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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Magee Expo Spotlights Women's Health

Olga Guzmina didn't look very worried. She had just been told by the doctor that she had medium-high blood pressure.

The polyclinic doctor told Olga to cut out salt, watch her diet and exercise regularly. Olga smiled and shrugged her shoulders. "I don't have time to exercise," she said. "I work and I have a child to look after."

Like many Russian women, Olga neglects her health. It was to highlight this problem that Russia's branch of Pittsburgh-based Magee Womancare International organized the Womancare Wellness Festival over the weekend.

"We want to bring better awareness to the women of Russia about the health problems facing them and their children today," said Pamela Janus, director of Moscow's Magee Women's Hospital. "It is important to look at each stage of a woman's life, from puberty through her reproductive years to menopause."

The festival took place against a background of increasing health problems facing Russian women.

Polyclinic doctor Tatiana Mishkalina said she was concerned that many Russian women do not have regular medical checkups. "Their health is deteriorating," she said. "It is a number of things. Many families are on low incomes, and a good diet is expensive. Women are under strain. They worry about their children."

One of the most popular seminars at the festival was on menopause and osteoporosis. Ira, who is in her early 40s, was worried that her menopause had started and asked the health care workers about treatment for hot flashes and mood changes. "No, it is too expensive," she said, turning away. "I'll just have to put up with it."

In later life, Russian women will suffer the consequences of poor diet, lack of exercise and stress with premature aging, osteoporosis and high blood pressure, festival health experts said, citing statistics showing that the average life expectancy for Russian women is 71.2 years, dramatically less than American women's 79 years.

Russia's economic woes have taken their toll on women, health workers said, adding that many women cannot afford regular care. Although health care has not been privatized, many said patients have to pay to be seen by a clinic's doctor, while payment is usually mandatory to undergo tests or receive care from a specialist.

The festival attracted 25 sponsors, who offered everything from formula baby milk and hormone replacement treatment to cosmetics, vitamin supplements and pregnancy testing kits. Workshops ran for two days, offering information on skin and hair care, nutrition, care for a new baby and family planning. Instructors also demonstrated aerobics and self-defense techniques.

At the self-defense demonstration, the slight Larissa felled three muscular men standing next to her with several deft moves, to enthusiastic applause.

Watching the exhibition, bystander Elena Navrilovna said she wanted to learn self-defense since she often uses the metro or takes cabs alone late at night.

"I would love to be able to throw a man on his back like that next time one laid a finger on me," she said.