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Study Highlights Health Risks Specific to Women

This was fascinating to me because most of the research on aging has been done on males. Most medicinal dosages are based on male tests, and males respond differently to medications than females. Here are some results from a study done on only females. From AOL EveryDay Health:

older-women-laughing

For most of medical history, scientific research had largely been conducted on white men, which makes it pretty difficult to know how to treat conditions that affect other populations, particularly women. Take menopause: For years, doctors prescribed long-term use of hormones estrogen and progestin to help women manage symptoms during and after menopause because it helped women feel better. But in 1991, researchers wanted a definitive answer as to whether hormones used to ease menopause’s symptoms were helping women more than they were hurting them. So, the National Institutes of Health launched the largest study ever focused exclusively on women to answer that question. 

Dubbed the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), the research project recruited 68,132 postmenopausal women to participate. They were divided into groups, some taking just estrogen, some taking estrogen and progestin, and some taking placebos. After over a decade of observation, the researchers stopped the trials early, in 2002 and 2004, because it was so clear that hormones posed serious health risks to the women. However, researchers have continued to follow up with these women in the years since, and have also tested other health interventions on the group, including low-fat diets and taking vitamin D and calcium. In 1998, an observational component of the WHI launched, with another 93,676 participants, to study even more aspects of women’s health. Much of the data collected over the years is now accessible to other researchers, too.

This has created a glut of women-specific health information that has paid off in big ways. In fact, the findings from the WHI have prompted a net economic return of $37.1 billion dollars, or $140 for each dollar that was spent on the trial itself, according to a new paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. That’s because the results have led to better treatment and care for millions of women, decreasing healthcare spending and increasing quality of life.

Here are some of the most important WHI findings:

1. You probably shouldn’t take hormones for longer than you have to. Long-term use of estrogen and progestin increases the risk of breast cancer, heart attack, stroke, and blood clots, though it decreased the risk of hip fractures and colon cancer in the main WHI trial. While these results have caused doctors to largely stop prescribing long-term hormone replacement, individuals are encouraged to make a personal decision based on their own risk factors. For example, if a woman has a very low family history of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, but a high risk of colon cancer and osteoporosis, she may choose to take the hormones, which are thought to be safe when prescribed for just a short time around menopause, to manage symptoms. They may also extend the life expectancy for women who have had hysterectomies, the data revealed, so be sure to talk to your doctor about your specific needs.

2. Low-fat diets are good, but not enough to reduce your risk of some cancers or cardiovascular disease. The researchers asked some of the participants to eat a low-fat diet, and then compared how this affected their risk of various diseases. They found that a low-fat diet alone was not enough to significantly impact women’s risk of cardiovascular diseasebreast cancer, orcolorectal cancer, according to the results published in JAMA. The researchers concluded that more dramatic lifestyle changes, including increased exercise, might be necessary to affect risk of developing these diseases.

 

3. Taking vitamin D and calcium may not be worth it. Some of the women in the study were given calcium and vitamin D supplements, while others were not. The results showed that the supplements did increase the bone density in the hip, but they didn’t significantly decrease the number of hip fractures the women experienced. Nor did taking the supplements lower the risk of colorectal cancer, according to the paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine. They did, however, increase the risk of kidney stones.

4. Ditch diet soda. Post-menopausal women who reported drinking two or more diet sodas per day had a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and other heart problems, research from the WHI showed. While the researchers couldn’t show a direct connection, there are plenty of other reasons to avoid fake sugar.

5. If you’re at high risk for melanoma, aspirin might help. Researchers analyzed the data from the WHI observational study, and found that women who took aspirin regularly had a 20 percent lower risk of melanoma than women who did not. The correlation was strong — the longer the women took the drug, the lower their risk. Aspirin comes with its own benefits (preventing subsequent heart problems) and harms (increased risk of bleeding), so talk to your doctor before adding it to your routine. 

May 26, 2014 Posted by | Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Health Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Women's Issues | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vitamin D Fights Auto-Immune Diseases

When we were living in Qatar, there was a study published in the Qatar Gulf Times about the increasing problem of Vitamin D deficiency among women who are covered. It suggested that just ten minutes a day, uncovered, in full sunshine, could help relieve this common deficiency.

Part of the problem may be a lack of private area where a covered woman will feel comfortable being outside, uncovered, free from prying eyes. Another problem is cultural, where whiter skin is valued more highly than darker skin, or freckled skin.

What cost beauty? There are long term ramifications of Vitamin D deficiency, and the consequences can be dire. The cure is so easy . . .

By Diana Rodriguez
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

Your body needs a wide range of nutrients so that each cell performs the way it’s supposed to and all your body functions run smoothly. One important source that’s been getting a lot of buzz? Vitamin D — this essential vitamin helps build strong bones and much more.

Now researchers are discovering that vitamin D may be a powerful tool in understanding, and perhaps even preventing, certain health problems, including a group of conditions that currently has no cure — autoimmune diseases.

Autoimmune diseases occur when your immune system turns against your own body instead of fighting harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses. Autoimmune diseases affect different areas of the body. For instance, psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin, while Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland.

Little is known about how and why autoimmune diseases occur, what can be done to prevent them, and how to reduce your autoimmune disease risk. But that could be about to change.

The Scoop on Vitamin D’s Benefits

One recent study discovered that people who are deficient in vitamin D, which comes from both food sources and sunlight, have an increased autoimmune disease risk. The study also found that vitamin D can affect how your genes function by binding to them in particular spots. These binding locations may help researchers better understand genes that trigger diseases related to vitamin D.

We know that vitamin D plays a role in protecting the immune system. And researchers found that not getting enough vitamin D increases your risk for rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes, among other autoimmune diseases. Unfortunately, researchers can’t yet pinpoint exactly how and why this is the case, or how getting enough vitamin D may help to ward off the onset of autoimmune disease symptoms.

5 Ways to Up Your Daily Dose of D

It’s clear that much more research needs to be done to better understand both autoimmune diseases and the impact of vitamin D on reducing autoimmune disease risk. But we already know that not getting enough vitamin D can be devastating to bones, leading to osteoporosis and fractures.

For overall good health, it’s essential to meet vitamin D requirements, up to 600 international units, or IU, each day. If your doctor tests your blood vitamin D level and finds a low level, you may be advised to get higher amounts. Where can you find this bone-building, immune-boosting vitamin? Here are some simple ways to get the recommended daily intake of vitamin D:

Feed on fish. Specifically, canned pink salmon, mackerel, and sardines offer the highest amounts of vitamin D.

Choose fortified beverages. Both soy and cow’s milk are available fortified with vitamin D. Some brands of orange juice also come with an added dose of D.

Eat egg yolks. Though they’re sometimes a concern because of cholesterol, egg yolks are a good source of vitamin D.

Start your day with cereal. Dry cereals and instant oatmeal that have been fortified with vitamin D are a great way to start your day.

Keep it simple with a supplement. Vitamin D supplements can make it easy to get all you need each day — just take one pill.

Exposure to the sun also helps your body to produce vitamin D. Relaxing in the sun for a brief period of time (just 5 to 10 minutes) a few days per week without sunscreen can help your body create enough vitamin D to ward off a deficiency. Just remember to guard against the potential damage of the sun — keep your exposure limited to reap the vitamin D benefits without harming your skin.

December 18, 2012 Posted by | Beauty, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , , | 2 Comments

The Sunshine Vitamin

This is from The Washington Post and you can read the entire article by clicking on the blue type.

Vitamin D deficiency is, ironically, a serious issue for Middle Eastern women who stay out of the sun and who cover – wear abaya, hijab and niqab. The body makes Vitamin D from sunshine – which we have here in the Gulf in great abundance. Even exposing your skin for ten minutes a day in a secluded sunny spot will help your body create the Vitamin D it needs to build your bones and your system.

Some Seek Guidelines to Reflect Vitamin D’s Benefits

By Rob Stein

Washington Post Staff Writer 
Friday, July 4, 2008; Page A01
 

A flurry of recent research indicating that Vitamin D may have a dizzying array of health benefits has reignited an intense debate over whether federal guidelines for the “sunshine vitamin” are outdated, leaving millions unnecessarily vulnerable to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other ailments.

The studies have produced evidence that low levels of Vitamin D make men more likely to have heart attacks, breast and colon cancer victims less likely to survive, kidney disease victims more likely to die, and children more likely to develop diabetes. Two other studies suggested that higher Vitamin D levels reduce the risk of dying prematurely from any cause.

In response to these and earlier findings, several medical societies are considering new recommendations for a minimum daily Vitamin D intake, the American Medical Association recently called for the government to update its guidelines, and federal officials are planning to launch that effort.

But many leading experts caution that it remains premature for people to start taking large doses of Vitamin D. While the new research is provocative, experts argue that the benefits remain far from proven. Vitamin D can be toxic at high doses, and some studies suggest it could increase the risk for some health problems, experts say. No one knows what consequences might emerge from exposing millions of people to megadoses of the vitamin for long periods.

“The data are intriguing and serve as, no pun intended, food for further fruitful research,” said Mary Frances Picciano, at the Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institutes of Health. “But beyond that, the data are just not solid enough to make any new recommendations. We have to be cautious.”

The current clash is the latest in a long, often unusually bitter debate. Some skeptics question whether funding by the tanning, milk and vitamin industries is biasing some advocates. Frustrated proponents accuse skeptics of clinging to outdated medical dogma.

“It feels kind of ridiculous working in this field sometimes,” said Reinhold Vieth, a professor of nutritional sciences and pathobiology at the University of Toronto. “Every week, I get interviewed about the next important publication about Vitamin D. But this field remains mired in the muck.”

Vieth is one of a small but vocal cadre of researchers pushing doctors and patients to stop waiting for new official guidelines. Physicians should routinely test their patients for Vitamin D deficiencies, and more people — especially African Americans — should take supplements and increase their exposure to the sun, they say.

“The bottom line is we now recognize that Vitamin D is important for health for both children and adults and may help prevent many serious chronic diseases,” said Michael F. Holick, a professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at Boston University.

Scientists have long known that Vitamin D is a vital nutrient the skin produces when hit by ultraviolet light from sunlight and other sources. The amount of Vitamin D produced varies, depending on where the person lives, skin pigment, age and other factors. African Americans and other dark-skinned people, and anyone living in northern latitudes, make far less than other groups.

With people spending more time indoors surfing the Web, watching television, working at desk jobs, and covering up and using sunblock when they do venture outdoors, the amount of Vitamin D that people create in their bodies has been falling. Milk and a few other foods are fortified with Vitamin D, and it occurs naturally in others, such as fatty fish, but most people get very little through their diets.

“Humans evolved in equatorial Africa wearing no clothes,” said Robert P. Heaney, a leading Vitamin D researcher at Creighton University in Omaha. “Now we get much less direct sunlight, and so we don’t make nearly as much Vitamin D.”

July 6, 2008 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions | | 6 Comments