FEATURE — Some myths just don’t seem to want to die, and when it comes to women’s health, it’s important to separate fact from fiction.
Here are seven such myths, debunked.
1. Women over 50 should start taking an aspirin to prevent a stroke or heart attack.
This is not true. It should only be used in women who are specifically instructed by their cardiologist due to ongoing coronary artery disease or by their primary doctor if their 10-year heart attack risk is over 10 percent. If it is less than that, the risk of taking aspirin is likely higher than the benefit.
2. Women should be on statin drugs if they have elevated lipids to prevent heart attack.
This isn’t necessarily false per se as much as it is misinterpreted and overtreated. In low-risk women with elevated LDL cholesterol, who are the majority of women I see that take a statin, there is zero evidence that taking it is beneficial. Zero. It has almost become, though, an expectation from patients that they be given something if they have elevated lipids. So let me clear this up so you can make good decisions on your own health care.
Women lag 10 years behind men on getting coronary artery disease. So, low risk women don’t even need testing until at least their 50s. Women with known coronary artery disease probably benefit some from being on a statin, and their cardiologist will see to that.
Other high-risk situations like diabetes, smoking or even advancing age (over 70) can all be included in the calculation. The American College of Cardiology recommends statin therapy if you have any of these conditions:
- You have a 10-year heart attack risk over 7.5 percent.
- You have diabetes.
- Your LDL is over 190.
- You have ongoing coronary artery disease.
You have the right to decide for yourself if statins are right for you, and now you have data to make that choice.
3. Hair grows back thicker when you shave it.
False. It’s an illusion.
4. The more water you drink, the better.
False. While not necessarily specific to just women, this is another example of a myth that needs debunking. The truth is, you need enough water. That’s all. The rest is just eliminated. On hot dry days here in St. George, you need twice as much as on a cool winter day. You need more when you’re active, less when not. If you want to know how much water you should be drinking, your body will provide a good indicator. Look at the color of your urine. It should be slightly yellow. Darker yellow, drink more. Clear like water, drink less.
5. Birth control causes weight gain.
This is almost always false. Hormonal birth controls can cause a transient water weight gain that typically goes away in a month or two.
The one exception is the Depo-Provera shot. No one is quite sure why we see more women gain body fat on the Depo shot (25 percent complain of it), but it is likely due to increased appetite. With all other forms, if you watch what you eat, the water retention will go away on its own.
6. Not having a monthly cycle is unhealthy, even on birth control.
This is not true. If a woman is on hormone contraception, it is a nonissue — it is a benefit. If a woman is not on hormonal birth control and goes 4-6 months without a cycle and is not pregnant, she should probably discuss it with her doctor. But it is not a sign of a significant medical issue.
7. Speaking of monthly cycles, women who live together start synchronizing their menstrual cycles.
Probably false. It would actually be pretty interesting if it were true and to figure out why. The possibilities would be intriguing. I know of people who swear it is true, but the science doesn’t support it. It is more likely either coincidence or random overlap.
- Dr. Sean Lynn practices at St. George Women’s Health Center in St. George | Telephone: 435-218-7770.
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