Maternal Age May Be Associated with Longevity

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that women who had children at an older age were more likely to live a longer life [1]. The authors analyzed the medical, reproductive, and lifestyle histories of more than 20 thousand women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term study designed to learn more about women’s health and well-being through the ageing process. They found that women who had their first or only child after the age of 25 were more likely to live into their 90s than women who had their child(ren) before they were 25 years old.

The present study is the latest in a series which have explored the relationship between maternal age and longevity [2,3]. Together, these studies suggest that reproductive health is an indicator of overall health. However, the authors caution that this data should not encourage individuals to delay childbearing in an attempt to live longer, as the study has some limitations. First, women who had children after the age of 25 were more likely to be college educated and have a higher income. These socioeconomic and lifestyle factors may influence overall health. Likewise, they were less likely to be obese or suffer from any chronic conditions that might reduce longevity.

Within the United States, the average age at first childbirth has increased significantly, from 24.9 in 2000 to 26.3 in 2014 [4]. Going forward, it will be of great interest to study this generation of women, so that we may gain a better insight into how reproductive habits influence women’s health and well-being.

References:
1. Shadyab et al., Am J Public Health. 2016 Nov 17:e1-e7. [Epub ahead of print].
2. Sun et al., Menopause. 2015 Jan;22(1):26-31.
3. Jaffe et al., Ann Epidemiol. 2015 Jun;25(6):387-91.
4. Centers for Disease Control

Journal of Neuroscience Research Dedicates Issue to Sex-Inclusion

The Journal of Neuroscience Research released the on-line version of its January/February 2017 issue [1], which is dedicated to sex- and gender-based research in the field of neuroscience.  Aptly titled, “An Issue Whose Time Has Come: Sex/Gender Influences on Nervous System Function,” the issue features a series of commentaries, reviews, and research articles highlighting the sex and gender differences that exist within the brain and nervous system.

The special issue was edited by Dr. Larry Cahill,  neuroscientist and sex-inclusion advocate, from the University of California Irvine. Dr. Cahill will be a featured speaker and panelist at the Sex Inclusion in Biomedical Research Workshop & Symposium hosted by the WHRI on January 25th, 2017.

With the push for sex and gender inclusion in the biomedical sciences, the WHRI encourages other journals to highlight sex-based research and applauds those who have already done so, such as Addiction Biology [2] and Atherosclerosis [3].

1. Journal of Neuroscience Research. 2016; 95(1-2): 1-791.
2. Addiction Biology. 2016; 21(5): 993-1059.
3. Atherosclerosis. 2015; 241(1): 1-288. 

Component of Red Wine May Help Women with PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder which causes women to produce higher levels of the hormone testosterone than normal. This hormonal imbalance can result in facial hair growth, acne, menstrual cycle irregularities, infertility, and metabolic-related issues such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol [1]. According to the Office on Women’s Health, PCOS may affect as many as 1 in 10 women of childbearing age [2]. 

Traditionally, women are treated with oral contraceptives containing the synthetic versions of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, or compounds known to block testosterone production.  However, these approaches may not be suitable for women, especially those pursuing pregnancy.  A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, found that resveratrol, a chemical compound found in red wine, may be effective at reducing testosterone levels in women with PCOS [3]. 

The study analyzed the hormonal and metabolic profiles of women who were given resveratrol or a placebo pill for three months. The study authors found that the women who took resveratrol had a significant decrease in testosterone and dehydroepiandroesterone, a molecule from which sex hormones are derived from. These results indicate that resveratrol may be a possible treatment for PCOS due to its testosterone-lowering properties. However, the present study only had a small number of participants, and additional clinical trials would be necessary to confirm its therapeutic potential. 

For more information on PCOS, the National Institutes of Health has compiled an excellent list of resources which can be found here: NIH - PCOS.    

If you have been diagnosed with PCOS and are interested in participating in clinical research, click here for more information. 

Sources: 

1. UptoDate: “Epidemiology and pathogenesis of the polycystic ovary syndrome in adults.”
2. Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
3. Banaszewska et al., J Clin Endo Metab. 2016: Epub ahead of print. 

Sex Differences in Knee Injuries: The Role of Testosterone

A recent study conducted at Johns Hopkins University found that testosterone may play a protective key role against knee injuries, such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. Using an animal model, the study analyzed how different levels of testosterone affect load-bearing and ligament strain. The authors found that testosterone contributes to ACL strength in males, which may suggest why ACL injury is two to 10 times more common in women.

Previously, the study author, William Romani, Ph.D., identified the correlation between high levels of circulating estrogen and weakened ACL strength in a female animal model (2). Estrogen may contribute to higher ACL injury rates due to its ability to remodel the ligament tissue and weaken the overall structure of the ligament (3). Together, this work suggests that sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, exert different effects on ligament strain and stress and may explain why women have a higher rate of total knee replacement than men (4). 

In the future, the findings of this study may allow physicians, physical therapists, and athletic trainers to work together to observe cycling hormone levels to identify those who may be at greater risk of injury and could benefit from targeted strength training as a preventative measure (either in individuals with higher than normal levels of estradiol or lower than normal levels of testosterone) (1).

References:
1. Romani et al., The Knee. 2016. Epub ahead of print.
2. Romani et al., J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2003 Apr;12(3):287-98.
3. Liu et al., Am J Sports Med. 1997;25(5):704-9.
4. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control

Traumatic Brain Injury: What It Means for Women

Over the last several years, the term traumatic brain injury (TBI), has become commonplace, as evidence mounts that some of America’s favorite contact sports may cause severe and lasting brain injuries. TBIs occur when the brain is jolted by an external force which results in damage to the brain in surrounding tissue. However, TBI is not limited to the football field, instead motor vehicle accidents and falls are the leading cause for this type of neurological injury [1]. TBIs can range from mild to severe resulting in a brief period of disorientation (also known as a concussion), to complete loss of consciousness.

While men make up the majority of patients who are diagnosed with TBI, research suggests that women may experience TBI differently than men. Several studies have found that women may have more post-concussive symptoms, such as dizziness and headache, after a mild TBI as compared to men [2,3]. Additionally, women may have different post-concussive symptoms depending on their menstrual cycle stage at time of injury [4]. Furthermore, a post-concussive symptom of TBI may be menstrual cycle irregularity or amenorrhea [5]. More research is necessary to fully uncover the sex differences and sex-specific outcomes of TBI as it pertains to women's health. 

For additional information:   
Center for Disease Control
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

 Sources:

  1. Centers for Disease Control
  2. Bazarian et al., J Neurotrauma. 2010; 27(3):527-39. 
  3. Colantonio et al., BMC Neurol. 2010 Oct 28;10:102.
  4. Wunderle et al., J Head Trauma Rehabil. 2014 Sep-Oct; 29(5):E1-8.
  5. Ranganathan et al., Brain Inj. 2016 Mar 10:1-10.