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50 health secrets every woman over 50 should know

Learn what you need more of and what to cut out when you hit this important milestone.

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50 health secrets every woman over 50 should know
50 health secrets every woman over 50 should know
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Learn what you need more of and what to cut out when you hit this important milestone.

1. It’s heart disease that women need to worry about
1. It’s heart disease that women need to worry about
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Most women fear breast cancer, but heart disease is actually the No.1 killer for women, causing one in three deaths each year. Women’s heart health risks increase after menopause, yet just one in five women believe that heart disease is the greatest threat to health.

Red wine may protect you from heart disease, but some people shouldn't drink it at all. Scientists believe the polyphenols found in red grapes' skin are cardioprotective.

2. Heart attacks look a whole lot different on TV
2. Heart attacks look a whole lot different on TV
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A man grabs his chest and falls to the floor – everyone has seen this type of heart attack on TV and in the movies, but that’s not always what it looks or feels like in women.

For women, the most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort, but they are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain.

Like rain freezing into hail or snow, cholesterol can solidify – except that it can do it at 37 degrees in your arteries. A new study reveals that liquid cholesterol can be lethal when it hardens to form sharp crystals.

3. Exercising now will slash your risk of dementia
3. Exercising now will slash your risk of dementia
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Move it or lose it, literally.

This is the main message of a study in Neurology that found women who are physically fit at middle age are nearly 90 percent less likely to develop dementia decades later, compared to women who are moderately fit.

“These findings are exciting because it’s possible that improving people’s cardiovascular fitness in middle age could delay or even prevent them from developing dementia,” says study author Helena Hörder, PhD, of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

But, she cautions, “this study does not show cause and effect between cardiovascular fitness and dementia, it only shows an association."

"More research is needed to see if improved fitness could have a positive effect on the risk of dementia and also to look at when during a lifetime a high fitness level is most important.”

Take a look at the 51 everyday habits that reduce your risk of dementia.

4. Morning people may be less likely to get breast cancer
4. Morning people may be less likely to get breast cancer
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Are you an early riser? If so, you may be less likely to develop breast cancer.

Women who are “morning people” have a lower for risk breast cancer, according to research presented at the US-based 2018 National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference.

The study also found that women who sleep more may have higher chances of developing breast cancer. While more research is needed to confirm these results, the findings “are consistent with previous research…[on] exposure to ‘light-at-night’ as risk factors for breast cancer,” says Rebecca Richmond, PhD, a research fellow in the Cancer Research UK Integrative Cancer Epidemiology Programme and the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom, in a news release

Researchers from the UK recently discovered that a novel combination of two existing cancer-treating drugs – Herceptin (generic name: trastuzumab) and Tyverb (generic name: lapatinib) – dramatically reduce the size of tumors caused by a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer.

5. You’re not off the hook for mammograms after age 75
5. You’re not off the hook for mammograms after age 75
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If you’re still in good health, you should probably still get screened, according to the Harvard Health Letter.

Although there has been some back and forth on this issue.

The American Cancer Society says: “Women should continue screening mammography as long as their overall health is good and they have a life expectancy of 10 years or longer.”

One reason to continue is the comparatively high incidence of breast cancer found in this age group, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). 

If you wake in the night seeing falling playing cards or a woman floating in mid-air, you might just be having a nightmare – or it could be a sign of something a doctor should check out.

6. Adding soy to your diet can strengthen your bones
6. Adding soy to your diet can strengthen your bones
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It’s not just calcium and vitamin D that can help shore up your skeleton: Soy-based whole foods such as tofu and soy milk may also do the trick, find researchers out of the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Having problems with your bones? Take a look at these 10 tips to stave off osteoporosis.

7. Snoring is hard on your heart
7. Snoring is hard on your heart
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Yes, your husband’s snoring drives you mad, but your own snoring may be bad for your ticker.

Obstructive sleep aponea, which is marked by heavy snoring, gasping and pauses in breathing while asleep, may lead to heart problems in women – and they can turn up earlier than the effects on men’s hearts, according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

The findings also suggest that sleep apnoea may be vastly underdiagnosed among snorers. 

Few things are as coveted as good sleep: studies show that it adds years to your life and, over time, increases happiness as much as winning the lottery.

8. HRT isn’t all bad
8. HRT isn’t all bad
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Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) fell from grace a few years back: Results from the US Women’s Health Initiative study suggested HRT could increase the risk of strokes and breast and ovarian cancer. 

However, if HRT is used in low doses for a short period of time, it can dramatically ease some symptoms of menopause, explains Donnica Moore, MD, a Far Hills, New Jersey-based women’s health expert and host of the podcast In the Ladies’ Room with Dr. Donnica.

“HRT is not one drug. It is a whole category, including pills, patches, creams, gels, inserts and more,” she says.

Her point is that some formulations are may be safer and suitable for easing the complaints of menopause.

“Fully half of all women experience vaginal dryness with menopause and this doesn’t get better and it is treatable.”

For women who experience it naturally (not as the result of surgery or other causes), menopause has three distinct stages: perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause.

9. You may benefit more than most from a low-salt diet
9. You may benefit more than most from a low-salt diet
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Cutting back on sodium may lower blood pressure in women better than it does in men.

Women also might benefit most from drugs that directly block aldosterone, a hormone and blood vessel constrictor that is naturally higher in females and is further elevated by a high-salt diet, according to a report in the journal Hypertension.

For more info on salt and its hidden harms, check out these 35 things food manufacturer's won't tell you.

10. You’re not the only one
10. You’re not the only one
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Millions of women can’t control that “gotta go” feeling (urge incontinence) or leak during exercise or when they sneeze or cough (stress incontinence) and this risk increases after menopause.

“It’s common but not normal, and any leaking of urine should be evaluated and treated,” Dr. Moore says. 

11. Your menopause symptoms could be a relationship issue
11. Your menopause symptoms could be a relationship issue
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Women who are emotionally abused by a spouse or partner may suffer from more menopausal symptoms than their counterparts in healthier relationships.

Specifically, one in five women in the study of more than 2,000 women at mid-life and older had suffered emotional abuse by a current or former partner; these women had 50 percent higher odds of night sweats and 60 percent higher odds of painful sex.

“The data shows that experience of domestic violence and emotional abuse, sexual assault and clinically significant PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms are common, and may affect women’s health across the lifespan,” says author Carolyn Gibson, PhD, a clinical research psychologist affiliated with the University of California at San Francisco’s Department of Psychiatry..

12. The triple threat is real
12. The triple threat is real
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Smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure are all bad for the heart, but they may be even worse for women’s hearts, new research shows.

Of 472,000 Britons aged 40 to 69, women experienced the highest increase in heart attack risk – though both sexes suffered.

Specifically, male smokers had more than twice the risk of heart attack than men who had never smoked, and women smokers had more than three times the risk of heart attack compared to never-smokers.

This same trend was seen with high blood pressure and diabetes. Good news though; here's what happens to your body as soon as you quit smoking.

13. Your sleeping position matters
13. Your sleeping position matters
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Stomach and side sleeping positions can cause wrinkles over time, and this effect gets worse as you age thanks to the natural thinning of your skin, according to a study in Aesthetic Surgery Journal. 

Most sleep wrinkles can be seen on the forehead, lips, and cheeks.

If you can tolerate it, sleeping on your back can help slow the wrinkles. 

14. Dementia is not a given
14. Dementia is not a given
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More than one-third of dementia cases could be prevented or significantly delayed by addressing lifestyle-based risk factors such as learning to eat right and engaging in regular exercise, according to the US-based health initiative Be Brain Powerful: A Campaign for Women’s Brain Health.

15. Alzheimer’s is a woman’s issue
15. Alzheimer’s is a woman’s issue
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Almost two-thirds of people with Alzheimer’s are women, and more than 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers are women, according to Jill Lesser, the president of Women Against Alzheimer’s.

“Women are very interested in brain health and very aware of brain health and the issues surrounding cognitive decline, but are very confused about what to do about it and still very scared,” she says.

16. Keep up with the girls nights
16. Keep up with the girls nights
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Staying engaged with friends and connected to a community can help prevent cognitive decline, Lesser says.

“There is an increasing amount of evidence that community engagement can protect the brain so try to do activities – such as eating and exercising – with others."

17. You really are what you eat
17. You really are what you eat
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Planning a healthy diet that’s rich in good fats, dark leafy greens, berries and fish may help protect your noggin, Lesser says. Diets that limit carbs can also boost brain health. “Your brain needs healthy fats, and fewer sugars and carbs.” Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about what style of eating is best for you.

Surprisingly, it also turns out that WHEN you eat is just as important.

18. Stick to a bedtime
18. Stick to a bedtime
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Most of us haven’t had a real bedtime since childhood, but Dr. Moore says it’s time to re-institute one.

“Getting adequate sleep is highly underappreciated as a health issue in women after 50, and setting and sticking to a regular bedtime can help make sure you are getting enough – just like it did when you were a kid.”

The Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that women aged 50 and older get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

19. Vaccinations aren’t just for kids
19. Vaccinations aren’t just for kids
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Women over 50 should get a flu shot yearly and talk to their doctor about other vaccines, such as those for pneumonia and herpes-zoster (shingles).

“Your doctor can tell you which vaccines you need after 50,” Dr. Moore says.

20. You can still get pregnant
20. You can still get pregnant
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If you haven’t officially entered menopause, you can still become pregnant, and you may need to use birth control, Dr. Moore says.

Menopause is diagnosed when a woman hasn’t had her period for 12 straight months for no other obvious reasons, and most women enter menopause at age 51.

21. Losing weight is tougher after 50
21. Losing weight is tougher after 50
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It’s time to start watching what you eat a little more closely – and maybe add an exercise day to your week.

As women hit menopause, their metabolism can slow, making it an uphill battle to lose weight.

22. You need protein to boost your muscle strength
22. You need protein to boost your muscle strength
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Another reason your metabolism slows after 50 is that muscle mass declines with age.

Eating an equal amount of protein at all three meals may help boost muscle strength in people older than 67, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

23. Cardio is no longer enough
23. Cardio is no longer enough
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Add some strength training to your workout regimen after 50 to help lose weight, advises Louis J. Aronne, MD, an obesity medicine specialist with The Comprehensive Weight Control Centre at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

Because you’re losing that muscle mass, it’s more difficult to maintain your weight, he explains.

Resistance exercise can help preserve your muscles.

24. Falling is a real risk
24. Falling is a real risk
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It’s not just the elderly who are in danger of falls and fractures: new research finds that falls become more common after the age of 40 – particularly in women.

Falling is more dangerous than you think – it’s one of the leading causes of hospitalisation and mortality in the elderly, according to the US-based CDC

25. You’ll need glasses
25. You’ll need glasses
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Menu print isn’t getting smaller, it’s your vision. Many adults start to have problems seeing clearly at close distances, especially when reading and working on the computer.

The problem can start in your early to mid-40s, and it can get worse with age, according to the American Optometric Association.

26. You may need more vitamin D
26. You may need more vitamin D
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Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because our bodies produce it in response to sunlight.

In recent years, low levels of this key nutrient have been linked to a host of diseases and conditions including metabolic syndrome among postmenopausal women.

In one study, there was a 60 percent rate of metabolic syndrome – a collection of dangerous conditions like high cholesterol and blood pressure – seen among women with vitamin D deficiency. 

27. Eat for your heart and mind
27. Eat for your heart and mind
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If something good for your heart, it’s good for your brain too, says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, the Director of Women’s Cardiovascular Prevention, Health, and Wellness at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

“Heart-healthy foods and habits are also brain healthy.”

28. Your numbers matter
28. Your numbers matter
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Knowing your cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, weight and body-mass index (a combo of your height and weight) are crucial by the time you reach 50, Dr. Steinbaum says.

Making sure that these numbers are in the healthy range will go a long way toward protecting your heart and brain as you age, she says. And once you have all those figures, here's the equation that proves how may calories you should be eating.

29. Your heart is not your mum’s heart
29. Your heart is not your mum’s heart
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Just because your mum had heart disease doesn’t mean you will too. This is why It’s important to know your family health history, Dr. Steinbaum says: “The more you understand about your history, the more you can fight against it,” she says.

“Heart disease is preventable as much as 80 percent of the time, and the sooner we start prevention, the more effective it will be.”

30. Don’t drink like a man
30. Don’t drink like a man
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Even if you can, you shouldn’t – women who go drink-for-drink with their male counterparts are at greater risk of dementia, alcohol-related cancers (like breast) and heart issues, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

The group recommends women stick to one drink per day maximum (men can have two).

31. Your pregnancy history still matters
31. Your pregnancy history still matters
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If you have a history of miscarriages or you developed diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy you may be at an increased risk of heart disease later in life.

“Your cardiac risks are based on your whole life,” Dr. Steinbaum says.

32. You are more prone to anxiety
32. You are more prone to anxiety
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Unfortunately, anxiety and anxiety disorders continue to pester women as they age – they’re among the higher risk groups, according to a study in Brain and Behaviour.

Discuss your feelings with your doctor – and make an appointment with a mental healthcare professional if necessary.

33. 'Well visits' aren’t just for kids
33. 'Well visits' aren’t just for kids
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See your ob/gyn or primary care doctor on a regular basis to make sure your cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and weight are within healthy ranges; also, make sure that you are up to date on all screening tests and shots.

34. Take care of your joints
34. Take care of your joints
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While there may be a genetic component to osteoarthritis, a lifetime of wear and tear on your joints can bring it on or make it worse.

Keeping your weight in the normal range and engage in regular exercise and a stretching program like yoga to keep your joints limber. 

35. Eat these anti-ageing foods
35. Eat these anti-ageing foods
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Some foods will keep you healthy, others will keep you looking good.

The list includes familiar candidates like walnuts (for your brain and heart), carrots (for your eyes and blood pressure), salmon (for your health and your appearance) and more.

36. It’s still worth it to quit smoking
36. It’s still worth it to quit smoking
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It’s true that the younger you are when you quit, the lower your risk of dying from smoking-related diseases.

But you can benefit from kicking the habit at any age. 

37. You really need to schedule that colonoscopy
37. You really need to schedule that colonoscopy
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Many dread the prep for this important screening test and keep putting it off. In fact, nearly 30 percent of people who should be screened don’t make the appointment, reports the health advocacy group Fight Colorectal Cancer.

It is now recommended that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45, not 50. So if you haven’t had one yet, schedule yours today.

38. Give the Mediterranean diet a go
38. Give the Mediterranean diet a go
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Women who stick to a Mediterranean diet have a 25 percent lower risk of heart disease, according to a study in JAMA Network Open.

Mediterranean-style diets are rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein, and the more closely women stick to this style of eating, the greater the heart benefits.

39. Don’t trust these 10 foods
39. Don’t trust these 10 foods
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You know what you should be eating – healthy fats, whole grains, plenty of fruits and veggies – but do you know what to avoid?

There are foods that – if they’re a regular part of your diet – can tack years onto your appearance.

Starting with: candy bars, charred meat, booze, and processed carbohydrates (think white bread and donuts). 

40. Don’t skimp on the sunscreen
40. Don’t skimp on the sunscreen
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Less than 25 percent of the sun’s damage to your skin takes place before you turn 18 years old – protecting your skin is a life-long process, according to a study published by the American Society for Photobiology.

“A better educational approach for reducing skin cancers would be to instruct fair‐skinned individuals to protect themselves throughout their lives from being exposed to too much UV radiation,” the study authors conclude. 

41. Don’t wait to call emergency if you have chest pain
41. Don’t wait to call emergency if you have chest pain
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Women wait approximately 37 minutes longer than men before calling an emergency number for chest pain, according to a study in the European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care

“Women having a heart attack seem to be less likely than men to attribute their symptoms to a condition that requires urgent treatment,” says Matthias Meyer, MD, PhD, a cardiologist at Triemli Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, in a news release.

“Every minute counts when you have a heart attack. Look out for moderate to severe discomfort including pain in the chest, throat, neck, back, stomach or shoulders that lasts for more than 15 minutes. It is often accompanied by nausea, cold sweat, weakness, shortness of breath, or fear.”

42. Your purpose or your life
42. Your purpose or your life
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If you live with passion and purpose, you will live longer and better, according to the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study.

Find whatever it is that gives your life meaning – it could be fostering pets in need, working to save the environment, or volunteering at the library.

Just find something that brings you joy and fulfillment.

43. You may need more B12
43. You may need more B12
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One of the many unfair aspects of ageing is that we don’t glean as many nutrients from our food.

That can lead to nutrient shortages, and missing out on B12 can lead to some serious issues, according to information from the US-based Cleveland Clinic.

Vitamin B12 is crucial for generating DNA and maintaining healthy nerve and blood cells.

44. You may not be getting enough fibre
44. You may not be getting enough fibre
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Women older than 50 should shoot for 21 grams of fibre daily. Not only will this help keep you regular, but it protects your heart, helps maintain weight and lowers cholesterol, according to the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

45. It’s time to double down on your calcium
45. It’s time to double down on your calcium
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Calcium helps keep your bones strong and sturdy. Aim for 1,200 mg of calcium after your 50th birthday.

During menopause, declines in the female sex hormone oestrogen can result in bone loss and leave you vulnerable to the brittle bone disease, osteoporosis.

But calcium and a varied diet that includes dark leafy greens (for vitamin K and potassium, which also help build bones) can offer protection. 

46. Rethink your vitamins
46. Rethink your vitamins
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Your folate and iron needs drop after menopause. If your multivitamin contains mega doses of these nutrients, you may be getting too much.

Check in with your doctor or a dietitian to make sure you are taking the right vitamins for your age.

47. You may need a bone scan
47. You may need a bone scan
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Women over age 50 with fractures should have a bone density test or DEXA scan, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

For individualised guidance, discuss your risk factors for osteoporosis with your doctor at your yearly well visit. 

48. You still need PAP tests
48. You still need PAP tests
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You need a Pap smear every three years after you turn 50 to screen for cervical cancer. If you have both a Pap smear and human papillomavirus (HPV) test, you can wait until once every five years, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

HPV is the virus that causes genital warts and several cancers, including cervical cancer.

49. This is really just the beginning
49. This is really just the beginning
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People are living longer than ever – especially if they take care of themselves, says Dr. Moore.

“Turning 50 is not the beginning of the end, it’s your new starting off point. It’s a great time to put you and your health at top of your to-do list.”

50. Better survival chance if your doc is a woman too
50. Better survival chance if your doc is a woman too
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A study of close to 582,000 heart attacks over 19 years found that women had a significantly higher survival rate when a female doctor treated them in the emergency room.

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“You have highly trained experts with life or death on the line, and yet the gender match between the physician and the patient seems to matter a great deal,” says Seth Carnahan, associate professor of strategy at the Olin Business School of Washington University in St. Louis, in a news release.

Want to dig a little deeper? Check out these 48 secrets surgeons won't tell you.

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Source: RD.com



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