Women's Health Matters

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Read feature articles on health topics and issues that affect the health of Canadian women.

5 common sun safety myths
Women’s College Hospital dermatologist Dr. Christian Murray discusses the best strategies for sun safety and debunks some common myths about sun exposure and damage.

Top signs of problematic substance use
Learn to recognize the signs of a substance use disorder and how predisposing factors affect us when it comes to addiction.

Heart disease and stroke: Know your risk factors
Learn your risk factors for heart attack and stroke to help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Top tips for a heart-healthy diet
A well-balanced diet is a vital part of maintaining your heart health. Our cardiovascular dietitians share their tips for heart-healthy diet.

Self-care tools for managing stress
Most of us can relate to feeling stressed. Dr. Batya Grundland, family physician at Women’s College Hospital, offers practical stress-management strategies to help you cope.

Glucose: Blood sugar basics
Glucose, which is a simple sugar, has an important role in your body. Understanding it is an essential part of managing it.

Calcium and vitamin D: How much do you need?
Calcium and vitamin D are important nutrients for your bones. Making sure you are getting enough is the best way to protect and improve your bone health.

The most improtant history lesson
A Q&A with Dr. Ruth Heisey, medical director of the Peter Gilgan Centre for Women’s Cancers at Women’s College Hospital, in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society.

Exercise and chronic conditions
Exercise is medicine – and not just preventive medicine. For many conditions – including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and mild-to-moderate depression – exercise can be as effective a treatment as some types of medications.  

Research finds antidepressant use in pregnancy not linked to autism in children
Women who need treatment for depression or anxiety while pregnant may find reassurance in a new study. The new research found no increased risk of autism associated with using antidepressant medication during pregnancy. 

Colon cancer screening is the key to early detection
The survival rate for colon cancer is very high – 90 per cent – when it is detected early. That’s why screening is so important: the goal is to find cancer while it is still in these early stages, when treatment is very successful. 

Bridging a heart health gap: helping women take the first step to cardiac rehab
For people with conditions that affect the heart and circulation, or who have had a cardiac event such as a heart attack, it’s hard to overstate the importance of exercise-based cardiovascular rehabilitation. Although cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of Canadian women, and more women than men are eligible for cardiac rehab programs, less than one-quarter of cardiac rehabilitation participants are women.

The mental health benefits of exercise
A good workout doesn’t just benefit your physical fitness. Exercise also has a positive effect on mental health, providing benefits that range from improving sleep to easing anxiety.

Gestational diabetes is an early sign of Type 2 diabetes risk
Although gestational diabetes – diabetes in pregnancy – usually goes away after the baby is delivered, it is linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes later in life. Researchers now understand that gestational diabetes is not the cause of this long-term Type 2 diabetes risk, but a symptom of it: the Type 2 diabetes risk was present even before the pregnancy, and was the cause of the gestational diabetes. 

Out-of-pocket medical expenses create a health gap for diabetes patients
For many patients, diabetes is more than a chronic health issue. It’s also a chronic financial issue, and that prevents many patients from adhering to their treatment. A new Diabetes Resource Manual addresses that health gap with comprehensive information on support programs and financial assistance for patients with diabetes in Ontario.

Flu shot myths and facts
October is the start of flu season. It’s also the time of year when people have questions about flu shots and flu prevention. To clear up some common concerns, here are some of the most common myths about flu shots, along with the facts.

What to expect if you are called back after a mammogram
Being called back for further testing after a routine screening mammogram can seem alarming. While it’s very important to follow up and have the recommended tests, being called back after a mammogram doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong. 

Reducing ovarian cancer risks in high-risk women
Because there is no effective screening or early detection for ovarian cancer, it is often diagnosed at a later stage, when it is difficult to treat. The Familial Ovarian Cancer Clinic at Women’s College Hospital is focused on prevention. The clinic’s goal is to stop cancer from ever developing in high-risk women, such as those with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations.  

Calcium and vitamin D: how much do you need?
Calcium is the major building block of your skeleton, and Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium through your gut. They are both very important to bone health, but how much do people need?

Exercise as medicine
Equating exercise with medicine isn't just a reminder that physical activity is good for you. Research has shown that exercise is a powerful therapy that can help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, among other benefits.

Bone health: be aware of osteoporosis risk factors
Osteoporosis is a condition in which loss of bone density and deterioration in bone quality causes bones to become weaker and more fragile. This decrease in bone strength increases the risk of bone fractures. Although it is a very common condition in older adults, it rarely has any symptoms, so it’s important to be aware of risk factors. 

Why diabetes is a greater heart health risk for women than men
Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease in both men and women. However, it has a greater impact on women’s heart health than men’s. 

Diabetes has health effects unique to women
In Canada, diabetes now affects over 1 million women. The fastest-growing group of diabetes patients is women under age 49, and this increasing burden of diabetes in younger women has broader implications for women’s health.

Hypertension for her: high blood pressure affects women differently than men
High blood pressure – or hypertension – is common in both men and women, especially as we age. However, it tends to follow different patterns over the course of men’s and women’s lifetimes.

Building better balance
Balance is what makes it possible to stand, walk and move without falling. It’s essential for mobility and for fall prevention, and is a key element of fitness.


Breast reconstruction after mastectomy
Nov. 30, 2015 Women undergoing mastectomy to prevent or treat cancer have the option of having breast reconstruction surgery. This is a plastic surgery procedure that restores the shape and appearance of the breast.

Help for smokers who want to quit: effective aids for the best health choice you can make
Oct. 22, 2015 Most smokers know that quitting is the single best thing they can do for their health. But they may not be aware of all the options available to help them start living a smoke-free life.

On Oct. 21, BRA Day promotes breast reconstruction awareness, access and education
Oct. 19, 2015 Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day – or BRA Day – offers women a unique opportunity to learn about options for breast reconstruction following a mastectomy. On Oct. 21, 2015, BRA Day events will take place all over Canada and internationally.

Being more active and getting fitter: starting from scratch
August 31, 2015 For someone who has been inactive for a while – maybe even for years – adopting a more active lifestyle can seem like a challenging ambition. Setting attainable goals and making small, incremental changes makes becoming more active achievable.

Hair loss in women: right diagnosis leads to the right treatment
July 6, 2015
There are over 100 reasons to lose hair and determining the exact cause is essential in order to initiate the proper treatment. Many hair loss conditions are treated differently – so getting a specific diagnosis is critical to getting the right treatment.

Polycystic ovary syndrome: PCOS is more than a reproductive condition
Jan. 7, 2015 Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is the most common hormonal condition in women of reproductive age, affecting between five and 10 per cent of women. However, it's more than a reproductive condition. It’s a metabolic condition that is linked to health issues such as insulin resistance, diabetes and sleep apnea.

Painful periods: causes and care
Oct. 23, 2014 Painful periods are a common problem. Read about some of the most common causes, and what treatments are available.

Hot flashes and night sweats in perimenopause
Sept. 8, 2014
During perimenopause – the transitional time leading up to menopause – fluctuations in hormone levels can cause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Women’s Health Matters spoke to Dr. Yolanda Kirkham, a gynecologist at Women’s College Hospital, about how to treat these vasomotor symptoms.

Fertility and age
August 23, 2014
Women’s fertility is limited by time. Fertility changes over the course of women’s reproductive lives, decreasing as they get older. A woman’s ability to get pregnant starts to decline many years before she reaches menopause.

Self-care tools for managing stress
April 23, 2014 Because most people have some stress in their lives, everyone needs some basic stress-management tools. It may not be possible to avoid stress, but it is possible to give yourself the best opportunity to cope with it.

Managing prediabetes
April 1, 2014 If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, now is the time to take action. By managing your health, it’s possible to delay or even prevent the progression to diabetes.

Exercise choices for better bone and joint health
Jan. 31, 2014 In addition to increasing muscle strength, physical activity stimulates bone formation. It also improves posture and co-ordination, as well as balance. That helps prevent falls that can cause fractures and other injuries.

Working to end violence against women: White Ribbon director asks, “Where are the men?”
Dec. 9, 2013
On the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, Todd Minerson, director of the White Ribbon Campaign – an organization of men dedicated to ending violence against women and girls – discussed the role of men and boys.

Women and opioid addiction
Nov. 25, 2013 The number of patients prescribed opioid pain medications has increased considerably in recent years. Along with the increase in prescriptions, there has also been an increase in the number of people – including women – who become addicted to these medications. 

Lymphedema risk after breast cancer treatment
Nov. 21, 2013 Women who have undergone treatment for breast cancer may be at risk of developing lymphedema – an accumulation of fluid that results from an inability to drain lymph fluid from tissues. In addition to swelling, lymphedema can cause pain, hardening of tissue and infection.

Diabetes mortality risks have decreased
Nov. 14, 2013 It has been well established that having diabetes increases the risk of dying, compared to not having the condition. However, new research suggests that things have improved significantly for people with diabetes in recent years. Data on Ontario diabetes patients show that their excess mortality risk has almost been cut in half since 1996.

Who is at risk for postpartum depression?
Oct. 10, 2013 Postpartum depression is a depressive episode that affects new mothers. It is a common condition, but there are factors that put some women at greater risk.

Women in big cities at higher risk of postpartum depression than rural women 
Aug. 6, 2013 Canadian women in large urban centres are more at risk for postpartum depression than those living in smaller communities or rural areas, a new Women's College study shows.

Fertility treatment not linked to long-term cardiovascular risks, study finds
Aug. 2, 2013 Women who have used fertility therapy to add to their families need not worry about the effects of those treatments on their long-term cardiovascular health. New WCH research shows that fertility treatment is not associated with excess cardiovascular risk later in life. In fact, mothers who conceived using fertility treatment had significantly lower cardiovascular risks than other mothers.

Managing migraine
July 31, 2013 More than four million Canadians suffer from migraine, and it affects three times as many women as men. Dr. Christine Lay, director of the Centre for Headache at Women's College Hospital, talks about what migraine is, and what patients can do to take control of their migraines.

Sexual assault services: how male victims use resources
June 28, 2013
 Services for sexual assault survivors are often thought of as resources for women, and that’s not surprising given the numbers: the overwhelming majority of adult sexual assault victims are women. But recent research sheds light on how male victims of sexual assault use those services, and it shows that these resources are also valuable to men.

Antidepressants and pregnancy: weighing the choices
May 31, 2013
 Pregnant women facing depression may also face the dilemma of whether or not to treat the depression with antidepressants. Untreated depression during or after pregnancy has been linked to an increase in poor outcomes in both mother and child. However, depression in pregnancy often goes untreated because of concerns about potential negative effects of antidepressant medications on the fetus. 

BRCA mutations and breast cancer risk
April 11, 2013 Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, affecting one in nine. In a small number of cases – about five to seven per cent – breast cancer is the result of a genetic change that makes a woman more susceptible to it. These genetic changes occur on the breast cancer 1 and breast cancer 2 – or BRCA1 and 2 – genes, and are known as BRCA mutations.

Endometriosis: a common cause of pelvic pain
March 25, 2013 Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue similar to the endometrium – the tissue that lines the uterus – also grows outside the uterus. It is a common condition that affects women in their reproductive years.

Yeast infections: when to see a doctor
Feb. 28, 2013 Most women will have a yeast infection at some point: 75 per cent of women get at least one during their lifetime. While there are plenty of over-the-counter treatments, there are times when it’s wise to see a doctor.

Exercise is strong medicine for heart health
Feb. 22, 2013 One of the most powerful treatments to help prevent heart disease doesn’t need a prescription. Cardiovascular exercise – such as walking, swimming, biking – can be a remedy for a major heart risk.

Income level may affect diabetes risk
Jan 30, 2013 The risk of developing diabetes may be significantly greater in lower income groups compared to higher income groups, a new study from Women’s College Research Institute and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences shows.

New research explores effects of intimate partner violence in immigrant and Canadian-born women
Jan 8, 2013 A new research study highlights differences and similarities in how Canadian-born and immigrant women experience intimate partner violence.

New study highlights intimate partner violence by a former partner in immigrant and Canadian-born women
Jan. 8, 2013 A recent research study offers new insights into intimate partner violence as experienced by immigrant women in Canada.

Breast cancer survivors may be more likely to develop diabetes
Dec. 13, 2012 New research from Women’s College Research Institute and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences indicates that post-menopausal breast cancer survivors have an increased risk of developing diabetes compared to women who haven’t had breast cancer.

Despite declining smoking rates, women continue to develop lung diseases
Nov. 15, 2012 Lungs might not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of differences between men and women, but smoking-related lung diseases do affect men and women differently.

Knowing your breasts: how early detection can save your life
Nov. 8, 2012 Since the mid-1980s, the death rate from breast cancer among Canadian women has decreased in each age group because of life-saving breast screening programs, increased breast awareness, as well as improved treatment options.

Postpartum depression can continue beyond the first few months after giving birth
Oct. 19, 2012 New mothers are most often assessed for postpartum depression in the first 12 weeks after giving birth. However, new research shows that for a significant number of women, postpartum depression can last throughout the first year and beyond.

Young adults and Type 1 diabetes: transitioning support from pediatric programs into adult care
Oct. 11, 2012 Young adults between the ages of 18-30 with Type 1 diabetes require continuous assistance and support from family, friends and their health care providers beyond pediatric care.

How vaccination works
Oct. 5, 2012 We now have vaccines that protect us against conditions ranging from the flu to cervical cancer. According to the World Health Organization, vaccines prevent millions of cases of illness, disability and death every year.

Fertility rates are rising in women with schizophrenia
Sept. 24, 2012 Results of a new study show that women with schizophrenia are now having more babies than they have in the past.

Mental health on campus: the mental health needs of university students
Sept. 13, 2012 When we think of students heading off to university in the fall, mental health might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But it’s a topic that may merit more thought and resources.

New guidelines for cervical cancer screening
Sept. 5, 2012 Regular Pap screening is a crucial defence against cervical cancer. Cancer Care Ontario recently updated its cervical cancer screening guidelines.

Empowering women living with incontinence
August 28, 2012 Women’s Health Matters spoke to Frances Stewart, nurse continence advisor at Women's College Hospital, about what urinary incontinence is as well as the important voice that incontinence patients have in helping to prevent social isolation.

Exercise for a healthy heart at any age
August 14, 2012 Women’s Health Matters spoke to Dr. Paula Harvey, director of the cardiovascular research program at Women's College Hospital, about the link between menopause and cardiac health, and how it is never too late to take control of your health with the help of exercise.

Rising rates of Type 2 diabetes in young women
July 12, 2012  More young women are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which may affect their child-bearing years.

HIV fertility: new guidelines for HIV pregnancy planning in Canada
July 6, 2012 Studies have shown that the rate of HIV in women is steadily on the rise, and over 70 per cent of Canadian women and men living with HIV are of reproductive age.

Spirometry: the health test that's often overlooked
June 26, 2012 Women’s College Hospital respirologist Dr. Anna Day discusses what this non-invasive test is, and why it’s so important for many women to have one.

Dealing with potential stressors in Aboriginal women with HIV
June 21, 2012 For National Aboriginal Awareness Day, Women’s Health Matters spoke to Dr. Anita Benoit of the Women’s College Research Institute about her research, which focuses on social indicators of stress among Aboriginal women living with HIV.

Ergonomics gives you the perfect fit at work
June 13, 2012 Looking around your office workstation design can offer new insights into your work productivity and health.

This summer, keep sun protection in mind while you’re having fun in the sun
June 6, 2012 Whether you’re going on vacation or staying at home this summer, you should always be aware of the dangers of the sun and how to best protect your skin.

Tackling health-care disparities among sexual minorities
May 29, 2012 Recognizing the communication gap within medical assessments that contributes to health inequities in the lesbian, gay and bi-sexual population.

Get the facts about drug-facilitated sexual assault
May 17, 2012 Research has consistently shown that the drug most commonly associated with sexual assault cases is alcohol.

Health care following psychological trauma: a new perspective on medical care
May 9, 2012 Pschological trauma can have a powerful impact. It can affect physical health, and can also influence how trauma survivors interact with healthcare providers, and the the health system. That's why trauma-informed care is so important.

Pap, HPV and vaccination: what it is and why it’s important
April 19, 2012 Did you know that about 70 to 80 per cent of the population gets a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection at some point in their life? Get the facts on HPV, Paps, and vaccinations.

Antioxidants: what they are, why you need them, and where to find them
April 12, 2012
Antioxidants have built a reputation as “superfoods.” We look behind the hype to clarify what antioxidants are, what they do, and how they can enhance health.

Watch your step: why fall prevention is important for all ages
April 5, 2012
Ten tips to help you avoid fall-related injuries.

Sizing up portions: what’s on your plate?
March 28, 2012
With terms like supersize and venti quickly becoming part of everyday language, it’s easy to lose perspective on how much we are eating and drinking.

Why scent-free makes sense
March 21, 2012 Find out why a growing number of organizations are adopting scent-free policies.

It's all about moisture: winter skin care
Feb. 28, 2012 Staying in Canada for the winter doesn’t mean your skin has to suffer. Read expert tips and advice on winter skin issues.

Eating well on the road
Feb. 22, 2012 Whether you’re vacationing or travelling on business, keeping your eating habits on track will pay off while you’re away and when you get home.

Food for thought: eating behaviour, healthy habits and disordered eating
Feb. 6, 2012 Providing you with the tools to understand and develop healthy eating habits.

Omega 3 fatty acids: what they are, why you need them, and where to find them
Jan. 30, 2012 Why omega 3 fatty acids are essential to your heart health.

Get energized about exercise: 5 tips for finding the motivation to fulfill your resolutions
Jan. 18, 2012 How to stick to your exercise resolutions for a healthier 2012.

Don't let holiday cheer turn into holiday fear!
Dec. 1, 2011 Read our feature highlighting holiday stress, with tips to make this season stress-free.

Stigma and coping strategies among HIV-positive women are complex and overlapping
Nov. 22, 2011 Read about a new study that addresses the experiences of stigma and coping strategies among HIV-positive women in Ontario

A call to action on the oppression of girls and women around the world
Sept. 30, 2011 Women’s College scientist issues a call to action on gendered oppression – not just to governments and state organizations, but to individuals.

Bone mineral density basics
Aug. 31, 2011 The Body Basics series takes a look at bone mineral density: learn what it is, how it's measured and why it's important.

Feet first: proper foot care will keep you on your toes
Aug. 16, 2011 Your feet don’t just take you from place to place. They also help you balance, support your body, and act as your body’s shock absorbers. With that much going on below your knees, it’s no surprise that feet may need some care.

Orthotics can be a step in the right direction for sore feet
July 25, 2011 For biomechanical foot problems, the solution might be orthotics: custom-made shoe inserts.

Glucose: blood sugar basics
July 11, 2011 Learn where your body gets glucose, why it's imporant and why too much sugar in the blood can be unhealthy.

Planning a healthy pregnancy with diabetes
June 30, 2011 For women with diabetes, pre-pregnancy planning can help ensure the best outcome for mother and baby.

Blood pressure basics
April 21, 2011 Blood pressure is a key element of heart health. Learn what the numbers mean, and what you can do about them.

Taking a fresh look at osteoarthritis: new ideas about OA and its treatment
Dec. 6, 2010 Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most common conditions affecting older Canadians, and a major cause of disability. Dr. Gillian Hawker, senior scientist at the Women’s College Research Institute and physician-in-chief of Women’s College Hospital’s department of medicine, talks about new research looking at causes, prevention and management of OA.

Trauma therapy: helping survivors of abuse and violence rebuild their lives
Sept. 14, 2010 Trauma therapy is a specialized type of psychotherapy that focuses on helping people work through traumatic events. Women's College Hospital psychotherapist and art therapist Eva-Marie Stern talks about how trauma devastates lives, and how trauma therapy can help.

Environmental Health: Complex Health Issues May Be Linked to Air, Food and Water
June 11, 2010 Conditions linked to environmental factors include chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and multiple chemical sensitivities – some of the most common diagnoses at the Environmental Health Clinic at Women’s College Hospital. Learn more about contributing factors from clinic physicians Dr. Alison Bested and Dr. Lynn Marshall.

Food for Thought: Strategies for Mindful Eating
April 5, 2010 Eating mindfully means having a healthy relationship with food: enjoying food and being aware of nutritional needs, but also being conscious of social and psychological factors that affect food choices. Women’s College Hospital dietitians offer tips on mindful eating based on the Craving Change program.

Under Pressure: High Blood Pressure Risks in Post-Menopausal Women
Feb. 23, 2010 High blood pressure affects both women and men, but there are differences in when and why they are affected. Dr. Paula Harvey, director of the cardiac research program at Women’s College Hospital, explores those sex differences and some of the mechanisms behind them.

Take It to Heart: Most Cardiovascular Risk Factors Are Manageable
Feb. 10, 2010 Heart disease is the number 1 killer of men and women in Canada. Experts from the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Initiative at Women’s College Hospital discuss 10 major cardiovascular risk factors, and what women can do to keep seven of them under control.




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