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Every month, our website features the Spotlight on Women's Health — interviews that share everything from personal stories to expert opinions. Womenshealth.gov asks the questions you're interested in so that you get inside look at women's health.
It's your body. You have the right to decide what you do and don't do sexually. When someone takes that power away from you, it is a crime. And no matter the circumstances, it is not your fault.
It took Neesha Arter years to finally accept that what happened to her on New Year's Eve when she was 14 was not her fault. That night, she was sexually assaulted by two boys she knew and trusted. Now, at 23, she's speaking out about her experience. She talks about helping other young women realize they're not alone and that what happened to them isn't their fault.
There is life and love after an HIV diagnosis. That's the message Maria Mejia, an activist and woman living with AIDS, wants to share in honor of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) on March 10.
As an ambassador for NWGHAAD, Maria is joining the Office on Women's Health to shed light on the impact HIV/AIDS has on women and girls. Because there are women all across the country who are affected by HIV/AIDS — just like she is — she feels passionately about putting a face to the disease. She offers support and hope to reduce the stigma, and increase knowledge about HIV/AIDS preventive, care, and treatment. Maria talks about living with HIV/AIDS.
Did you know heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States — surpassing stroke, diabetes, and even cancer? In honor of American Heart Month, we spoke with Yaskary Reyes. Yaskary is an ambassador for The Heart Truth®, a program sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute that strives to educate women about heart disease and motivate them to take steps to prevent it. She is also living with heart disease.
Due to her unusually strong family history of heart disease, Yaskary's experience is not typical for most women. However, her story makes a compelling case for being aware of your own personal risk factors for heart disease. Yaskary talks about what women should know about heart disease and how she manages it.
Many people enjoy a beer or a glass of wine from time to time. But what happens when a woman’s drinking starts affecting the rest of her life? Maybe it’s causing problems at work or school or in her relationships. She may even have legal or financial problems if she drinks and drives.
That was the case for Markella Prather. Like many people with alcohol problems, Markella didn’t realize her drinking was out of control. That’s why she wants to share her story. She wants to spread the word that drinking problems can affect anyone and that treatment can help you regain control of your life. Markella talks about her choice to quit and what it’s like staying sober.
Many Americans have and will take on roles as caregivers for an aging loved one with declining health. In this role, they're often doing the job of a professional caregiver, but they don't get paid and they're juggling a million other things. Most often, these caregivers are adult children caring for an elderly parent. If you've ever been a caregiver for an aging parent or friend, you know that it's a big responsibility — and often a stressful one. Add that to the demands of the holiday season, and things can become downright overwhelming.
We spoke with Judith Henry, a woman who understands the stress of being a caregiver. She also gets just how hard it is to switch roles with your parents and become the one caring for them. Judith talks about her experience taking care of her aging parents and gives her advice for coping.
Rebecca will be the first to tell you that there's no predicting the way life will turn out, especially when your partner develops a mental illness. But living with someone who has a mental illness doesn't mean life can't be fun and fulfilling — it's just different.
This is the case for Rebecca and her husband Craig. Craig is a military veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although it affects their lives every day, they're making it work and want others to know they can, too. Read our interview with Rebecca — a spouse and a caregiver — to learn more about living with someone with PTSD.
Good Morning America's Amy Robach got the shock of her life in November 2013 when she was diagnosed as one of the 1-in-8 women in America who will be affected by breast cancer in their lifetimes. She has confronted her diagnosis of breast cancer by speaking out in support of others facing the disease.
As much as we might want to deny it, we know that aging is a natural part of life. But aging doesn’t have to mean poor health or a loss of independence. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help you stay active, healthy, and productive! And it’s never too late to start taking steps to improve your wellbeing. Just ask Marine Wong. After her granddaughter was born, Marine decided she wanted to be healthier. Read our interview with Marine to learn her tips for healthy aging.
Breastfeeding mothers need support from employers to continue breastfeeding after returning to work. Pumping at work allows moms to give their best to their baby without jeopardizing their jobs. Businesses benefit, too: Breastfed babies are healthier, meaning lower health care costs for employers and fewer days out for moms. Allowing pumping at work also decreases turnover rates and increases employee productivity and loyalty.
This was true for Rebecca Flores, a mother of two. Unable to breastfeed her first child for very long, she knew she wanted to prioritize breastfeeding with her second child. To succeed, she'd need to pump at work, but as an hourly worker in a department store, she wasn't sure about her options. Thanks to the federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law, Rebecca's employer was required to provide time and a place, other than a bathroom, for her to pump. Read our interview with Rebecca to learn how her employer met her needs, enabling Rebecca to continue breastfeeding her child after going back to work.
Why is health insurance important? It protects you from paying a lot if you get sick or hurt. Plus, most private plans cover preventive services that help you stay healthy in the long run, like annual checkups and blood pressure screenings — all at no extra cost to you. Stefania Fochi wanted insurance for her peace of mind. She lived without insurance for four years and was nervous every day that she worked with heavy machinery in her family's business. What if something happened? Would getting sick or injured bankrupt her or her family? That's why she signed up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Read our interview with Stefania to learn how the Marketplace not only helped her find coverage that fits her needs and budget, but allowed her to follow her dreams.
Studies have found that depression is more common in women than men. But we don’t know whether depression is really less common in men. It may be that men experience depression differently than women and are less likely to recognize and seek help for depression. Men are more likely to feel empty, physically tired, and uninterested in things they used to enjoy. They also may become frustrated, irritable, discouraged, and angry. Because these symptoms are not what we commonly think of as “depression,” men may not always get help when they need it.
For three years, Anne Wheaton watched her husband, Wil Wheaton, struggle with anger, self-doubt, sadness, and hopelessness. He didn’t know why he was experiencing these feelings — feelings that affected not only his life, but Anne’s, too. For Men’s Health Month, read on to learn how Anne’s husband’s depression affected their relationship and why he decided to get help.
With so many competing priorities, it’s easy for women to put their health on the back burner. They may not have time to get to the gym, or they may worry about the cost of health care. That’s why during National Women’s Health Week, the Office on Women’s Health wants women to know that even simple steps can make a huge difference. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, health care is more accessible and affordable than ever before. Joining us this year as National Women’s Health Week ambassadors are Annie, Stephanie, and Windsor. Together, they founded Her Campus, an online community for college women, with information on love, life, careers, and — of course — health. Read their interview to learn why they feel it’s important to speak up about women’s health. Plus, get their tips for leading healthy lives.
Parents will likely agree it’s not easy to talk with their teens about sex. But, parents can be an important source for reliable and trustworthy information, especially on topics such as sex and how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs, also sometimes called STDs). Each year, young people 15 to 24 make up nearly half of the 20 million new cases of STIs in the United States. That’s why Karen Murphy has made it a priority to talk with her teens about sex and STIs. It’s her goal to maintain an ongoing dialogue with her kids, one where they feel comfortable asking questions. In honor of STI Awareness Month, read Karen’s interview for tips on how to get the conversation started with your kids.
About 27,000 women and girls in the U.S. are HIV-positive and don't know they have the disease. The Office on Women's Health coordinates National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) to raise awareness about how HIV/AIDS impacts women and girls. It takes place each year on March 10 and empowers people to share knowledge and take action. Joining us this year is NWGHAAD Ambassador Tamika Williams. Tamika is a former professional basketball player who is passionate about educating women and girls about HIV/AIDS. Read her interview to learn why she became an HIV/AIDS advocate and what steps you can take to protect yourself and others.
Heart disease is a serious health problem among women, yet many do not understand the signs and dangers of the disease. Here to tell us that identifying the symptoms of heart disease can save lives is Mary Eriksmoen. For three months, Mary experienced chest pain that radiated into her jaw without realizing it was a symptom of heart disease. In honor of American Heart Month, read Mary’s story to learn why she finally decided to get medical attention.
Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), is a complex chronic condition that causes a range of symptoms that vary from person to person. Some people may experience symptoms that make it hard to do the daily tasks that most of us do without thinking, like dressing, bathing, or eating. Here to tell us about her experience living with ME/CFS is Lindsey McGrath. While the name of this disorder — chronic fatigue syndrome — focuses on tiredness, you’ll learn there are many other symptoms affecting Lindsey’s daily life.
As many as one in five American women are living with a disability. Disabilities may present challenges, but many people can — and do — enjoy full, productive lives. Here to tell us about her experience living with spina bifida myelomeningocele is Nicole Small. At the age of 24, Nicole is committed to educating others about spina bifida. In honor of International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, 2013, read Nicole’s story about overcoming the hardships and struggles spina bifida presents.
There’s no doubt about it — quitting smoking is tough. But you can do it. Here to tell us how she successfully quit is Pamela Worth. With the Great American Smokeout just around the corner, read on for Pamela’s tips and suggestions for quitting. Learn how her decision to quit is helping her lead a healthier life.
The Affordable Care Act is giving women and their families more control over their health care. Here to tell us how she and her family are benefiting from the health care law is Ellen. In celebration of the launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace, an important part of the health care law that is making it easier than ever for people to access coverage, learn how the Affordable Care Act is helping one family stay healthy and get coverage.
Mental illness can interfere with daily life. Although often neglected by women, mental health is just as important as physical health. Here to tell us about her experiences facing anxiety and depression is Karen Lange. She understands that good mental health is important to her overall well-being. In honor of National Recovery Month, learn why Karen made the decision to take control of her mental health and find support.
Breastfeeding is beneficial for moms and babies, but it’s also a big commitment. Here to tell us about the joys and challenges of breastfeeding is nursing mom Whitney Ward. In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, learn why she made the decision to breastfeed and what her tips for success are.
Dawn Averitt had very large swollen lymph nodes in her neck, and the doctors were testing her for everything trying to figure out what was causing them. They never suggested an HIV test (it was 1988), but she thought she might as well get her "HIV-negative card" while they were taking all of this blood from her anyway. Her medical team resisted testing her, but the more they resisted, the more she pushed. She really didn't believe she would be HIV-positive. She thought she was being cutting-edge, which appealed to her at age 19.
In May, the Office on Women’s Health celebrates National Women’s Health Week. This important week reminds women to make their health a top priority. Many women find it hard to take care of themselves because they are busy working and taking care of others. Jane Sutton, a successful professional, wife, and mother, learned early on that healthy eating and exercise would help her achieve all of the things she set her mind to. Read on for tips and suggestions to help you make the most of all the years ahead of you. Learn more about balancing your career and your health in this interview.
Krista Barlow struggled with anorexia and bulimia through high school and college. Understanding more about the diseases helped her to overcome them. She hopes to help others by sharing her story. Learn more about these conditions in this candid and personal interview.
Endometriosis is a common health problem in women. It occurs when endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus on other organs or structures in the body. Heather Roppolo-Guidone had a serious case of endometriosis: Stage 4. But this didn't stop her from having her "miracle baby" and getting well. Heather is dedicated to improving the lives and health of other women and girls with endometriosis. Learn more about the disease in this candid and personal interview.
Carolyn Thomas had a heart attack shortly after she turned 58 years old. Through this experience, Carolyn is implementing simple lifestyle changes to keep her heart healthy. Read more about Carolyn's story and how to improve your own heart's health.
Chances are, you don’t give too much thought to your thyroid on a daily basis. Joan Shey didn’t, either, until she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She survived the cancer, and then started the Light of Life Foundation to educate people about thyroid cancer. Learn more about your thyroid and how it affects your health.
Have you ever made a resolution to exercise and then found that you couldn’t stick with your exercise plan? Dr. Michelle Segar is an expert in behavior and exercise. She studies the reasons why women between the ages of 40 and 60 exercise. She developed her SMART method to help women find the right reasons to exercise. Learn more about which reasons help an exercise program stick for women.
Did you know that today 1,400 babies will be born too early? What causes babies to be born early? How does prematurity affect babies and their families? Join us in observing Prematurity Awareness month as we discuss common question about prematurity with Beverly Robertson from the March of Dimes.
Many women experience loss of bladder control when they sneeze or jump. But for Shawna Wagner, bladder control problems had seriously affected her quality of life. An avid runner and hiker, she had to alter her workouts after the birth of her daughters because she had bladder leaks while participating in high impact sports. After years of living with urinary incontinence, Shawna chose to have surgery for her condition. Read on to find out more about how bladder control problems affect women, and the treatment options that are available.
Just weeks before her final semester at Virginia Tech, Wendy Williamson was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a serious medical illness that causes shifts in a person's mood and energy. The person may feel very happy and "up," which is called mania, and then feel very depressed. During her 20s, Wendy ignored her illness and turned to alcohol and other destructive behaviors to try to feel better. But they didn't help. Rather, they led to more times of mania and of depression. Eventually, Wendy accepted her illness and got treatment. Learn how she takes care of herself today and her hope for the future.
Lupus can be a devastating disease — just ask Minerva Figueroa. Before she was diagnosed, she battled extreme fatigue, trouble walking, painful joints, hair loss, and more. Read our interview with Minerva to see how having lupus might change the way she lives, but it will never define her.
By the time she was 31 years old, Christine Eads faced two blows to her reproductive and mental health. First, in her early 20s, she was violently sexually assaulted. Her attacker was never found. Then, a few years later, she was told she would never be able to have children due to primary ovarian insufficiency (POI). Despite this devastation, Christine uses her inner strength and past experiences to help others. Read her triumphant story and how she believes in family support and being a patient advocate.
Like many recent college graduates, Tamika Felder focused on her career and having fun. She skipped regular visits to her doctor for a few years because she didn't have health insurance. When she went for a Pap test, she was devastated by the doctor's diagnosis: Tamika had cervical cancer. Read this powerful interview to see the lessons she hopes all women will learn from her story.