Healthy Lesbian Hearts and Lungs?

September 14, 2015 in General

I usually eagerly devour any new article by my favourite lesbian investigative journalist, Victoria Brownworth. In her latest Curve article, I was startled to discover that she had developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a heart condition, due to cohabitation with smoking parents. Brownworth explains that there are between 600,000-1,000,000 pulmonary embolisms each year in the United States. More than 100,000 die from pulmonary embolism each year and most of them are women. Particularly, note that deep vein thrombosis is not only the product of sedentary seating on aircraft, but can be triggered by activities as simple as sitting cross-legged.  As it is, even though Brownworth went to the doctor in time, she has to have blood thinner injections in her stomach and have an oxygen canister readily accessible.

Women develop deep vein thrombosis for numerous reasons- using birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, muscle damage (from sports), obesity and smoking, as well as excessively sedentary life or work habits. In the United States, a third of those who suffer one pulmonary embolism go on to experience others; there is also the matter of venal damage caused by post-thrombotic syndrome after the initial embolism incident, as well as atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm. Lung cancer is the leading cause of women’s cancer deaths in the United States (and New Zealand). The American Lung Association notes that women are thirty-seven percent more likely to have COPD than men and now account for half of US COPD deaths. COPD is the third-leading overall cause of death for both women and men in the United States.  In an accompanying report, Taking Her Breath Away, the ALA notes that more women now die from COPD than men and have done so since 2000 within the United States. Seven million US women now have COPD. This means that they are in chronic poor health, attendant expenses, experience more emergency room hospitalisation and other complications. As their respiratory systems are smaller than those of men, women are likelier to concentrate damage from direct smoking, passive smoking, workplace pollutants and other lung irritants. ALA suggests that given this, more money and research should focus on women’s respiratory health.

Brownworth does mention other significant killers. High blood pressure and kidney disease can be killers for African-American women, native American women and Latinas. Women are also twice as likely as men to develop diabetes and get it earlier- in their teens and twenties. They are also more likely to experience complications like stroke, amputation or blindness. One in ten Americans have diabetes, but a quarter of them  don’t know they have it.

While there has rightly been much time invested in women’s cancer prevention, more women die from heart disease than cancer in the United States (and New Zealand), as women’s cancers come second after that, pulmonary obstructive coronary disease third, followed by stroke, Alzheimers and diabetes.  If you feel pain in your leg, don’t ignore it- it may be early deep vein thrombosis.  Please- if women in your family have had a history of cardiovascular disease such as those above, visit a doctor or local womens health collective and make sure you get a cardio check.  It’s horrifying to think we almost lost a journalist of the calibre of Victoria Brownworth.

Sources: Victoria Brownworth: “Our Bodies, Our Lives” Curve 15:5: September/October 2015: 16-17.

Taking Her Breath Away: The Rise of COPD in Women (2014):


Comments are closed.