It’s officially Women’s National Health week May 8-14, 2022.
I really wish the focus on women’s health was at least a month. Better yet, at least a fiscal quarter.
There has long been a huge deficit in western medicine in understanding women’s health as unique from men’s health.
For example, heart attack symptoms in a woman often present differently than in men. Another example, the Mayo Clinic reports that only 20% of postgrad residents are taught a formal menopause curriculum, and fewer than 1 in 10 residents, even in gynecology, felt “adequately prepared” to manage patient care during menopause.
Considering that there will be 55 million women in menopause in the United States by 2025 this is not just ridiculous, it’s unacceptable
Even more stunning, research shows that gender bias in healthcare is “widespread.”
This shows up in many ways, from not believing women’s symptoms, viewing women as “emotional” or “hysterical,” and that women exaggerate their pain. This is much worse for women of color or LGBTQIA people.
(Imagine me pulling my hair out about this for a minute…)
While male and female bodies have a lot in common, the differences in hormones create big differences in everything from metabolism to heart disease risk to being prone to spraining your ankles. Every organ in the body is affected by your hormones. This is why women’s health risks change so much after menopause.
But women’s health is not just about menopause, or even just about periods.
It’s about heart health, maintaining a healthy weight to stave off diabetes and high cholesterol. It’s about managing stress, and acknowledging the weight that women often feel they must carry.
While I don’t feel a week does Women’s Health justice, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health has good info on their page for this week.
They remind us to
- Schedule your annual physical and other Health appointments
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get moving and stay active
- Eat balanced meals and snacks
- Practice self-care for Mental Health
- Find healthy ways to manage stress
- Create good sleep habits
- And several more.
Truly, these are good advice, but how helpful is a webpage?
We need a seachange in how we, as a culture, educate both our providers and patients on what it means to be healthy and why.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers on how to do that. But let’s start with changing our minds on a few important things….
- Periods are not a disorder
Difficult periods are a sign of imbalance that can be treated symptomatically with hormone therapy (ie birth control), AND the underlying causes and symptoms can be effectively treated with acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
- Menopause is not a disorder
- Feeling emotional is not a disorder
I think we can all agree that men are also quite emotional, even if they don’t express it. I hope this doesn’t need any explanation. Seriously.
- Women are not “less-than” men.
- Our society will function better as a whole when women are consistently receiving the care they need
I’ll get off my soapbox now. I obviously feel strongly that women’s healthcare needs to be better.
There are signs things are starting to change, and I’m here for it.
As always, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, diet, and lifestyle can all make huge improvements in a woman’s health, and men, children, and everyone else, too.
Let us know if we can help.
Here’s to all the women out there!
Dr. Jennie Luther, DACM, L.Ac
Family Tree Acupuncture & Wellness