There’s a lot of misinformation about women’s health out there, making it difficult to know what’s true. Here, Dr. Zuleikha Tyebjee, who practices at Houston Methodist Primary Care Group in The Heights, debunks five common myths.
Myth #1: Women don’t have to worry about heart disease.
FACT: Heart disease is the leading killer of women.
It’s especially important for women to know the signs of a heart attack because they are likely to have more subtle symptoms, such as jaw pain, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and fatigue.
Plus, you need to understand your personal risk for heart disease and have your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels checked regularly.
Tyebjee also recommends that as women get older, they consider seeing an internist or a primary care provider in addition to their obstetrician-gynecologist.
Myth #2: Most breast cancer is hereditary.
FACT: Only 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are hereditary.
Tyebjee emphasizes the importance of recognizing if breast cancer runs in your family. If a woman does have an affected gene for breast cancer, she has a 40 to 80 percent chance of having breast cancer in her lifetime.
But the biggest risk factors for breast cancer are two things you can’t do anything about: being a woman and getting older. So, make sure you talk to your doctor about your situation and the best age to begin screening mammograms.
“Whether you have a genetic risk or not, you do have control over factors such as health maintenance, weight management and preventive care,” Tyebjee explains.
Myth #3: Calcium alone will keep your bones strong.
FACT: Calcium is important, but vitamin D and lifestyle choices are also essential.
Women reach their peak bone mass by their 30s, and bone mass drops significantly the year leading up to menopause – so it’s important not to wait until after menopause to start thinking about bone health, Tyebjee said.
Doing regular weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, hiking and weight training, as well as not smoking, are key to having strong bones. So is making sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D.
Myth #4: If you’re done having children, you don’t need an annual well-woman exam.
FACT: These annual exams are potentially even more important as you get older.
As a woman ages, her risk for female cancers – including breast, uterine, ovarian, cervical and vaginal cancers – also increases. Yearly exams are designed to help detect signs and symptoms as early as possible, Tyebjee explained.
Menstrual irregularities, which are important to review with your doctor yearly, can signal other health issues.
And don’t confuse the well-woman exam with a Pap test. While a Pap test might not be necessary every year, the well-woman exam remains important.
Myth #5: Nothing can be done about urinary incontinence.
FACT: While the condition is common, you don’t have to live with it.
Urinary incontinence, which is the involuntary leakage of urine, has a number of treatment options, including behavior techniques and both nonsurgical and surgical procedures.
Some also believe that urinary incontinence can occur only after a vaginal delivery. Whether you gave birth through a vaginal delivery or a cesarean section, you might experience incontinence afterward, explains Tyebjee, who also sees patients for women’s health visits as part of their preventive and ongoing primary care.
Dr. Zuleikha Tyebjee welcomes new and existing patients for primary care and women’s health visits. Please visit houstonmethodist.org/pcg/heights to schedule an appointment online.