OB/GYN Dr. Scott Dinesen sets the record straight when it comes to common misconceptions about everything from menopause and weight gain to what time of day to take a birth control pill.
Here are just a few – see if you know the truth.
Myth 1: Menopause causes a woman to gain weight.
Fact: False. While menopause changes where the weight is placed (abdomen rather than hips), women will gain about a pound a year irrespective of when they go through menopause. Estrogen levels decrease in menopause, causing more fat to be stored in the abdomen. Hormone replacement therapy may reverse this.
Myth 2: Cancer runs in my family, so there is little I can do to reduce my risk of cancer.
Fact: To this Dr. Dinesen answers a resounding "False." He points to a Women's Health Initiative study that showed women who followed exercise guidelines lowered their breast cancer risk by 22% and their colorectal cancer risk by 52% compared to women who did not follow the guidelines.
Dr. Dinesen points to the American Cancer Society guidelines to reduce cancer risk:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Be physically active
- Eat a healthy diet
- Limit alcohol intake
Myth 3: Women don't need a mammogram until age 50.
Fact: False. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Cancer Society recommend yearly mammograms starting at age 40. Despite what you might have heard on the news lately, it is a proven fact that screening mammograms result in fewer breast cancer deaths.
Myth 4: Sugar-free or diet drinks help you lose weight.
Fact: False. Diet drinks that contain the artificial sweetener aspartame actually have been shown to increase excessive weight gain and worsen metabolic syndrome. What's more, diet sodas (especially colas) that contain phosphates may accelerate osteoporosis by leeching calcium out of your system.
"I hate to see all these young women drinking diet sodas," says Dr. Dinesen.
Myth 5: A sedentary lifestyle causes more deaths than smoking.
Fact: True. A lack of exercise kills millions of people every year, notes Dr. Dinesen.
- Increases coronary artery disease deaths
- Increases diabetes deaths
- Increases breast cancer deaths
Myth 6: You have to take a birth control pill at the same time every day.
Fact: False. Many health care providers suggest women take their pill at the same time every day so they remember to take it. It has not been proven that this is medically necessary.
Myth 7: It's ok to use low-dose birth control pills if you smoke.
Fact: False. Smoking while taking oral contraceptives greatly increases the risk of serious side effects, particularly cardiovascular ones. The risk increases for heavy smokers and those 35 and older.
"Smokers have five times the risk of blood clots than non-smokers," says Dr. Dinesen. "The combination of oral contraceptives and smoking can be a killer."
Myth 8: The earlier you get your period, the earlier you will go through menopause.
Fact: False. The average age a woman goes through menopause is 51.7 years. This is not affected by the age a woman goes through puberty, the number of children she has, family history or birth control use.
Some Women's Health Myths Might Cause Harm
While some misconceptions can be harmless misunderstandings, others may greatly affect your health and the decisions you make. Be sure to talk to your doctor to get correct information and find out what's right for you.
About Scott Dinesen
Scott Dinesen, DO, has specialized in obstetrics, gynecology and infertility at his Doylestown practice since 1995. Along the way, he has faced a number of common myths about women's health issues. He defines a myth as "an idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not true." Some of these are harmless, but others can have more significant consequences.
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About Women's Health Services
Doylestown Health offers a wide array of programs and services to meet the needs of women at every stage of life. The Women's Diagnostic Center is designated a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology, and offers all-digital mammography in two locations (Doylestown Hospital and the Health & Wellness Center in Warrington). Bone density (DXA) scans are also available at both locations. Women's Services also include a full range of maternity services, minimally-invasive gynecologic surgery,gender-specific knee replacements, nutrition and weight management classes, support groups and more.
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