May, 2012 browsing by month


Women Are Enduring More and So Are Their Hearts

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

There was a time, when women stayed home to care for the children, did not vote, and did not make money of their own.  Luckily, we’ve since achieved a sense of equality as citizens.  Unfortunately, that equality has not come without a price.  As modern day women, we work just as hard as men, but on average, still earn less.  We parent just as much as men, and often as not, more because it is ingrained in us to try and be that Hallmark mom, but still must bear the burden of pregnancy.  We deal with the emotional, physical, and economic stresses just as much as men, but now, studies show that our hearts do not get as much help during these stressful times.

Researchers at Penn State conducted a study to find out how the heart and blood pressure of men and women differed when presented with mental stress.  All subjects were given the same problems and were monitored carefully to see how they dealt with the pressure.  The hearts of both men and women started working harder as the stress mounted, as was expected.  The amount of blood flow to the heart increased in men in order to make up for the extra work, but it did not increase in women.  This was a surprising discovery.  Professor Chester Ray, who led the study, believes this “shows women may be more susceptible to experiencing a cardiac event with mental stress compared to men.”  With heart attacks being much more common in women than in men, their results are helping doctors understand why.  Hopefully, these findings will encourage more women to seek a doctor’s advice when they feel stress that seems to be affecting their heart.

What does this boil down to? It boils down to the fact that women need to begin to realize that they need to demand the help that they deserve and need. We simply cannot be everything to everyone all of the time. We need to set priorities, and stick to them. My new memoir, “Something to Prove” chronicles my life as a woman who balances career, home and family; hopefully serving as a roadmap for other adventurous women.  Different times in our lives call for different priorities. Being a harried mother may be just as stressful as meeting an office deadline or being the sole caretaker of infirm parents or performing difficult surgery.  We are not superwomen, though if you look at what a majority of women accomplish on a day-to-day basis, we might as well be; even without the additional pressure that put on ourselves trying to “do it all”. All women who have children have one job, if she works outside the home, then she has two jobs, and if you are also cook, cleaner, and overall the “go-to” person, you might just have three jobs. And this is considered normal… It’s no wonder women are stressed.   

Although psychological studies have shown that women feel they are “expected to possess many diverse traits and behaviors, such as being both competitive and nurturing, compliant and assertive, and to appear in control without any signs of vulnerability,” they need to realize these expectations contradict themselves and are simply not realistic.  If your lifestyle has caused you to deal with inordinate amounts of stress, your mental, emotional, and physical health will suffer if you don’t make a change.  A study at the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that women who had more satisfying jobs and home lives were less likely to develop as much mental stress, even though they had the same amount of responsibilities as others.  I love ballroom dancing and I twirl around the dance floor each week with a cha-cha or tango in order to de-stress and have a creative outlet.  In other words, find something that you love doing and it won’t take quite as much of a toll on your health.  With this in mind, you can still be a modern day woman and take on numerous responsibilities, but you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.  As a physician, author, wife, and mother, I know that finding this balance can be difficult, but your heart is worth it.

— Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

When Did My Uterus Become Politicians’ Business?

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

As a working mother, I have made many decisions over the years regarding my health and the health of my family.  Those decisions were always made after careful consideration that included years of education, the beliefs of my family, and my own personal needs.  Not once during those processes did I ever consult with or even consider that politicians should also be debating those decisions.  It is shocking how much interest the government is suddenly taking in women’s reproductive health.  What should be personal choices made by American women, have now become the focus of debates for men who are looking for political gains and who frankly don’t have the biological parts necessary to even consider these topics.

Because Rick Santorum felt the need to prove his belief in traditional family values, he mentioned that women who are the victims of rape, should, “make the best of a bad situation,” in regard to their unwanted pregnancies.  While this may have helped him get a few more conservatives on his side, it did nothing to stop the suffering of women who, if he had his way, would continue to live out their traumatic experience by carrying and delivering the children of their attackers.  Trying to prevent unintended pregnancies altogether is even too much for Committee Republicans to keep their hands off of these days.  They would like to eliminate $12 billion of healthcare funding that would otherwise go to preventive services.  This would reduce access not only to birth control, but also cancer screenings and other types of care and services, especially those used by low-income women.  Republican Candidate Mitt Romney would like to create tax cuts that would benefit millionaires, hoping to spur job growth, but those cuts would come at a cost to programs that help women.  Obama seems just as puzzled by this as many American women, saying, “These are folks who claim to believe in freedom from government interference and meddling. But it doesn’t seem to bother them when it comes to a woman’s health.” The absence of women in power has become very obvious because of these issues.  Hopefully, they will inspire more women to vote and maybe even to run for office.

No matter what her position, every woman has the right to make her own decisions regarding her health, including her reproductive health.  Pressure from politicians, employers, and religious organizations should have no influence on her decision.  It is up to each individual woman to decide what beliefs to follow.  That’s why it is so great to be American in the first place.  We have certain freedoms that allow us to live our lives the way we choose.  While talking points like women’s reproductive health can mean big business for bureaucrats, they’re interfering with the personal freedoms of women and decisions that are, frankly, none of their business.

— Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.