can’t say no to chili cheese nachos) but I am still going strong and show no physical signs of meat withdrawal.

A study done by Australian researchers from Deakin University shows that women who cut red meat from their diets are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than women who eat the recommended amount. The study looked at the eating habits of over 1,000 women and implies that red meat is important to mental health. No correlation was found between mental health and chicken, fish, or pork consumption.

Researchers say that a woman’s overall diet affects her mental health, and red meat should be consumed at appropriate rates and portions. In fact, this is good advice for all foods, and not just for women: everything in moderation.

When you remove something from your normal diet, it may alter certain cravings and even daily habits. I can’t say I’ve been feeling anxious or depressed, though; regardless of whether I eat meat or not, I never miss a meal.

–Blayne Jeffries

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