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Social media is changing the way women use online health information

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Updated: 11/15/2012 11:21 am
(BPT) - - Social media continues to shape our everyday lives, so it's no surprise that the rise of social media is also transforming how we use the Internet to enhance our health. For example, 61 percent of Americans go online for health information, according to the Pew Research Center. Of that percentage, women in particular, find health information gained through online resources like social media to be especially useful. With busy, demanding lives, a trip to the doctor's office or a phone call to a nurse's hotline is not always possible, let alone convenient - particularly if the issue is more of an annoyance than threat. Plus, women tend to gravitate toward communities where they can talk among "friends" before bothering their doctor about their symptoms. And, in situations where women avoid dealing with health issues - like heavy periods or bladder leakage - they tend to internalize them because they're embarrassed. Talking about these issues online can be easier, without the awkwardness many might feel in face-to-face discussions about such personal health issues. While websites like WebMD.com and Mayoclinic.com offer a plethora of information about a variety of minor and major health issues, social media networks help put this information into context, and connect users with others who share their health experiences and concerns. If you are among the 64 percent of women that Pew Research also says turn to online resources for health information, you may be interested to learn how other women are using social media to help them better manage their health. Managing menstrual cycles In a survey by the National Women's Health Resource Center, one in five women (or 10 million Americans) reported enduring heavy cycles, but going years without getting help. They may be embarrassed to initiate the conversation with their doctor, and even hesitant to discuss it with friends and family. Yet the quality-of-life issues associated with heavy periods can be significant. For women wrestling with the awkwardness of discussing this issue, websites like Changethecycle.com offer important information about this surprisingly common health issue, including treatment options like NovaSure, a simple, one-time procedure for ending heavy periods. The site stands out because it also provides access to more than a dozen former NovaSure patients who are willing to openly share their stories about their experiences with the condition, the procedure, and life after heavy periods. Digestive health Millions of American women occasionally experience heartburn, constipation and diarrhea. For others, more serious issues like irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn's disease can greatly impact their quality of life. A number of bloggers deal with digestive health issues of particular concern to women, offering useful information, reporting on new developments and treatment options. Sites like everydayhealth.com's "Better Digestion Blog" also provide women with a forum to share their experiences, and find support and advice from others facing similar health concerns. Nutrition, diet and weight control From Facebook pages to diet-related blogs, recipe-sharing sites and exercise tips forums, it's easy to find online resources to help you manage your nutrition, diet and weight. Many of the famous diet programs offer Facebook pages and are active on Twitter. You can also find blogs by registered dieticians, nurses, doctors, surgeons and others in the medical field, as well as first-person accounts from people who have either successfully lost weight or successfully manage their weight on a daily basis. Virtually every fitness trend is tracked in the blogosphere, and you may even find your own gym has a blog, Facebook page or forum on its website. Whether it's for a serious condition or one that affects quality of life without risking life, social media is allowing more people than ever to gather health information and engage in open, comfortable discussions of medical issues that concern them.
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