French Women Finding a Way to Be Born Again Virgins

An increasing number of women in France are undergoing a form of surgery known as hymenoplasty. As the name suggests, this outpatient surgical procedure involves reconstructing the hymen in order to make it appear as if she is still a virgin.

The majority of women undergoing this procedure are Muslim and are from both France and North Africa. The main draw to this procedure is that, for many of these women, religion dictates that they be virgins at the time they are married. Yet, religious doctrine does not provide a stance on whether or not this surgical procedure is considered acceptable. In fact, all that the head of the Union of French Islamic Organisations will say on the matter is, “If someone committed a sin, the essential thing is to repent.”

“The surgery is an attack on women’s dignity. We will not take part in a market that places value on the quality of a woman – if she’s good or not. It is an attack on women’s liberty.” - Professor Jacque Lansac, President of The National College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians in of France

Many women are also deciding to undergo the procedure for cultural reasons, with many coming from families that believe strongly in remaining a virgin until married. This procedure, which costs anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000, allows them to effectively become virgins again and to avoid disappointing their fianc├ęs and their families.

Several doctors and activists view this procedure as a slap in the face of women’s rights and liberty. In addition, there is much debate surrounding the procedure being done in state hospitals since France has laws in place that separate church and state.


The Gap Between Women Versus Men Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis Continues to Grow

Recent research has shown that women are four times as likely as their male counterparts to develop multiple sclerosis. Researchers are baffled as to why there appears to be a gender discrepancy with the disease. Yet, over the past 60 years, the number ratio of women suffering from the disorder as compared to men has nearly doubled.

Although MS has always been more prevalent in females than in males, the gap between the two sexes has been steadily growing. In 1940, the number of women afflicted as compared to men was two to one. In the year 2000, on the other hand, the ratio grew to four to one.

"The results of this study are intriguing. MS is most frequently diagnosed in pre-menopausal women and this research reinforces questions surrounding the role of hormones in multiple sclerosis. The idea that lifestyle changes in women over the decades may play a part in multiple sclerosis is interesting, but further research is needed to explore this level of influence and its bearing on the prevalence of MS." - Chris Bentley, spokesman for Multiple Sclerosis Society

Researchers hope that this information will help them to better pinpoint potential causes of the disorder. More specifically, if researchers can identify what has changed in the lifestyles of women over the past 60 decades, they may very well be able to determine what triggers the disorder. Areas that are receiving a great deal of attention include birth control methods, changes in menstruation, increasing obesity rates, having children later in life, and smoking. Researchers will also take a closer look at those things that women tend to do more frequently than men, such as using cosmetics and hair dyes that may cause vitamin D absorption to be blocked.

Another oddity linked to the disorder is the fact that Scotland has proportionally more cases of MS than any other country in the world – another phenomenon that has yet to be explained.


Women Still Earning Less than Men

A study recently released by the American Association of University Women found that women are still earning less than their male counterparts – despite the fact that women are pursuing higher education opportunities. According to the study, women that graduated in the 1999-2000 school year were earning 80% of the wages as men graduating during that same year. This isn’t much growth when compared to those that graduated in 1992-1993 and earned 69% of what men did.

Although this fact is discouraging, the study found that part of the reason for the discrepancy is the choices women make when choosing their majors. According to the study, women tended to select professions that pay lower wages. These career paths include working for non-profit organizations and in the education and psychology feels. On the other hand, men tend to select jobs within the business and engineering fields, both of which traditionally bring in a higher wage.

“The research asked a basic but important question: If a woman made the same choices as a man, would she earn the same pay? The answer is no.” - Catherine Hill, Co-author of study

Despite this fact, the study still found discrepancies in the amount of money women make versus the amount men make. In fact, the study found that, when taking occupation, education, children, and hours out of the equation, women were still paid less than 5% than men one year after graduating from college. After working for ten years, they earned 12% less than men. Over the lifetime of a woman, this amounts to losing out on $500,000. – as well as earning les in social security.

The study found that career paths in which women dominate, such as in education, the discrepancy is smaller than in other professions – though men still earn more pay. According to the researchers, there was always a discrepancy between the pay of women and men, no matter how they tried to look at the numbers. For this reason, Catherine Hill, co-author of the study, took her findings to a congressional committee.


Migraine Sufferers May Enjoy Better Cognitive Ability as they Age

Women suffering from migraines may have something to be happy about. A recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University out of Baltimore has found that those women with a history of the painful headaches may actually be less likely to suffer from cognitive decline as they get older.

According to researchers, the medication migraine sufferers use to alleviate their pain and symptoms, along with the dietary and behavioral changes they implement, might play a large role in their lack of cognitive decline.

“This was a complete surprise. We found that people with migraines, specifically people with migraines with aura, which is even more counterintuitive, didn’t even decline over time at all.” - Dr. Kalaydjian, leader of research

The study, which followed over 1,448 women, of which 204 were migraine sufferers, involved having the women take a series of cognitive tests. The women took the tests once in 1993 and then again in 2005. The women that were suffering from migraines when taking the first test were found to be 17% sharper than the women that were free of migraines when they took the second test.

Interestingly, the study found that women over the age of 50 showed the least amount of decline. Researchers were unable to determine exactly why this phenomenon seemed to occur. The current theory is that changes in blood vessels or other differences in brain activity may be the reason for the difference in abilities. More research is still needed in order to determine the exact connection between age-related cognitive abilities and migraines in women.

Desert Culture Leading to Obese Women

Many American women would feel envious of the women in Mauritania, a small desert country in northwest Africa. Here, obese women are prized for their extra pounds. In fact, women strive to become overweight so they will be viewed as beautiful by the men in their culture.

The reversed method of thinking is spawned from the fact that the country is quite poor and often suffers from drought. As a result, food is not plentiful. By being overweight, a woman demonstrates the wealth of her family.

The people of Mauritania hold obesity in such high regard that all of their love songs speak of heavy women. As one man put it, “A man’s goal is to marry a woman that fills his house. She needs to decorate it like an armoire or a TV set.”

The men feel so strongly that their women should be overweight that they actually threaten to divorce their wives if they lose weight. Although American women may think this mindset would be a blessing, it has actually caused a number of problems for the women of Mauritania.

First, there are the obvious health problems associated with being overweight. Obese women are at a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and other potentially fatal illnesses. In addition to these health risks, however, families are taking extreme measures to plump up their daughters.

“When I was little, my mother hit me to eat because I didn't want to be fat. Now I want to be big because men like that." – A Mauritanian woman who wants to gain more than 20 pounds.

In Mauritania, it has been a common practice among the wealthier families to actually force feed their daughters. Once woman recalls being forced to drink 14 gallons of camel’s milk every day. If she vomited as a result, she was beaten. If she tried to refuse to drink the milk, she was tortured by having her fingers bent backward until they touched the back of her hand. The girl could no longer run by the time she was ten and, as an adult, struggles just to walk up the stairs. Yet, her mother considers her to be the epitome of beauty.

As a result of this way of thinking, nearly a quarter of the women in Mauritania are obese, which equals about 1.5 million women. In order to put a stop to this epidemic, the Mauritanian government has started a television and radio campaign that warns the people of the health problems associated with obesity. The health ministry has even hired artists to create love songs about thin women.

This is vastly different from the American culture, where many groups are trying to take the focus off of the “thin is beautiful” way of thinking. Ironically, the American mentality has started to help with the problem, however, as the popularity of American soaps and their thin actors have started to make some of the elite in the country change their way of thinking. According to a survey in 2001, only 10% of Mauritanian women less than 19 years old had been force fed, while a third of those 40 or over had been.


Women Display Risk Factors of Diabetes Before Men

Diabetes is certainly a serious problem that affects both genders and all races. Although the signs of diabetes typically begin to show well before the disease is actually diagnosed, a recent report reveals that the signs can be detected in women far earlier than they are detected in men.

More specifically, there are three risk factors that tend to show up quite early in women. These include malfunction of the cells that line the inner surface of the blood vessels (called endothelial dysfunction), low levels of a hormone called adionectin, and having a higher than normal amount of breakdowns and formations of blood clots.

“Because these pre-diabetic markers are not routinely assessed, and because diabetes is strongly linked with coronary heart disease, the study may help explain why the decline in death rates for heart disease in diabetic women lags behind that of diabetic men.” - Richard Donahue, Ph.D. of the University of Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions and Lead Author of the study.

Once these signs appear, women need to start to carefully watch their bodies for diabetes. For men, however, these signs do not appear to be a tip off that diabetes is on the way.

The study used to conclude this information involved following 1,455 healthy subjects. When the same people that were initially studied were re-examined, it was found that the 52 women that had progressed to pre-diabetes has all of these signs when they were initially examined. The 39 men that had progressed to this stage, however, did not have these risk factors in their blood.


Women Increasingly Being Diagnosed with COPD

A recent report released in the Medical Journal of Australia has revealed that more women are dying from diseases related to smoking than ever before. Smoking is thought to be responsible for approximately 60% of the cases of COPD. As a result, the report is calling for creating more anti-cigarette campaigns that are targeted specifically toward women.

According to a review of hospital admissions in Australia, the number of deaths and admissions for asthma have fallen. At the same time, the rates of women diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, has risen. The disease is characterized by wheezing, coughing, and breathlessness.

In 1993 alone, 1,900 women in Australia lost their lives to the disease. This number increased to 2,300 in 2003. Men, on the other hand, had a drop during this same time period, with 4,000 losing their lives to the disease in 1993 and 3,200 in 2003. While more men are still currently affected by the disease than women, the trend is certainly disturbing for women.

Although the study was based in Adelaide in Australia, researchers state that the data represents international trends. People that go undiagnosed with the disease have also been found to have a poorer quality of life than those that have been diagnosed and are receiving treatment.


Imus Controversy May Be a Catalyst for Change

The controversy surrounding the comments and subsequent firing of shock jock Don Imus has been grabbing all of the headlines as of late. Initially, it seemed the controversy was primarily focused on whether or not the comments were racially charged. More recently, however, the focus has been placed more on how Imus’ comments are a reflection of society’s poor perception of women.

As a result of the controversy surrounding Imus’ comments, many groups and leaders have been mobilized and have found that their cause of fighting for women’s rights has suddenly gained more attention. More specifically, those fighting against what has been referred to as gangsta rap are taking advantage of the situation in order to get their message heard.

Upon his firing, Imus claimed that the lyrics in rap songs have called black women “worse names than I ever did.” Many agree with Imus’ statement, including the Reverend Al Sharpton, who has now made it one of his personal goals to help uplift the status of women.

“We will not stop until we make it clear that no one should denigrate women. We must deal with the fact that ho and the b-word are words that are wrong from anybody’s lips.”

Defenders of rap music, however, maintain that the music is a poetic expression that tells a story of the lives of the rap artist. They go on to say that the music should not be criticized. Rather, the critics should work to improve the lives of those growing up in the same hopeless and violent lifestyle as many gangsta rappers had to endure.

Rappers themselves defend their music, claiming there is a difference between the women they talk about in their songs versus educated women. According to rapper Snoop Dogg, “(Rappers) are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We’re talking about hos that’s in the ‘hood that ain’t doing – that’s trying to get a n- for his money.”

Whether music is to blame or not, what remains true is that women still are not viewed equally by many members of society. As a result, many people – both male and female –are working collectively to bring about a change.


Exercise May Prove to Help Relieve Menopause Symptoms

According to a study conducted by Penn State University, exercise can go a long way in helping women to fend off the symptoms associated with menopause. The study found that those women that were engaged in a routine exercise program self-reported having a better quality of life compared to those that did not exercise.

The study focused on 164 volunteers, all of whom were mostly sedentary prior to the study. The women were then divided into three groups. One of these groups met three times each week in order to walk together for an hour. Another group gathered in order to perform 90 minute yoga sessions. The final group did not exercise at all.

The study found that the women who exercised enjoyed an improved outlook and mood. When it came to hot flashes and night sweats, however, the results were mixed. Half of the women in the study reported an improvement in these areas, with most of them being women participating in the exercise groups. Those participating in the walking group, which is aerobic exercise, enjoyed greater benefits than those in the non-aerobic yoga group.

“It’s a nice reaffirmation that exercise is beneficial for lots of different things.” – Dr. Charles Castle, Lancaster gynecologist and member of the Pennsylvania Medical Society board of trustees

The study is not conclusive, however, as it did not account for the various stages of menopause. As such, it is possible that some of the women’s symptoms may have lessened on their own. The study was also unable to determine if the exercise actually decreased the symptoms or if women were simply in better moods after exercising.

With menopause affecting approximately 1.5 million women between the ages of 45 and 55 in the United States per year, any steps that can help improve the symptoms is sure to be well received.


Heart Disease the Number One Killer of Women

A recent study performed by the National Institutes of Health has confirmed what has been suspected for a few months now: heart disease is officially the number one killer of women in the United States.

According to the study, heart disease is now responsible for more deaths than even cancer. In fact, two in every five deaths of women in the United States is related to either heart disease or to stroke.

Traditionally, heart disease was thought of as a disease affecting more men than women. Due to this misconception, women have often ignored this potential danger. As a result, the American Heart Association is working heard to educate American women in regards to steps they can take to reduce their chances of suffering from heart disease.

There are a number of symptoms that women should watch for, all of which can be signs of a problem with the heart. These include: shortness of breath without chest pain, suddenly feeling exhausted despite a lack of activity, and pain the lower chest that is often mistaken for stomach problems.

“If you look at statistics of women who’ve died suddenly of heart attack, two-thirds died before they could reach the hospital.” - Dr. Nieca Goldberg, cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at New Your University and Medical Director of the Women’s Heart Program

All of these symptoms tend to be subtle in women. In addition, they can easily be mistaken for other problems that are not associated with the heart. As a result, women fail to realize the danger they are in. For this reason, many of the women that die from heart disease actually die before ever reaching the hospital.

In order to reduce the risk of heart disease, women need to refrain from smoking and drinking. In addition, they should watch their diets and avoid overeating. Integrating exercise into her daily routine will also reduce the chances of developing this fatal disease.


Many Women Pay More For Health Coverage Than Men

According to a recent study conduct by Harvard Medical School researchers, women pay more as a result of high-deductible health insurance plans than men do. As a result, when employers change their health coverage to those with high-deductibles, women are effectively taking a pay $1,000 pay cut per year.

The Harvard study examined the expenses for men and women below the age of 45 and found that men spend less than $500 per year on medical deductibles. Conversely, women spend more than $1,200. The study also found that only a third of men insured by a high-deductible plan spend over $1,050 per year in medical costs. When it comes to women, however, 55% are paying more than this cost.

“High-deductible plans punish women for having breasts and uteruses and having babies. When an employer switches all his employees into a consumer-driven health plan, it's the same as giving all the women a $1,000 pay cut, on average, because women on average have $1,000 more in health costs than men” - Steffie Woolhandler, lead author of the study

The reason for women spending more on medical deductibles was directly related to the fact that women have a number of routine examinations that are necessary simply because they are women. These examinations include mammograms, Pap tests, cervical cancer vaccinations, birth control, and costs related to pregnancy.


Exercise Can Reduce Arthritis Pain In Elderly Women

Arthritis is an unfortunate side effect of aging for many women. As a result, they experience achy and stiff joints that can make movement seem impossible. According to a new Australian study, however, exercise and movement can actually help reduce the pain associated with arthritis in women.

According to the lead author of the study, Kristiann Heesch from the University of Queensland in Australia, it isn’t necessarily to start maniacally exercising in order to reduce arthritis-related pain. Rather, a bit of simple walking or engaging in moderate activities can be highly beneficial.

"If we could put out a pill that would solve a lot of problems, it would be physical activity, but we can‘t wrap it up into a little pill and give it to people” - Kristiann Heesch from the University of Queensland in Australia

The study indicates that getting exercise for just 75 minutes per day for women in their 70s can lead to significantly less symptoms. Those that were active for at least 2 ½ hours per week experienced even less difficulties and continued to experience less pain for three years afterward. The study also showed that the strongest link between exercise and arthritis was a reduction in lower joint pain. The reasons for this connection, however, are not quite clear.

Although exercise was beneficial in combating arthritis pain in older women, the study found that middle-aged women did not receive the same benefits.


New Guidelines for Mammography Screenings Released

The American College of Physicians has just released new guidelines for women between the ages of 40 and 49 when it comes to mammography screenings. According to the new guidelines, women need to take more factors under consideration when deciding whether or not to have a mammography than just their age.

This new way of looking at a woman’s risk for breast cancer was initiated by the fact that the risk of breast cancer is not evenly distributed when it comes to women in this age group. Therefore, not all women need to have a mammography at this age. In fact, there are some potential issues with having a mammography at this age, as false-positive results are possible. In addition, there is the risk involved with unnecessary radiation exposure.

“It is important to tailor the decision of screening mammography by discussing the benefits and risks with a woman, addressing her concerns, and making it a joint decision between her and her physician.” – Amir Qaseem, MD, PHD, DHA and lead author of the study

According to the new guidelines, clinicians should periodically perform an assessment for each of their patients in order to determine their risks for breast cancer. The clinicians should then inform women in this age group about the benefits as well as the risks involved with a screening. The final decision as to whether a screening is necessary needs to be based on whether or not the benefits outweigh the potential risks.

If the clinician and the patient decide a screening is not necessary at the time, the issue should be addressed again every one to two years. These new guidelines represent The American College of Physicians’ stance that women should be encouraged to make more informed decisions about their bodies.