It’s never been a better time to be a woman. With advances in healthcare and better understanding of a woman’s body, women are now living longer, healthier lives. In this article, we pay tribute to 9 significant events in women’s health in the past 100 years.
1. Prenatal Vitamins – In the 1970s, some vitamin companies started including folic acid to their multi-vitamin supplements. By the late 1980s, medical researchers began studying the effects of folic acid in pregnant women. We now know that folic acid, iron, calcium, B6 and B12 and omega-3s support the development of a healthy baby. While many women will give birth to a healthy baby without vitamin supplements, medical research shows that prenatal vitamins may reduce the risk of certain neural tube defects such as spina bifida and developmental delays including autism. Today’s guidelines recommend that pregnant women and women who are trying to conceive take one prenatal vitamin daily.
2. Pap Smears – George Papanicolaou invented the Pap smear in 1923 to detect uterine and cervical cancer. It wasn’t until 1943 when his findings were published that his work and the Pap smear was accepted as a medical breakthrough. We know now that Pap tests save lives. According to Today, women whose cervical cancers were detected by a Pap test had a 92% cure rate. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that all women age 21 or older should have a Pap test regularly. Read the ACS guidelines for all women.
3. Mammograms – The mammogram revolutionized breast cancer detection. The first mammogram machine was used by doctors in 1966.Ten years later; the mammogram was standard procedure for early detection of breast cancer in women. To maintain safe levels of radiation and careful screening procedure, congress passed the Mammography Quality Standards Act in 1992, imposing standards for mammography equipment, technicians, records and inspections. Women over 40 and women in their 30s with a family history of breast cancer should have a yearly mammogram screening.
4. Heart Health – Heart Disease used to be considered a man’s disease. Not anymore. In 2009, heart disease became the leading cause of death for women in the United States. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about the same number of men and women die each year from heart disease. So why do we consider this a breakthrough in women’s healthcare? Finally we are focusing on the epidemic that is heart disease in women. The CDC and the American Heart Association have started public service campaigns directly marketed to women. Did you know that the signs of a Heart Attack may be different in women than in men?Read the 5 signs of heart attack in women including shortness of breath, back or jaw pain, and nausea / vomiting.
5. Smoking – In 1965, women who smoked were considered glamorous, at least in the advertisements that the cigarette companies published. At the time, the 34% of American women who smoked didn’t realize they were taking an average of 14.5 years off of their life expectancy. We now know that tobacco affects your total body with drastic short- and long-term effects. Thanks to four decades of medical research, public awareness campaigns, smoking bans, and high taxes, today only 22% of American women smoke.
6. Warning Labels for Pregnant Women – From alcohol to cigarettes to shellfish, the federal government requires warning labels on high-risk products to alert people of the risks posed to pregnant and nursing women. Starting with cigarette packs in 1966, followed by alcohol containers in 1988 and seafood packaging in 2003, warning labels have raised awareness that tobacco, alcohol and mercury can be hazardous to a pregnant or nursing woman’s health.
7. Vitamin and Mineral Fortification - Vitamin and mineral fortified foods have been improving the health of Americans without much effort on our part, aside from eating the vitamin-enriched foods on our plates. In 1924, iodine was added to table salt to prevent mental retardation and thyroid problems. In 1933, American farmers began adding Vitamin D during milk processing. In the 1940s, iron was added to breads, cereal and flour to prevent iron-deficiency anemia. Now it’s common to see calcium enriched orange juice and waffles and even DHA Omega-3 fortified milk. If you include fluoride in the drinking water, we have improved our health over the last 90 years simply by enjoying breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
8. HPV Vaccine – One of the most recent milestones in women’s health is the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, now available for teenagers and young women who are at risk of contracting the sexually transmitted disease which can lead to cervical cancer if untreated. Although the HPV vaccine is also available for males, females are more likely to be diagnosed with HPV and suffer the effects of the disease. The CDC recommends that females ages 13 – 26 years of age should receive the HPV vaccine as long as they are not pregnant.
9. Osteoporosis – Osteoporosis used to be an unavoidable condition for many senior women. Our understanding of causes, treatment and prevention of osteoporosis over the last 20 years has changed the direction of women’s health considerably. From bone density scans that detect osteoporosis to prevention techniques including calcium + vitamin D supplements and bone strengthening exercise, women are more empowered today than ever to stay strong later in life.
10. Multivitamins for women of all ages – If your diet isn’t as balanced as you’d like it to be, you can benefit from taking a daily Rainbow Light Womens Multivitamin designed especially for women. Sure, we’re a bit biased, but we think that our line of natural vitamins for women is a true advancement in women’s healthcare.