Body of Work
The mind-body-soul connection isn’t just some hippy-dippy, far-out notion. Whole-body health is a major focus in women’s health care.
Health care is shifting from acute to preventative care as health-care providers and non-profits step up early detection efforts in women’s reproductive, mental and heart health.
Worth a Shot
By now you’ve probably heard of HPV, or Human Papillomavirus. The virus is spread through sexual contact, and using condoms can decrease but not prevent its spread. HPV is associated with cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and some sites in the head and neck. Vaccines have been available for a few years and are recommended for women ages 11 to 26.
“Protection against types 16 and 18 of HPV, which cause approximately seventy percent of cervical cancers, are included in these vaccines,” says Dr. Jeffrey Davis of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Division of Public Health. “So not all cervical cancers are vaccine-preventable, but most are.” Davis also says the vaccine’s protection may be broader than previously thought: “There is some data suggesting ... the vaccination could protect you from some cancers caused by HPV types not in the vaccine.”
For older women or those who’ve already contracted HPV (eighty percent will contract it in their lifetime, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), pap tests continue to be the best early detection/monitoring effort. “There’s an application to expand [the vaccine range] to an older age but that’s not yet been approved. That’s why it’s important for younger girls to get vaccinated because it’s best to get the vaccine before they’re sexually active; you want that protection.”
Since HPV infections are common in men as well, male clinical trials for the HPV vaccine are also being conducted.
“It’s All in Your Head”
“Mental health issues disproportionately affect women,” says Marilyn Duguid, a registered nurse with the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation. “Even though we have a lot of wonderful treatments, many people feel it’s a mark of shame.”
That’s why WWHF recently hosted a forum to discuss new federal guidelines for employers on providing mental health coverage, preventing depression in the workplace and more. Mental health will be especially au courant when the Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity Act takes effect January 1. The bill puts mental health and substance use benefits coverage on par with physical health.
Doctors don’t necessarily ask about depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse during routine screenings and physicals. A cardiac issue might not point to an anxiety disorder or substance abuse—but it could be the cause.
“We want primary care docs to be more aware of things like depression screening tools. There are still a lot of silos, but if we have this [screening tool] the primary care doc could say, ‘Let me facilitate calling that specialist for you—they’re right down the hall.’”
For screening tools go to namidnecounty.org or wimentalhealth.org.
The periodontal disease/heart disease link is stronger than ever, according to the Wisconsin Dental Association. They report a research team “discovered that 91 percent of patients with cardiovascular disease suffered from moderate to severe periodontitis, compared to 66 percent in non-cardiac patients.” Bacteria can infiltrate the space between the gum and tooth and enter the bloodstream, potentially contributing to the development of other diseases.
What to do: the usual, eat right, practice good oral health, stop smoking and exercise. The American Heart Association’s most current exercise guidelines are still 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day which can be broken up into smaller segments throughout the day.
Hire a personal trainer or start a workout plan by checking out chockfuls of free ones online: two good sites to peruse are womenshealthmag.com and goredforwomen.org. Read about oral health and take WDA’s quiz on gum disease/heart disease at wdahealthychoices.com.
Shayna Miller is associate and style editor for Madison Magazine.