Category Archives: Heart & Cardiovascular Health

10 Topics for Lesbians to Discuss with their Doctor

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s (GLMA) healthcare providers have identified the following issues as the most commonly of concern for lesbians.

Breast Cancer
Lesbians are less likely to receive screening exams, but more likely to have risks for breast cancer. This means they are at risk for not being diagnosed when the disease is most curable.

Depression/Anxiety
Due to discrimination, many lesbians may experience chronic stress, especially when they need to hide their orientation or have lost important emotional support because of it. This can cause anxiety and depression.

Heart health
Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women. Obesity and smoking are the biggest risk factors for heart disease among lesbians. It’s important for all lesbians to receive medical exams each year for cholesterol problems, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Tips can be provided about smoking cessation, weight control and increasing physical activity.

10 Topics for Lesbians to Discuss with their Doctor

Gynecological Cancer
Compared to heterosexual women, lesbians have higher risks of certain types gynecological cancers. In order to find cancers early and have the best chance for a cure, it’s important to have regular Pap tests and pelvic exams.

Fitness
According to research, lesbians are more likely to be obese or overweight. Obesity is associated with higher rates of cancers, heart disease and premature death. It is important for lesbians to have supportive and competent advice about living a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise and diet.

Tobacco
Smoking has been associated with higher rates of heart disease, emphysema and cancers which are three major causes of death among women. Research shows that lesbians use tobacco more than heterosexual women do.

Alcohol
Heavy drinking and binge drinking are more common among lesbians compared to other women. While one drink a day may be good for the heart, more than that can raise your risk of cancer, liver disease and other health problems.

Substance Abuse
Perhaps due to stress from sexism, homophobia and/or discrimination, lesbians may use drugs more frequently than heterosexual women. They need support and help finding healthy ways to reduce stress and cope.

Intimate Partner Violence
Health care providers fail to ask lesbians about intimate partner violence as much as they ask heterosexual women. Lesbians sometimes experience domestic partner violence and need to be questioned and have access to counseling and shelters, if needed.

Sexual Health
It’s important for lesbians to be screened for STDs by a healthcare provider, just as heterosexual women would be. They can get the same infections as any other woman, are able to give each other STDs by skin-to-skin contact, vaginal fluids, mucous membrane contact and menstrual blood.

The Gay American Smoke Out

Tobacco use in the United States has declined in recent years, according to the CDC, in both adults and high school-age adolescents. Within the spectrum of the LGBTQ community, however, the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products remains prevalent, and incredibly damaging.

The statistics are jarring. According to The Gay Smoke Out, A 1999 house-hold based survey found that 48.5% of gay and bisexual men reported smoking. The national average for straight men is 28.6%. While that survey was taken 15 years ago, the numbers today reflect immensely disproportionate use of tobacco in the LGBTQ community.

The DC Center reports:

  • Members of the LGBT community smoke at a far greater rate than that of the general population, although estimates vary widely. In one 2004 California Study, lesbian women were 70% more likely to smoke than other women, and gay men were more than 50% more likely to smoke than other men. More recent research suggests this number may be even higher. The LGBT National Tobacco Control Network estimates that the LGBT community is 50% to 200% more likely than others to be addicted to tobacco.

  • LGBT adolescents also smoke at an alarming rate, in one national study 47 of females and 36.7 of males reporting same-sex attraction or behavior smoked. In comparison, only 29% of the rest of young people in the study smoked.

The Gay American Smoke OutThese statistics and numbers are as alarming as they are curious. They beg the question: why, in a community where health is valued so highly, does the number one avoidable cause of heart disease and a plethora of cancers run rampant?

The answer is open to conjecture, but a solid sociological theory reads as such:

Smoking usually begins in the adolescent years, around the time when teens become sexually aware. The act of smoking can be used as a crutch to ease anxiety regarding the various stresses associated with hiding their sexuality.

Because most major tobacco companies add various agents to their product to make it even more addictive, the habits from youth carry over into adulthood.

Members of the LGBTQ community have resources available to them, just like members of the heterosexual community at large. If you are trying to quit smoking, please visit www.smokefree.gov, www.gaysmokeout.net, www.lung.org, or simply google all of the tips, tricks, and free quit lines available in your area.