Fourth Most Common Cancer
Eating more plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, nuts and legumes may protect women against lower stomach cancers. A European study conducted at the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Spain and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women with the highest intake of flavonoids, plant nutrients that have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, were at least half as likely to develop stomach cancer as those women who had the smallest intake. Stomach cancer is the fourth most common cancer, but the second most deadly. Overall, a diet rich in plant foods and low in red and processed meat has been found to be the best for lowering the risk of many types of cancer, including stomach cancer.
Complication Rates Similar
A retrospective study of five studies conducted in Asia, Africa and the United States found that women who had first trimester abortions performed by midwives, nurse practitioners and physician assistants had no more complications than those done by doctors. They showed that complications such as incomplete abortion, incorrectly determining fetal age, damage to the uterus and bleeding were similar between all providers. These results are extremely important in areas of the world where access to a doctors and the procedure is restricted, physicians are outnumbered by other providers and unsafe abortion is a top reason for maternal death. Allowing non-physicians to perform abortions increases access and allows them to be done earlier which reduces the risk of complications.
Floss and Brush
Gum disease may worsen women’s health issues including bone loss and pre-term births, finds Charlene Krejci, Case Western Reserve U School of Dental Medicine. Krejci found that hormonal changes in the various stages of women’s lives - puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause - allow bacteria in the mouth to grow and enter the bloodstream, exacerbating certain health issues. "Although women tend to take better care of their oral health than men, the main message is women need to be even more vigilant about maintaining healthy teeth and gums to prevent or lessen the severity of some women-specific health issues.” Krejci recommends that women have bi-annual dental exams and visit their dentist more often during pregnancy or if gum disease or bone loss is found.
Just Don't Go Overboard
Researchers at Boston University Medical Center have found that light to moderate drinking is associated with a lower risk of stroke in women. The findings are based on results from the Nurses’ Health Study which included over 83,000 women and found that, in comparison to non-drinkers, those consuming one drink per day (15 grams of alcohol) had an estimated 17-21 percent lower risk of having a stroke, based on criteria from the National Survey of Stroke. However, drinking too much – over 38 grams per day – was linked to an increased risk. Red wine, in particular, has been studied for its positive effect on cardiovascular health. The antioxidant content may reduce inflammation that contributes to factors that lead to stroke.
No Fewer Hot Flashes
Pomegranate Seed Oil is marketed as an alternative remedy for menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, but a study appearing in the journal Menopause finds that the supplement has no more benefit than a placebo filled with sunflower oil. The study, conducted at the Medical University of Vienna, followed 81 postmenopausal women, all of which who were experiencing a minimum of 5 hot flashes a day. In addition to keeping a journal, the women had their hormone levels tested. The researchers found no difference in the participants’ hormone levels before and after the 12-week treatment. While the women did not benefit from fewer hot flashes, they did report better sleep quality while on pomegranate seed oil versus the placebo.
Give Your Feet a Break
Adult-acquired flat feet is a painful condition that is common to women over the age of 40. It is caused by the gradual stretching-out of the tibialis posterior tendon, the main stabilizer of the foot arch. Researchers believe that wearing high heels and standing or walking could play a role in this process. The theory is that increased activity of this tendon from these conditions increase the activity of some enzymes which break down and weaken the tendon, causing the arch to fall. Flat feet, also known as pes planus, rarely cause complications aside from pain, but if needed, special shoes (orthotics) or surgery are currently the only treatments. However, this new finding could potentially lead to the development of a new drug therapy.
More Risks for Mom and Child
Women who consume trans fat during pregnancy have been shown to give birth to bigger babies, according to recent research conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health. And bigger babies can lead to a greater risk of complications for both mother and baby, including delivery by Ceasarean-section and an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease later in life. The study, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, followed almost 1,400 pregnant women and found that for every 1 percent increase of the artificial fats made from partially hydrogenated oils, there was an associated increase in the baby’s fetal growth “Z-scores.” Trans fats are found mostly in processed and fast foods, such as baked goods, chips, crackers and French fries.
After Less Severe Skin Cancer
A new study involving 36,000 women aged 50 to 79 suggests that vitamin D may reduce the odds of developing melanoma after having a less serious skin cancer. Half took 1,000 mg of calcium with 400 international units of vitamin D3 while the other half took an inactive form daily. Data was collected from questionnaires and doctor’s reports for seven years. Of the approximately 1,700 women in both groups who developed non-melanoma skin cancers, 10 out of 1,100 women in the vitamin D3 group developed melanoma compared to 24 out of 1,100 in the placebo group. Vitamin D has been shown to lower the risks of some cancers and other diseases but many feel the numbers in this study are too small to make any conclusions but more studies investigating this link will be conducted.
Women's Heart Health Month
Cardiovascular disease kills nearly twice as many women in the United States than all types of cancer, according to the American Heart Association, but simply being a woman does not increase the risk of dying from a heart attack. A study from the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center found that although overall women had higher in-hospital heart attack deaths, the difference was related to age and additional health problems, not gender. Women account for about one-third of patients who undergo cardiac procedures such as angioplasty, but they tend to be older and have more co-morbidities in addition to primary disease. Women are also more likely to have vascular complications or a bleeding episode in the hospital that requires a transfusion.
Disorders Not Confined to Race
A prevailing myth is that eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are problems that only affect white girls and women. However, a new study published in a recent issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders finds that more Native Americans are being diagnosed, particularly with binge eating and purging, but that women are still more likely than men to be affected. The researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and say their findings further proves that eating disorders are not restricted to a certain race. Lead study author Ruth Striegel-Moore says that more research is needed to identify psychological factors in Native American populations that may lead to the development of eating disorders.
Processed Meat Too
In a new study of more than 30,000 Swedish women, a team of researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm finds that women who eat a lot of red meat may be putting themselves at increased risk of stroke. Women who ate at least 102 grams daily – or about 3.6 ounces – were 42 percent more likely to suffer a cerebral infarction (where blood flow to the brain is blocked) compared to women who ate less than 25 grams or just under one ounce. Women who ate more processed meat were also at increased risk. Several mechanisms could explain the association, per lead author Dr. Susanna Larsson. Both types of meat are linked to high blood pressure, the main cause of stroke. Also, the iron contained in red meat may also accelerate production of tissue-damaging free radicals.
Talk with Your Doctor First
Researchers from the University of Dundee have presented findings from a study at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium suggesting that a daily aspirin may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. The Scottish study included 116,181 women between the ages of 51 and 70. Those who took aspirin for three to five years were 30 percent less likely to develop cancer. Those who took the painkiller for more than five years were 40 percent less likely. They did not look at what dosages work best, but the aspirin had to be taken at least twice a week for benefits. Long-term aspirin use does carry the risk of serious side effects, warns specialist Steven Isakoff MD PhD. These include stomach bleeding and ulcers. But as a public health measure, he notes, “aspirin is cheap and easy.”
Ian Shapira of the Washington Post tells the story of Shana Greatman Swears through a series of her Facebook page postings. In March, Shana and her husband were thrilled to learn that they were pregnant with their first child, who was born September 22 without any complications. But Shana went on to develop a rare condition called peripartum cardiomyopathy which weakens the heart, and she ultimately died on October 31. In the United States, peripartum cardiomyopathy complicates one in every 1,300 to 4,000 deliveries. It may occur in a woman of any age, but is most common in after age 30. Risk factors include obesity, having a personal cardiac disorder history, the use of certain medications, smoking, alcoholism, multiple pregnancies, being African American and being malnourished.
Risk of Frailty Increases
While low vitamin D levels are associated with a variety of health conditions, having levels that are high do not appear to reduce risk, particularly for older women. Researchers recently found that in women 69 and older, vitamin D levels less than 20 ng/ml and greater than 30 mg/ml were both associated with an increased likelihood of frailty. Women are considered to be frail if they have symptoms such as a slower walking speed or weak hand grip. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to weakness and slowness, but women with higher levels did not appear to be more protected. The study researchers say that the findings underscore the need for more well-designed studies about vitamin D supplements and that the current recommendations for the vitamin are easily achievable by food and sunlight.
Need a Little Help from Friends
When you are with friends who make healthy choices, such as eating right and exercising, do you feel compelled to follow along? A new study from Deakin University thinks you do. After following over 3,600 women, researchers found that they were most likely to follow the eating and physical activity behaviors of those around them, especially when it comes to fast food eating, soft drink consumption, and intake of fruits and vegetables. Dr. Kylie Ball, senior research fellow, says women who see others engaging in healthful behaviors may adopt these either due to a shared belief in the value of such activities or just as a desire to “fit in.” Nevertheless, either being a healthy role model or following one is an opportunity to spread the word about eating right and exercising more.
Even Small Amount Helps
Overweight and obese women who lose a modest amount of weight can significantly reduce episodes of urinary incontinence, according to a new study published in the August issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Women who followed an intensive six month behavioral weight loss program followed immediately by a 12-month maintenance program and lost between 5 and 10 percent of their body weight had experienced a 70 percent or more reduction in frequency of urinary incontinence episodes. In addition, 75 percent of women expressed satisfaction with urine leakage changes and urge frequency. “The broad range of health benefits achieved with weight reduction strongly supports consideration of this approach,” writes Rena R. Wing PhD of Miriam Hospital in Rhode Island who conducted the study.
Reduced Risk of Heart Failure
Women who ate an average of one to two servings of high-quality chocolate per week had a 32 percent lower risk of developing heart failure. Researchers from Boston, who followed over 31,000 women in Sweden over a nine-year period also found that those who had smaller quantities, one to three servings per month, still had a 26 percent reduced risk. But more isn’t always better – those who ate chocolate daily did not appear to benefit. Dark chocolate that has high concentrations of flavonoids in chocolate may lower blood pressure, reducing the risk for heart diseases. Study leader Murray Mittleman MD DrPH recommends looking for chocolate with a high cocoa quantity. The majority of the chocolate consumed in the study contained at least 30% cocoa solids.
Drink Milk Instead
A study published online in the British Medical Journal has found that calcium supplements are associated with an increased risk of heart attack and cardiovascular events in healthy older women. An international team of researchers analyzed the results of 11 randomized controlled trials of calcium supplements involving 12,000 patients. They found that calcium supplements were associated with about a 30 percent increased risk of heart attack, and smaller increases in the risk of stroke and mortality. Previous studies have found no increased cardiovascular risk with increased dietary calcium intake, such as drinking milk, suggesting the risks are restricted to supplements. The authors suggest a reassessment in the role of calcium supplements in osteoporosis management.