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Women's Health: Separating Fact From Fiction

Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on March 15, 2022.

Fact Or Fiction? Men Are More Likely To Die From A Heart Attack

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Fiction. Heart disease actually kills more women than men.

Although at younger ages, men face more heart disease than women, more women die of heart disease each year than men with 23-33% of women dying within one year of having their first heart attack compared with only around 18% of men. In addition, women are more likely to develop heart failure (a condition where the heart is ineffective at pumping blood, causing it to enlarge with retained blood), and less likely than men to receive appropriate treatment after a heart attack.

Symptoms of a heart attack may be more vague in women compared to men and include tiredness, stomach pain, sweating, and an uncomfortable pressure in the chest - women are less likely to get severe chest pain. Anyone with symptoms suggestive of a heart attack should always seek urgent medical advice.

Fact Or Fiction? Alcohol Has More Of An Effect On Women Than Men

Fact. Women's bodies, in general, process alcohol at a slower rate than men. So for similar amounts of alcohol, the effects are greater in women, even for those of a similar weight to men.

Studies have shown that alcohol can affect a woman's fertility, put her at greater risk of breast cancer, and worsen some menopausal symptoms. So if you choose to drink, never drink more than the recommended guidelines of 2-3 standard glasses of alcohol at one time, and schedule in plenty of alcohol-free days.

Fact Or Fiction? Cellulite Creams Don't Work

Fiction. Certain cellulite creams DO work, but the overall effect is generally modest (less than 0.5 of an inch reduction in thigh circumference) and ingredient specific.

As we age we lose muscle. Most muscle is lost from areas where we sit, such as our buttocks, hips and thighs. Once lost, the overlying fat that relies on this muscular support sags and becomes pockmarked. Ingredients such as caffeine, aminophylline, and bladderwreck extract may help stimulate circulation and improve the appearance of cellulite. Strength training also tones and firms muscles, boosting your metabolic rate to burn fat.

Fact Or Fiction? Women Are More Sensitive To Pain

Fact. Women are more sensitive to pain, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. On average, women have 34 nerve fibers per square centimeter of facial skin while men only average 17 nerve fibers. More nerve receptors cause women to feel pain more intensely than men.

The news is even worse if you are a redhead. Redheads appear even more sensitive to thermal pain (like extreme cold) than other women, and also have less of a response to pain medication.

Fact Or Fiction? Crunches Are The Best Way To Tone Up Your Waist Line

Fiction. Crunches (or sit-ups) are not very effective. In addition to not toning the underlying muscles essential for a flat stomach, they fail to do anything about the overlying fat on top of the muscles and also mimic the sitting posture we have for most of day, placing even more pressure on the discs in our back.

Planks and leg lifts are much more effective at working work out your stomach muscles. Make sure your exercise routine includes strength exercises that work ALL the muscles of your body. This encourages overall fat burning, and avoids creating muscle imbalances which are common in people who target just one particular area.

Fact Or Fiction? You Can Take Oral Contraceptives Right Up Until Menopause

Fact - but with some exceptions.

Experts agree oral forms of contraception can be taken for as long as you need to, or until menopause, as long as you are generally healthy. But some women find longer-lasting forms of contraception, such as implants or IUDs, more convenient than oral contraceptives.

For women who smoke and are over the age of 35, with high blood pressure, a clotting disorder, or another medical condition, long-term use of the combined oral contraceptive pill may not be safe. Progestin-only forms may be considered by women who cannot use estrogen for other reasons

While some research suggests prolonged use of birth control pills may increase the risk of cervical cancer, the incidence of other types of cancer (such as ovarian and endometrial) appears to be reduced.

Fact Or Fiction? Women Are More Likely To Develop Cancer

Fiction. Overall, women are LESS likely to develop cancer, and also less likely to die from cancer, than men.

While its true that certain cancers such as breast cancer and thyroid cancer are more prevalent among women, other cancers, such as those that affect the bladder, skin, and lungs, are more common to men. Rates of colorectal and brain cancers are similar regardless of gender; while rates of cancers specific to women (like cervical and ovarian cancer) don't even come close to rates of cancers specific to men, such as prostate cancer.

Overall, the risk of men developing cancer in their lifetime is about a one in two, whereas for women it is about one in three.

Fact Or Fiction? Anxiety And Depression Are More Common In Women

Fact. Women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and 2.5 times more likely to suffer from depression than men.

Experts suggest that differences in brain chemistry may explain some of these figures. The "flight-and-fright" response to stressful circumstances is more readily activated in women and stays activated for longer. Women may also process serotonin (the "feel-good" hormone) differently and be more sensitive to other hormones released during times of stress.

Fact Or Fiction? Women Live Longer Than Men

Fact. On average, women live for 81.1 years compared with 76.1 years for men, according to the latest statistics gathered by the CDC.

Death rates were highest for heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and unintentional injuries, such as road accidents.

Fact Or Fiction? Discrimination Against Women Is NOT OK!

Fact. Although huge strides have been made in America against the discrimination of women, it still exists. Worldwide it remains a very real problem, too.

Every 9 seconds a woman in the U.S. is beaten or abused. Workplace sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination and huge pay gaps are common, even though employers violate common civil rights when they discriminate based on gender or sex. Worldwide, 15-71% of women report physical or sexual violence. Ten million girls are forced to marry before their 18th birthday every year. Genital mutilation still occurs in Africa and human trafficking is rife throughout Europe. None of this is OK.

Finished: Women's Health: Separating Fact From Fiction

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  • Turati F, et al. Efficacy of cosmetic products in cellulite reduction: systematic review and meta-analysis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2014 Jan;28(1):1-15. doi: 10.1111/jdv.12193. Epub 2013 Jun 14.
  • Liem B, et al. Increased Sensitivity to Thermal Pain and Reduced Subcutaneous Lidocaine Efficacy in Redheads. Anesthesiology. 2005 Mar; 102(3): 509–514.
  • Average US Life Expectancy Statistics by Gender, Ethnicity, State. Simply Insurance.2022,female%20and%20male%20lifespan%20expectancy
  • Mayo Clinic. Birth Control. How long can I safely take birth control pills?
  • Lifetime Risk of Developing or Dying from Cancer. American Cancer Society.
  • Facts. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
  • 10 Facts about Women's Health. World Health Organization.
  • Statistics. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. 2022

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.