As women’s health practitioners, we’ve encountered numerous health misconceptions that persist among women and the general public. These myths not only contribute to misinformation, but also hinder women from taking control of their health. To encourage women to navigate their health journeys with confidence and agency, we will debunk three prevalent misconceptions, and discuss the truth at the heart of these issues. 

Misconception #1: Heart Disease Only Affects Men 

Dangerously, many women believe that heart disease only affects men, when in reality, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women globally. This widely believed misconception may in part stem from the fact that symptoms of heart disease in women are more subtle, and therefore harder to detect. For example, when having a heart attack, women may not experience chest pain as severely as men, or any chest pain at all. Women often describe heart attack pain as pressure or tightness and may experience symptoms elsewhere in the body such as:

  • Discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, or upper abdomen 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Heartburn (indigestion)

Risk factors of heart disease that are common to both men and women include:

  • Obesity 
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure

Research has shown that there are additional risk factors specific to women, such as: 

  • Higher levels of testosterone before menopause
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Stress and depression

To significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, women not only need to stay informed, but also take the appropriate steps towards prevention. Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, and routine check-ups have been shown to significantly reduce the threat of heart disease.

Misconception #2: Wearing A Bra Causes Breast Cancer

If you have ever been told that bras, particularly underwire bras, cause breast cancer, we are here to assure you that this is completely false. This misconception has been debunked by numerous studies, all proving that bras, regardless of the type, do not contribute to breast cancer. Rather, factors such as genetics, hormonal changes, lifestyle choices, and environmental exposures have been proven to play a significant role in the onset of breast cancer. If you are concerned about your risk of breast cancer, we strongly encourage regular self-administered breast exams, mammograms, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.   

Misconception #3: Women Without Symptoms Don’t Have to Worry About STDs

There’s a dangerous assumption among many women that if they don’t experience symptoms, they aren’t at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). However, numerous STDs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, can often present with no noticeable symptoms, especially in the early stages. Undiagnosed and untreated STDs can lead to severe complications, including infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and increased risk of HIV transmission. Regular STD screenings, practicing safe sex, and open communication with healthcare providers are essential for protecting women’s reproductive health.

Staying Informed 

By debunking these common misconceptions, we hope to foster a culture of improved health literacy and encourage women to take proactive steps toward their well-being. It’s essential to rely on evidence-based information, consult healthcare professionals, and prioritize regular health screenings to ensure optimal health outcomes for yourself, and other women in your life. If you would like to learn more about preventative healthcare, or have concerns regarding your health, schedule a consultation today.