January 13, 2022 by Muriel Sommers
Four Things Primary Care Physicians Watch For in Their Female Patients
Women tend to be pretty good about keeping everyone in the family on track with doctors’ appointments, health screenings and other important items. When it comes to managing their own health, however, some women fall short. The demands of juggling work-life issues can make it difficult, experts say, as can the tendency or desire many women have to put others’ needs ahead of their own. That’s where the primary care physician comes in.
“Women generally are motivated to make healthy life changes but often feel held back by the demands on their time at home and at the office or, as is the case for many middle-aged women, caring for their aging parents,” says Patricia Feito-Fernandez, M.D., a family medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care. “They need to know that putting themselves first isn’t just okay, it’s essential. And it’s our job as physicians to help them do that.”
The primary care physician isn’t just looking at a particular part of the body, Dr. Feito-Fernandez says; they take a more holistic view of the patient’s health and are often the first ones to spot and diagnose a health issue. “We also help our patients stay current with their recommended health screenings,” she adds. “For women, of course, that means getting their annual mammograms, Pap smears and colonoscopies.”
There are other health concerns women should be on the lookout for, Dr. Feito-Fernandez says, including these four conditions that commonly affect women:
A bone densitometry or DXA scan can tell women if they’re at risk for osteoporosis but unfortunately the test isn’t covered by insurance for women under 65. “As women age, they need to make sure they’re getting plenty of weight-bearing exercise and taking calcium and vitamin D supplements can help protect against osteoporosis,” Dr. Feito-Fernandez says.
2. Heart disease
While breast cancer usually tops the list of women’s health concerns, what they should really be worried about is heart disease, according to Dr. Feito-Fernandez. “A recent study showed that a woman has a 40 percent risk of developing cardiovascular disease by age 50,” she says.
Many women also have risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity, she adds.
3. Depression and stress
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depression is also common among women, affecting about 12 percent of women age 40 to 59. And the National Institute of Mental Health says that women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime.
According to a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health, roughly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, which is why Dr. Feito-Fernandez says primary care physicians should ask their female patients if they’re using birth control. There’s also the question of whether a woman is healthy enough to become pregnant in the first place. “Many women are waiting until later in life to start a family,” she says. “But the risk of miscarriage is far higher for women in their 40s.”
There are many other ways your primary care physician can help you stay healthy, happy and on top of things – no matter how busy and complicated life gets. But, Dr. Feito-Fernandez says, it starts with the patient.
“For us to help you, we have to actually see you,” she says. “But if you’re too busy or unable to come into the office, we can always see you via Baptist Health Care On Demand, our telemedicine platform.”
With Baptist Health Care On Demand, the doctor can do an evaluation and make a diagnosis, Dr. Feito-Fernandez says. “We can also order imaging, if needed, refer you to a Baptist Health specialist or prescribe medications,” she adds. “Many of our patients have come to really appreciate the ease and convenience of a telemedicine visit.”