Two women walking up stairs smiling at each other

The Society for Women's Health Research found that women make most of the health care decisions for their families. But when it's their turn to go to the doctor, many don't. Why?

They experience some conditions differently

A woman can experience different symptoms related to a health issue than a man. For example, women's heart attack symptoms often include sweating, nausea and back pain instead of chest or arm pain. Since women often feel these symptoms for other reasons, like PMS or menopause, it's easy to dismiss them.

They often carry a heavier load at home

The Pew Research Center recently found that both parents work full-time outside the home in nearly half of two-parent households. But many moms—about half—find themselves taking on more parenting duties, including caring for sick kids. Mothers also do more chores. And more working moms than dads say it's difficult to strike a work–life balance.

This data suggests women simply have less time to put themselves first, even if they wanted to.

They are more likely to lose their coverage

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, women are more likely to be insured through their spouse's employer than their own. This makes them more likely to lose their coverage if they're divorced or widowed. Without insurance, getting the care they need can be too expensive.

Take charge of your health

These tips can help women put their health first:

  • Schedule a checkup. An annual checkup is covered as part of your preventive care benefit through your health insurance plan. Schedule one today. Talk to your doctor about conditions women and men experience differently, like a heart attack, so you can know what to watch for.
  • Take small steps for your health. Replace some TV time with light exercise, like a 20-minute walk. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting. Buy more fresh or frozen fruits and veggies so they're handy when you're hungry.
  • Make health a family objective. Tired of pizza and a movie night? What about salads and an after dinner stroll night? Or family bike ride Saturday? Working toward goals together can help everyone succeed.
  • Opt in for insurance at work. If your employer offers affordable health coverage, explore your options and sign up.

Published on May 20, 2016.