Health Watch -- Women's Health Issues

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The world of medicine is changing as doctors learn more about the differences between men and women.

It wasn't all that long ago that the medical establishment just tested new drugs and treatments on men, then assumed that they would work the same way on women. Now, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say scientists have learned that women may respond in different ways. More research is being done on the effects of things like hormones, fitness, diet and genetics on women's health.

One issue that's been controversial in recent months is the use of hormone-replacement therapy. Dr. Karen Bradshaw, a UT Southwestern gynecologist and expert on preventative health care for women, says that studies have suggested that estrogen may help prevent Alzheimer's disease and heart disease. More studies need to be done to measure the impact of hormone therapy on healthy women, so that better treatments can be developed. There is a major trial being planned that will look at more than 20,000 healthy women to see how estrogen replacement affects their overall health.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women, and their risk rises with age, so doctors say that preventing the disease is a major women's health issue. Doctors are looking at diet, exercise, hormones and medication as ways to help women prevent cardiovascular disease.

Other women's health issues doctors are studying include fertility and premenstrual syndromes.