In today’s technology-driven society, a virtually endless amount of medical information is constantly at our fingertips. And yet, many women lack knowledge about their everyday and long-term health needs, explains Dr. Amy Loden, an internal medicine physician with Washington University Physicians. “For example, women have a higher risk of dying from heart disease than any other female cancers combined.”
While treating patients at her practice at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital and working with fellow physicians at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Loden focuses on the care of the whole woman. “Every woman is usually underserved by lack of knowledge—that can best be cared for by having a primary care physician,” she notes. And the type of primary care physician that patients choose is just as important, Loden adds. While family care physicians and internal medicine physicians both are considered primary care physicians, there are differences. A family medicine physician is a general practitioner trained in a broad scope of health needs, treating patients from ‘the cradle to the grave,’ she explains, while an internal medicine physician is an adult medicine specialist, just like a pediatrician is a child medicine specialist. Further, an OB/GYN cares for women’s health and surgical needs, but may not be trained in chronic disease management like internal medicine physicians.
Loden treats men and women, ranging from late adolescents and adults through geriatrics, with a focus on women’s health. At her practice, she guides patients in disease prevention, from a measure as simple as a flu vaccine, to chronic disease management, such as caring for diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. And she refers those with further needs to subspecialists. St. Louis’ high rate of obesity is particularly of concern, Loden says, as it increases the risk of heart disease and other medical problems, such as cancers. “The need to care for the whole woman is essential,” she says.
Loden also emphasizes the importance of having a ‘medical home,’ as many patients without a primary care physician go to the emergency room. She cites a 2010 study of Medicare patients appearing in The American Journal of Managed Care that showed when patients have a relationship with a primary care physician, hospital admissions and re-admissions are reduced.
Proactive health care is the key, especially for women, who commonly put their own needs last, Loden says. “Women so often are the caretakers for everyone else. They should take care of themselves.” She recommends an annual appointment with a provider who specializes in women’s health. And don’t forget a flu vaccine every flu season, she adds.
ON THE COVER: Dr. Amy Loden recently joined Washington University Physicians, with an internal medicine practice at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, 1020 N. Mason Road at Olive Boulevard in Creve Coeur. For more information, call 996-8103 or visit barnesjewishwestcounty.org.