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Female OB/GYNs Name Obesity the Greatest Threat to Women's Health

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Female obstetrician-gynecologists cite obesity as the leading health problem confronting women today, according to a new Gallup Organization survey conducted for The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

When women ob-gyns were asked how concerned they were about a number of specific health issues affecting their patients, nearly 8 in 10 (78%) said that obesity is of great concern to them, with an additional 22% saying it is of some concern.

The next most frequently mentioned issues of great concern to women ob-gyns were patients' menopausal symptoms (61%), stress (57%), depression (56%), smoking (53%), heart disease (52%), and cancer (50%).

Obesity was also named most often (by 38% of female ob-gyns) as the most serious health problem facing women under age 50. No other health condition was mentioned by more than 10% of respondents as a top threat to younger women.

For women age 50 and over, heart disease was named as the most serious health problem by more than half (52%) of women ob-gyns. Obesity was ranked second (12%).

"It's no surprise that heart disease was cited first for this age group," states Vivian M. Dickerson, MD, ACOG president Elect from Orange, CA, who was part of the expert panel discussing the survey results at a recent ACOG news conference. "Older women are more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease due to their higher rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, physical inactivity, and obesity. Being overweight raises a woman's risk of heart disease, as well as diabetes, certain cancers, and arthritis.

"For women in midlife, taking action is particularly important. Their risk of heart disease and heart attack jump dramatically once they reach menopause," reports Dickerson. One in eight women between the ages of 45 and 64 has some form of heart disease, and this increases to one in three for women over age 65.

"Women fear breast cancer almost twice as much as they fear a heart attack, yet each year more than 12 times as many women die of cardiovascular disease than of breast cancer. Heart disease is the number-one killer of women in the U.S.," adds Dickerson.

"We know obesity is a leading contributor to heart disease and we're seeing more obese women at younger ages. Obesity is a 'right now' problem that must be addressed. We need to intensify our efforts for early prevention and treatment of obesity, before it results in serious health problems later in a woman's life," said Dickerson.

Of reversible health problems, obesity is one of the most widespread and detrimental, according to Dickerson. "Our nation's weight problem won't be solved by diet alone," she said, "but if we can encourage our patients to start making small changes, good things could happen.

"One of the best things that we can do as physicians is to 'walk the talk.' We should be setting a positive example for our patients by adopting healthy lifestyles, including eating right and exercising regularly," said Dickerson.

In a separate news release on additional Gallup survey results, ACOG announced that most women ob-gyns are getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. "I am encouraged that female ob-gyns are practicing what they preach," noted Dickerson. "Our challenge now is to share successful strategies with our patients." This article was prepared by Aging & Elder Health Week editors from staff and other reports. Copyright 2004, Aging & Elder Health Week via &

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