Who’s in charge?
While not carved in stone, women
are often the keepers of their family’s
health, says Tannice Hinrichson, a
registered nurse and the manager of
the antepartum unit at Peter Lougheed
Centre in Calgary.
Both partners come into a relationship
with their own way of dealing with their
health, but things often change when
they start a family. “That pattern is often
established during pregnancy, because
most visits are often attended by only
the woman,” she explains.
This pattern usually continues as
children grow because many moms
take care of their children’s health
needs. It’s not surprising for women
to take over their husbands’ health
as well. Having one person in charge
can have drawbacks, particularly if a
woman is helping everyone but herself.
With multiple demands on her time,
she may unintentionally ignore her own
health by postponing or cancelling
doctors’ appointments or skimping on
followup appointments or treatment
because of finances, time and logistics.
Hinrichson says men can be invested
in their family’s health. “Getting involved
right from the get-go is a healthy pat-
tern,” she adds. And by getting involved
early and staying involved, family
health becomes a shared family respon-
Today’s technology also makes it
much easier for both partners to be
on the same page with health-related
information (doctor’s names and contact
information, for example)
— With files from Terry Bullick and
Quitting that habit
Research shows the risks of tobacco
use differ between women and men.
More women die of lung cancer than
all of the women’s cancers combined
says Kristin Matthews, tobacco control
regional manager for The Lung
Association, Alberta and NWT.
could lead to breaking bones, hospital
visits and more serious issues.”
Understanding why a woman
smokes is important says Barbara
Borkent, a program specialist in
tobacco at The Lung Association,
Alberta and NWT. For many women,
smoking is comforting and stress
relieving, even though they know it’s
addictive. “They’ve come to associate
it with something that helps them
relax and time to get away,” explains
Borkent. “For many women, when
they go out for a smoke break, they’re
getting away from a stressful situation.”
Knowing this can go a long way to
being able to offer the support a
woman needs to quit the habit.
(See “Breaking Free” on page 31.)
Like men, women who smoke have
a higher risk of heart disease and
stroke. That risk increases if she’s
on birth control pills or significantly
Women who smoke often have a
more difficult time getting pregnant.
If they continue to smoke during
pregnancy, they have a higher chance
of miscarrying or delivering a low-birthweight baby. Smoking can even
worsen the symptoms of monthly
periods and menopause.
Smoking can also affect osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones that
is a concern for many women after
menopause. Older women who smoke
have an even higher risk of losing
bone mass, says Matthews. “This