The Olympics: selling sexiness

In the late 1800′s there was a growing interest among women in sport, especially cycling, actually leading to some modification in clothing (bloomers!).   However, then and even now, there is an undercurrent of discrimination in sport.  For example, 19th and 20th century physicians linked athletics to childbirth complications, infertility, mannish characteristics and “heterosexual failure” (lesbianism).  In 2009, the  International Ski Federation voted against the inclusion of women in the 2010 Winter Olympics because the sport could cause “damage to their uteri or lead to infertility”.  (what about male fertility?!!)  Today, women are still not allowed to ski jump in the Olympics— the only men-only event!

A newer, more troubling  phenomenon has raised its sexist head at this year’s Olympics:   the sex appeal of female athletes!  Why is it necessary for female athletes to appear in photos wearing minidresses and lingerie?  Why are fashion models participating in the march of the athletes?   Glamorous female athletes get a lot of screen time during the Olympics but rarely during the rest of the year.

In order to raise sponsorships, athletes have to capitalize on media exposures but should “glam” outweigh “athleticism”?  According to a Chicago-based agency, Engage Marketing, “For male athletes, it’s primarily about their performance.   And for female athletes it’s definitely as much about their looks as it is about their performance.”

We teach our children– male and female– that they can participate in any sport they want.   Despite the passage of Title IX in 1972 requiring female sports to get equal public funding, female athletes are still encourage to flaunt their sex rather than their power as they earn endorsements.

To learn more about the history of women in sports, visit Bad Girls Can’t Win, an article that can be found  on page 14 of the magazine ATRIUM, a publication by Northwestern Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program.


60 Minutes Feature a Success for Women’s Health Advocates

60 Minutes’ Sunday feature “Sex Matters: Drugs Can Affect Sexes Differently” put a huge splash in the medical drug industry! Consulting researchers from Northwestern University, the University California Irvine, and the Food and Drug Administration (among others), reporters at CBS News tracked the real story of gender inequity at the research level. Using the recall dosage of Ambien in women as a springboard to their discussion, the piece then launched into the need to not only examine sex as a research variable moving forward, but also to potentially re-examine previously approved drugs to test for potential harmful effects in women.

All researchers in the feature admitted that their attention to the research variances by gender was not initially intuitive to them as scientists. Despite the knowledge of sex differences in drug reaction being known for nearly 50 years, it was a commonly held belief that the primary differences between men and women were in regards to their reproductive organs and cells. Dr. Teresa Woodruff, of the Women’s Health Research Institute, however, has been advocating for the study of sex as a variable since her very first years in the field–continually arguing that every cell has a sex–from skin, to liver, to heart, to bones. It’s refreshing that increased publicity on this issue can finally propel this knowledge to the masses in a way that can no longer be swept aside.

This is truly a victory for the Women’s Health Research Institute and women’s health in general. The Institute’s collaboration with those at 60 Minutes has provided much needed exposure to this inequity in women’s health, and it’s exciting to be consulted as a leader in this field. Browse the 60 Minutes website to watch clips from Sunday’s show–including segment extras featuring Northwestern’s Dr. Teresa Woodruff and Dr. Melina Kibbe.

Upcoming 60 Minutes Features Importance of Sex-Specific Research

Dr. Teresa Woodruff of the Women’s Health Research Institute has been a consistent voice advocating for sex-based research.  Recently, Dr. Woodruff consulted with CBS on an upcoming feature to shed light on the importance of sex as a research variable—due to the imbalances between male and female research subjects resulting in inadequate health care for women. In a reaction to the FDA recalling the recommended dosage for women taking Ambien, CBS announced today that their 60 Minutes feature this Sunday will investigate drug dosage differences between men and women. Ambien, a popular sleep drug, was discovered to have adverse effects in women last year. Researchers found that women metabolize Ambien differently than men, which leads to a higher percentage of the drug in the female body. The FDA responded to this incident by halving the previously recommended dosage, just in women.

Last year’s Ambien debacle is merely the tip of the iceberg; it is just one example of the importance of sex differences in research! The truth is, little is actually known or studied about how drugs affect women differently than men. Despite ever-growing evidence of sex differences in health research and care, there are no official standards mandating the observation of sex as a variable in drug and device studies. A report on the incidence of adverse drug reactions published at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1965 revealed “a striking correlation between incidence and the sex of the patient.” This 49-year-old study revealed that women accounted for 73% of the adverse drug reactions tested—and numbers have hardly improved in the half a century since this study was published. This is appalling. The knowledge of adverse drug reactions in women has been publically stated for nearly 50 years! We have this knowledge. We’ve known this for half a century. It is time to act on this knowledge.

Dr. Woodruff and the Women’s Health Research Institute as a whole are thrilled that 60 Minutes is broadcasting about the potentially catastrophic events that can occur if drugs are not moderated for use on female patients. Dr. Woodruff and colleague Dr. Melina Kibbe were honored to serve as crucial collaborators on this CBS feature. It’s critical that discussion sparks action on this issue. Addressing the differences between men and women at the research level will lead to more accurate science and better-tailored health care for women. Be sure to tune into CBS on Sunday, February 9th at 7:00pm ET to get the full story!

Watch a preview of the feature HERE.

How Decriminalizing Marijuana May Poison Young Children

The American College of Emergency Physicians recently found an increase in children requiring medical intervention in states that have decriminalized marijuana. The call rate in theses states have increased by more than 30% per year between 2005 and 2011, while the call rate in non-legal states has not changed. There are currently 18 states and the District of Columbia that have passed legislation allowing medical marijuana, including edible products. George Sam Wang, MD, of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver states that these edible marijuana products may be the culprits to increased exposure in children. He states “kids can’t distinguish between products that contain marijuana and those that don’t,” and since edible marijuana tends to “contain higher concentrations of the active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol,” adverse effects are more likely to result when children ingest these products.

These pediatric exposures lead to medical evaluations, clinical effects, and critical care admissions. Researchers say neurologic effects are most common and therapies usually involve administering intravenous fluids. As states continue to decriminalize marijuana, it’s important to advocate for the safety of children who may unknowingly ingest this drug. Requirements such as child-resistant packaging, warning labels, and public education are needed to help mitigate this crisis and keep young children safe.

Source: Science Daily

Winter infections beyond the flu!

If you live in a northern climate, winter increases your risk of the flu, head colds, and respiratory illnesses.   These are somewhat expected.   But winter also brings some less considered infections that you may get if you are lucky enough to go on a winter vacation in a warm climate.  For example:  Leptospirosis is endemic to Hawaii especially from October to February and is harmful to animals and humans.   Coccidioidomycosis (valley fever) is a fungus found in the southwest U.S. and Mexico.   Both of these areas are popular winter vacation spots.

In addition, there is an increase in aseptic meningitis causes by the Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV) virus  which is mostly carried by the common house mouse (who gravitates inside for the winter).    There is a strange norovirus (called the ‘winter vomiting disease‘) that was described in 1929 in children and seems to peak between December and February.

While I don’t want to be Debby Downer (a character on SNL), it is important to be aware of these rare but significant possible exposures.   The take-home message???  Have a flu shot, be alert to high risk areas, remember to wash your hands a lot, and avoid sick animals!!!

Source:  Wintertime Infections, Beyond the Usual Suspects.   edscape.  Jan. 13, 2014.



Hot Flashes Years After Menopause

New long-term research shows that hot flashes continue, on average, for five years after menopause. More than a third of women can experience hot flashes for up to ten or more years after menopause.

A recent study evaluated 255 women in the Penn Ovarian Aging Study who reached natural menopause over a 16-year period. The results indicate that 80 percent reported moderate to severe hot flashes, 17 percent had only mild hot flashes, and three percent reported no hot flashes.

Hot flashes are momentary episodes of heat that can occur with other symptoms including sweating and flushing. Changing hormone levels after cessation of menses are believed to cause hot flashes as well as other menopausal symptoms including insomnia, anxiety, joint and muscle pain, and memory problems.  Hormone therapy repletes the hormones estrogen and progesterone the body stops making during menopause, and it has been proven an effective treatment for hot flashes.

Although hormone therapy is highly effective, it is not recommended for all women. In addition, concerns about health hazards linked to hormone therapy have made some physicians hesitant to prescribe it, or to adhere strictly to recommended duration guidelines; current guidelines suggest that exogenous hormones should not be taken for more than five years. This new research on the long-term persistence of hot flashes suggests that women should collaborate with their physicians to determine the risks and benefits of different hormonal and nonhormone therapies available for menopausal symptoms. Women should be able to individualize their treatment to appropriately minimize the the symptoms they may have, no matter how severe or how persistent. To learn more about the variety of treatments available for menopausal symptoms, visit Northwestern’s Menopause website here

Source: Ellen W. Freeman, Mary D. Sammel, Richard J. Sanders. Risk of long-term hot flashes after natural menopause. Menopause, 2014; 1 DOI:10.1097/GME.0000000000000196

Temporomandibular disorder screening guidelines

The first ever Recommendations for Diagnosing TMD have been published with support from NIH. Despite a prevalence rate of 2:1 women to men, there was no mention of the sex differences for TMD in the abstract, NIH press release or accompanying editorial.   This continues to frustrate the women’s health research community who are actively advocating for more sex based research.  This latest announcement indicates we must continue to be vigilant and work with funders and journals to ensure that sex differences become part of the research equation.   Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) occur as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint and surrounding facial muscles that control chewing and moving the jaw. These disorders are often incorrectly called TMJ, which stands for  temporomandibular joint.

Source:   Sex and Gender Women’s Health Collaborative.

Are You Suffering from Adult ADHD?

Many people don’t realize that the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can continue into adulthood as a form of adult ADHD.  Adult ADHD can only result from a pre-existing diagnosis of childhood ADHD—meaning, one is only susceptible to adult ADHD if they suffered from this disorder as a child. Roughly 3-10% of school-aged children are afflicted by ADHD, and 60% of these children will continue to have symptoms when they’re adults. Symptoms manifest themselves into forgetfulness, excessive daydreaming, constant fidgeting, and the inability to sit still. These symptoms are more subtle in adults and adult ADHD is, therefore, more difficult to diagnose.

Adult ADHD can greatly disrupt your life—from preventing yourself from being organized to affecting your marriage. Disorganization is one of the most noticeable symptoms of adult ADHD—and with the added difficulties of bills, jobs, and children, organizational skills for adults are even more crucial. ADHD symptoms also makes people more likely to speed and have traffic accidents because sitting behind the wheel for extended periods of time can be very frustrating for adult ADHD patients. In extreme cases, spouses who have adult ADHD may appear to have poor listening skills and an inability to honor commitments, which can disrupt marriages.  While symptoms for adult ADHD are relatively similar between men and women, there are some differences. Sadly, adult women with ADHD are more prone to eating disorders, obesity, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety than male ADHD sufferers. Awareness of adult ADHD is the first step towards treatment. Take a look at this slideshow to see if you think you’re afflicted by adult ADHD. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor to work out a treatment plan that’s right for you.

Source: WebMD

Women’s Health Through the Ages

This month marks the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the pivotal case where the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion. Many see this decision as both a political and religious issue, while others view this as the right for women to make private medical decisions without the interference of politics. Regardless of how you view abortion, it’s important to recognize the evolution of women’s health in America to see how far we’ve come in this field.

Here is a brief timeline outlining notable events in women’s health in the United States.

1800: This year, every American woman had an average of seven children over her lifespan. The birthrate reached an all-time high of 55 births per thousand residents—today the rate is 13 births per thousand.

1849: Elizabeth Blackwell ranked first in her class at New York’s Geneva Medical College, making her our country’s first female doctor. Battling sexism and prejudice, Blackwell founded a small clinic that eventually grew into the New York Infirmary for Women and Children and even opened the Women’s Medical College in 1868 to train more female physicians.

1896: The first commercial menstrual care product in America came on the market from a “little known” company called Johnson & Johnson. Unfortunately, this model was a commercial failure and it wasn’t until 1921, with the invention of Kotex, that menstrual care products found their market success.

1916: Margaret Sanger opened America’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York. Later, in 1921, she founded the American Birth Control League, which was eventually called Planned Parenthood.

1931: Robert Tilden Frank, a New York gynecologist, became the first researcher to give medical credence to premenstrual syndrome.

1960: The FDA approved the sale of the birth control pill, the first oral contraceptive manufactured by Searle.

1969: The low-radiation mammogram was invented, minimizing the risk of high doses of radiation on earlier models.

1970: The publishing of Our Bodies, Ourselves revolutionized views about the female body and sexuality. It is a book written by women, for women, and has sold more than 4 million copies since its publication.

1973: Roe v. Wade decision made by the United States Supreme Court.

2006: The FDA approved the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B for prescription use. It is now sold over-the-counter for women 18 and older.

2007: Dr. Teresa Woodruff edits the first book on oncofertility, a new field that studies how to preserve fertility in patients whose fertility has been compromised due to cancer treatment.

Of course we know that women’s health extends well beyond these notable triumphs, and we’re looking forward to a future where innovative advances in women’s health continue to become more frequent and groundbreaking.

Source: Everyday Health

FDA Advocates for Sex as a Research Variable

Men and Women are physiologically different, and it is essential to ensure adequate participation of both sexes in research studies in order to determine sex-based differences in disease presentation, prevalence, and treatment. A press release from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Publishers revealed a study that tested the participation rate of women in post-approval studies mandated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Out of their sample size, researchers found that only 14% of studies “included a multivariate analysis that included sex as a covariate” and a meager 4% “included a subgroup analysis for female participants.” These shocking results mean that women are not getting adequate attention in clinical trials, which may result in harmful drug or device reactions in women.

Women vary from men in genetics, hormones, body size, sex-specific physiology, diet, sociocultural issues, and more—therefore, it is incorrect to assume that women and men will react the same way when tested for medical devices and drugs. Most researchers limit sex-based research to areas that are inherently sex-biased, for instance obstetrics and gynecology more often involves women, while urology more often involves men. However, men and women differ in nearly everything from their hearts to their knees—and research needs to keep these differences in mind. If researchers neglect to include sex as a variable in their research, devices and drugs can be approved for public use without fully understanding the reaction such drugs could have on women.

In response to this growing concern, the FDA has implemented new procedures to ensure participation by sex is evaluated in post-approval study reviews. This is certainly a step in the right direction towards recognizing and evaluating sex-specific health responses to new research.

Source: Journal of Women’s Health

Avoiding Wrinkles: Ways to Protect and Prepare Your Skin for Aging

Everyone wrinkles at the same rate and there’s not really much we can do to prevent it, right? Wrong. There are certain habits that can help you avoid premature wrinkles, making your skin look younger (and healthier) longer. Tanning is one of the leading causes of premature wrinkles. When you go tanning, ultraviolet rays are penetrating deep layers of the skin, weakening the skin’s support structure. Wearing lotion with SPF 15 or higher will help protect your skin, and should become part of your routine. Smoking also accelerates the skin’s aging process, and early wrinkling has been found in smokers as young as 20! The smoke from tobacco also turns the skin an unhealthy color and texture, so the best thing you can do for your skin and your body is to quit smoking!

Sun exposure and smoking are the fairly obvious skin detriments, but there are more culprits to wrinkling than meets the eye. Daily facial contractions, such as frowning, smiling, and squinting are thought to cause crow’s feet and frown lines. Wearing sunglasses or corrective eyewear to avoid squinting, while also relaxing your resting face, will help minimize extraneous contractions. Yo-yo dieting is another surprising factor in wrinkle development. Some experts attest that years of losing weight and gaining the weight back can damage the skin’s elastic structure. Losing or gaining weight in a healthy, steady manor can ease your skin into accepting the size of your new body.

Your skin is your body’s largest organ and needs protecting. Eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated with plenty of water will help keep your skin healthy. While you can never truly rid yourself of wrinkles entirely, protecting your skin can help minimize signs of aging. Take this wrinkles quiz to see how much you know about your skin!

Source: WebMD

New Childbirth Assistance Device Has Potential to Save Lives

Every year there are roughly 137 million births globally. Of these, about 10% may result in serious complications. Tragically, approximately 5.6 million babies are stillborn or pass away soon after, and around 260,000 women pass away every year in childbirth. These situations often occur in underdeveloped countries or rural areas where women do not have access to hospitals or procedures such as a cesarean section when undergoing an obstructed or prolonged labor. Currently, when situations like this arise, options to extract the baby include using forceps or a vacuum extractor, which can twist the baby’s spine, crush its head, or cause hemorrhaging. Despite these statistics and outdated technologies, there has been little to no technological advancement in this area for years.

However, Jorge Odón, a car mechanic from Argentina, recently came up with an idea for a new type of low cost device to help extract a baby from the birth canal. It consists of a plastic bag inside of a plastic sleeve. The bag is placed gently around the baby’s head and then inflated to grip it. When the sleeve is pulled, the baby emerges with it. This device is likely safer than using forceps or a vacuum extractor to assist in a difficult labor, and as there is less contact between the baby’s head and the birth canal, the risk of passing an infection such as HIV from mother to child may be diminished.

This birthing assistance device, known as the Odón Device, has been endorsed by the World Health Organization, which plans to increase testing from 30 Argentine women to 100 more women in China, India and South Africa to further determine its effectiveness and safety. The device has also received grants from donors, and has been licensed for production by an American company. If additional tests verify the claims that some doctors are making – that the device is safe to be used by midwives with minimal training – then the device may see clinical use in two to three years.

For more information on the Odón device, visit the WHO website here.


Swedish Surgeons Take Innovative Transplant Approach to Childbirth

Swedish doctors are attempting an innovative surgery to give womb-less women the opportunity to give birth to their own children. Nine women in Sweden have received womb transplants and doctors intend to help these women (through in-vitro fertilization) become pregnant and carry their own children. Each of the nine patients was either born without a uterus or had it removed due to cervical cancer. This is the fist major experiment to test the possibility of live, biological births in womb transplant patients.

Many European countries prohibit using a surrogate to carry a pregnancy, which leaves women without wombs fewer fertility options. Womb transplants that can lead to successful pregnancies and births have been attempted before—in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Britain, and Hungary—but have been unsuccessful. Lead researcher, Dr. Mats Brannstrom said, “This is a new kind of surgery; we have no textbook to look at.” Press over these transplants has given hope to former cervical cancer patients (who lost a uterus to cancer) as well as to the one in every 4,500 women born without a womb.

The largest unknown for the scientists is how the pregnancies will proceed. The babies will need ample nourishment from the placenta and blood flow needs to be optimal—which are difficult variables to control for with womb transplants. Brannstrom and his colleagues intend to begin the in-vitro process in the next couple of months—testing their transplant success in their human subjects after finding victory in their mouse, sheep, and baboon subjects. If successful, this will be a major contribution to science, offering an alternative for women who have few childbirth choices.

Source: Associated Press

CDC Announces Decrease in New Lung Cancer Incidence Rates

In the January of 1964, the Surgeon General made its first report linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer. Yesterday, the CDC announced a new triumph in the war against lung cancer by announcing that the rate of new lung cancer cases have decreased among men and women in the United States since 2005. Lung cancer incidence rates decreased 2.6% per year among men, and 1.1% per year among women. While, generally, this is a significant victory, the differing rates between men and women are troubling.

For many years, the female population was not smoking at the same rate as the male population, but the CDC stated, “smoking behaviors among women are now similar to those among men,” so “women are now experiencing the same risk of lung cancer as men.” If women have the same risk as men, it is troubling, therefore, that efforts to decrease new cancer incidences in women is declining at a slower rate than in men. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the United States, and sex-based research must be conducted to determine why women seem to be lagging behind men in these decreased incidences.

The CDC attributes these decreased rates to tobacco prevention and control programs. The CDC calls for a continued emphasis on local, state, and national tobacco prevention strategies to mitigate future lung cancer diagnoses. Some strategies that have been accredited to this reduced incidence rate are increased tobacco prices, smoke-free laws, restricted tobacco advertising, and a slew of mass media campaigns against smoking.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Staying Warm and Healthy in the Windy City

At this point, Chicagoans are celebrating the end of the Polar Vortex, which caused temperatures as low as -40 degrees (with the wind-chill) in our windy city. But, extreme shifts in temperatures can mean extreme health concerns to be aware of. Respiratory problems, the rise of the common cold, frostbite, and hypothermia are just some health problems that can arise in extreme weather changes.

Whenever outside temperatures fluctuate, there are shifts in the pollutants and viruses in the air, making people more susceptible to infection. Keeping one’s nose and mouth covered with a scarf when outdoors protects us from not only these air pollutants, but also keeps the air we breath in warmer before traveling to the lungs.  Family physician Dr. Joseph Szgalsky warns patients that breathing in cold air can “cause squeezing of the air tubes and lead to coughing and asthma flares,” and advises others to breath cold air in through the nose, which will warm the air up before it travels to the lungs. Furthermore, patients who are already sensitive to allergies, asthma, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease are even more susceptible to cold air respiratory flares.

Prolonged exposure to cold air may also cause the blood vessels in the skin to contract, thereby reducing blood and oxygen flow and causing frostbite—a phenomenon where the skin actually freezes. Frostbite can lead to sensitivity to cold, prolonged numbness, gangrene, and decay and death of tissue. It’s essential to protect your skin during these cold days and establish preventative barriers between your body and the outside.

Hypothermia is another side effect that may come about from prolonged cold exposure. This is a severe condition where the body temperature drops and organs are unable to work properly. Indicators of hypothermia include “cold feet and hands, puffy or swollen face, slow or slurred speech, and anger or confusion.”

To avoid these and other serious conditions, doctors advise continual hydration and appropriate layering of clothing when outdoors.

Source: N.J. News


Hot Flashes More Frequent and Severe in Cancer Survivors

From perimenopause through postmenopause, the most common symptoms include irregular menstruation, hot flashes, and night sweats. Every woman will experience these menopausal symptoms differently. However, research shows that women who survive cancer, in particular, have more frequent, severe, and bothersome hot flashes than other women with menopausal symptoms. Women who survive cancer also report better emotional and social well-being, compared to women without cancer.

A large scale study including 934 cancer survivors and 155 female participants without cancer assessed hot flashes and other menopause-related symptoms and sexual function. 90% of the cancer survivors were afflicted by breast cancer. The study took place in Western Australia and used standard questionnaires.

Hot flashes were much more frequent and severe in cancer survivors; approximately 76% reported having hot flashes over the course of 24 hours, compared to 54% in women without cancer. Also, 60% cancer survivors reported hot flashes as severe or very severe, compared to 40% women without cancer.

In addition to these findings, cancer survivors were less troubled by psychological and physical symptoms. Cancer survivors reported better quality of life, less severe mood swings or sadness, and better social well-being than women without cancer. The findings could possibly be the result of good psychological and social support available for cancer survivors.

The findings of this study highlight that all menopausal women, including cancer survivors, need effective treatment options for their hot flashes. To read more about the treatment options available for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, visit Northwestern’s menopause website here.


Effects of Hormone Levels on Cognition after Menopause

Do hormone levels in postmenopausal women affect cognitive function? New research sheds light on the postmenopausal brain.

In a recently published study, researchers found that estrogen levels after menopause may have no impact on cognitive skills, but progesterone levels might. Progesterone had some association with global cognition and verbal memory among newly postmenopausal women.

643 healthy postmenopausal women were part of the study, ranging from 41 to 84 years old. Neuropsychological tests were done to assess cognition and memory, and hormone levels were determined including estradiol, estrone, progesterone, and testosterone. The findings showed no association between estrogen and cognitive skills. However, women with higher levels of progesterone had better outcomes on the verbal memory and global cognition tests, particularly in those who had started menopause less than six years prior. None of the hormones appeared to have any association with depression or mood either.

More research must be done to confirm the new findings regarding progesterone levels. Also, there is no way to directly measure hormone concentrations at the brain level, but this research implies that estrogen therapy may not have a significant effect on cognitive skills. To learn more about when hormone therapy is beneficial , visit Northwestern’s menopause website here.


Source reference: Henderson VW, et al “Cognition, mood, and physiological concentrations of sex hormones in the early and late menopause” PNAS 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1312353110.

Hypertension during Pregnancy May Mean Hot Flashes later

New research shows that women with high blood pressure during pregnancy may be at higher risk of having troublesome menopausal symptoms in the future. A research study from the Netherlands examined the relationship between hypertensive diseases and hot flashes and night sweats.

Investigators looked at 853 women who regularly visited a cardiology clinic. Among these women, 274 had a history of high blood pressure during their pregnancy, such as preeclampsia. Participants were classified as having hypertension (high blood pressure) if her systolic blood pressure was 140 mmHg or higher, if her diastolic was 90 mmHg or higher, or if she took antihypertensive medication.

The study revealed that women with a history of hypertensive pregnancy disease were more likely to have vasomotor symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats during menopause. Hot flashes and night sweats are considered vasomotor because of sudden opening and closing of blood vessels near the skin. 82% women with history of hypertension during pregnancy had hot flashes and night sweats, compared to 75% women without. Moreover, women with hypertension during pregnancy reported experiencing hot flashes and night sweats for a longer time period.

Researchers concluded that the findings were modest but more research needs to be done to establish a definite association. One must also consider that every woman experiences menopause differently; you  might have symptoms that are barely noticeable, while your friends could experience almost all of them. To learn more about the different types of symptoms during menopause, visit the Women’s Health Research Institute’s menopause website here.