Posted by on July 27, 2015 - 3:49pm

Most people are taught to brush their teeth and floss every day in order to avoid getting cavities. These become a mundane daily routine in the morning and evening that do not seem very important. However, your oral health is more important than you might think. It is essential to our overall health and our quality of life.

The connection between oral health and general health is not very obvious, but the two are very closely linked. Your mouth is full of bacteria, most of which is harmless. A combination of your body’s natural defenses and good oral care keep these bacteria in your mouth under control. Saliva is one of the main defenses against disease-causing bacteria: it has enzymes that destroy and inhibit the growth of bacteria.

However, while your saliva usually helps protect you against these bacteria, it cannot always do its job, leading the bacteria to build and form dental plaque, which is a sticky, colorless film that coats your teeth and causes health problems. If you don’t brush or floss regularly, plaque builds up along your gum line and in between your teeth. This build up of bacteria can lead to oral infections.

Long-term oral infections can result in dental cavities, gum disease, oral cancer, and even tooth loss. The affects do not stop there: research has show that oral infections can also contribute to various other diseases and conditions including cardiovascular disease, preterm birth, diabetes, osteoporosis, and others. If you don’t already have enough reasons to brush your teeth and floss daily, the link between your oral and overall health provides even more reason.

Here are some tips to protect your oral health:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day
  • Floss daily
  • Decrease sugar intake (including soda, candy, etc.)
  • Replace your toothbrush every three months
  • Quit smoking
  • Schedule yearly appointments with your dentist

 

Sources:

Mayo Clinic

National Library of Medicine

World Health Organization 

Posted by on July 23, 2015 - 11:00am


 By Sarah Henning

With the women’s soccer World Cup and Wimbledon tennis tournament recently ending, it’s time to consider a women’s health and sport topic that has long been considered taboo - female athlete menstruation. This past January, British professional tennis player Heather Watson made headlines during the Australian Open after citing menstruation as a factor in her first round loss. In a post-match interview, Watson talked about how she had been experiencing dizziness and nausea during the match, and stated “I think it’s just one of these things that I have, girl things.” This drew immediate praise from other female athletes, including former number one British tennis player Annabel Croft, for Watson speaking up about an issue all female athletes encounter, but is rarely mentioned. In fact, some consider it one of the last taboos in sports.

There are several reasons this may be the case. First, all women have different symptoms during their periods, leading some to have serious side effects, while others may have no symptoms. Croft believes that if women’s sports were televised more frequently, the topic would possibly arise more often. Additionally, some believe that if the topic became more talked about, women may use menstruation as an excuse for poor performance. However, the fact remains that this is a health issue that most female athletes at all levels must compete with.

Increasing discussion about athlete menstruation, and getting the topic out in the open will benefit players, coaches and teams. When female athletes feel comfortable talking about their periods, it will become less of a taboo subject, and players and coaches can work to minimize symptoms and help players continue to perform without embarrassment or illness.

 

Sources:

Cocozza, Paula. "Menstruation: The Last Great Sporting Taboo." The Guardian. 21 January 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/sport/shortcuts/2015/jan/21/menstruation-last...

Gebreyes, Rahel. "How Tennis Player Heather Watson Confronted The Taboo of Menstruation In Sports." Huffington Post: Women. 26 January 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/26/heather-watson-menstruation-spo...

Posted by on July 22, 2015 - 10:42am

Women make up nearly sixty percent of all Americans with Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. In this disease, the brain cells degenerate and die, which causes a steady decline in memory and mental function. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, which is a loss of thinking, remembering, and reasoning skills, that interferes with a person’s daily life.

There is an existing idea that more women have Alzheimer’s disease because they tend to outlive men. However, new studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference show evidence that may explain why more women than men have Alzheimer’s: women’s brains are more vulnerable to this disease as well as other problems with memory. At the conference, researchers from an ongoing study called the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative reported that women that have mild cognitive impairment and memory, a condition that can lead to Alzheimer’s, decline almost twice as fast as men. These women not only declined faster than men but they also had a faster acceleration of decline over time.

Another study presented at the conference found that women are more affected by surgery and anesthesia than men are. The combination of surgery and anesthesia can affect both brain volume and thinking, and women exposed to these procedures had more rapid rates of decline and more brain shrinkage than men did. A third study, which conducted PET scans of people’s brains, found that women have more amyloid, a brain-clogging protein that forms sticky plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, than men. The clear difference in levels of amyloid in the brains of the two sexes suggests that women are at a higher risk of developing the disease.

The results from all of these studies suggest that men and women who are at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease have two entirely different experiences with decline and the disease. However, it is still not clear why women’s brain cells are more vulnerable than men’s to this Alzheimer's and more work needs to be done to discover what gender-specific genetic or environmental risk factors lead to women being disproportionately affected by the disease.

 

Sources:

Alzheimer's International Conference

NPR

National Institute of Health

NBC News

Posted by on July 21, 2015 - 9:41am

By Sarah Henning

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2013, the percent of adult women smokers in the United States was 15.7%, compared to 20.7% of adult men. Although fewer women smoke than men, the percentage of female smokers is declining at a slower rate than the percentage of male smokers, and the gender gap is shrinking. There are several reasons why the rate of female smokers is declining at a slower rate than men. 

According to the American Lung Association, research shows that tobacco marketing targets women in numerous ways, including linking smoking to being socially desirable, independent, thin, and attractive. As a result, many teenage girls will initially begin smoking to lose or avoid weight gain, and be seen as independent, beautiful and fun. After women begin smoking, there are factors that make it more difficult for women to quit than men.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse points out that compared to men, “women are less likely to initiate quitting and may be more likely to relapse if they do quit.” Some smoking cessation programs use nicotine replacement therapies, such as nicotine gum or the patch. However, nicotine replacement may be less effective for women than for men when used to quit smoking. Additionally, cigarette and nicotine withdrawal symptoms may be felt more strongly in women than in men. Just as weight concerns are a factor that prompt women to start smoking, fear of gaining weight is a factor that prevents some women from attempting to quit smoking, or remain quit.

The factors that contribute to why women begin smoking, and why it may be more difficult for them to quit smoking, are important for health professionals to understand. Understanding the factors that contribute to smoking will allow them to be incorporated into smoking prevention and cessation programs and make the programs as effective as possible.

 

Sources:

American Lung Association. Women and tobacco use. 2015. http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/about-smoking/facts-figures/women-and-tobacco-use.html#1

National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse. Are there gender differences in tobacco smoking? 2012. hhttp://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/tobacco/are-there-gender-differences-in-tobacco-smoking

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. State health facts: Percent of adults who smoke by gender. 2015. ttp://kff.org/other/state-indicator/smoking-adults-by-gender/

Posted by on July 20, 2015 - 2:48pm

Douching, which is washing out the vagina with water or other mixtures, is common in the United States despite it being widely discouraged by medical professionals. It is estimated that around one in four women between the ages of 15 and 44 use a vaginal douche to get rid of unpleasant odors and feel fresher. However, douching affects the levels of bacteria and the acidity of the vagina, and can increase the risk of infections, pregnancy complications, and various other health problems.

A new study published in the journal Environmental Health suggests that vaginal douches have another problematic effect on women’s health: douches may lead to higher exposure to phthalates, which are potentially harmful chemicals. Phthalates are found in hundreds of products such as adhesives, detergents, plastics, and even personal-care products. These chemicals can disrupts the action of hormones, particularly reproductive and thyroid hormones. Phthalates have been shown to have a great effect in the womb, meaning that they are most problematic and concerning for women of reproductive age.

The data for the study came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, in which 739 women between the ages of 20 and 29 reported their use of feminine hygiene products, such as pads, tampons, vaginal douches, etc., and provided urine samples to be tested. The urine samples were tested for phthalates levels and researchers found that douches were the only product that showed a significant link to higher levels of the chemical. This means that douching is leading to increased exposure to chemicals that can lead to health problems later in life, which is another reason for concern about the practice.

The authors of the study explain that more research needs to be done about the specific consequences of increased exposure to phthalates. This is one of the first studies that explores the link between feminine products and chemical exposure, and it will hopefully lead to more research in this area as vaginal health is an important women’s health issue.

To read more about douching and why it is not recommended for women, click here.

 

Sources:

Environmental Health Journal

Time Magazine

Office on Women’s Health

CDC

Posted by on July 17, 2015 - 3:48pm

Treatment for cancer, which can include chemotherapy and radiation, has adverse affects on the human body. One of the consequences of this potentially life-saving treatment, however, is infertility. Now that the overall survival rates for cancer are increasing, especially for pediatric oncology patients, there has been an increasing focus on research into fertility preservation for cancer patients. However, there is not a lot of research on the intersection of cancer survivors and one of the most well known options for people who cannot biologically have children: adoption.

A 2008 study conducted by the Oncofertility Consortium aimed to explore this intersection by looking into how cancer survivors who are prospective adoptive parents navigate the complicated adoption process in the United States and how these survivors fit into the adoption system. The study interviewed domestic and international adoption agencies as well as cancer survivors to see if these survivors faced discrimination or other barriers that hinder them in the adoptive process.

The study reported that a majority of the adoption agencies they interviewed were vague when they discussed how cancer survivors navigate adoption and these agencies did not have policies in place for cancer survivors looking to adopt a child. However, some agencies mentioned that the number of years the survivor had been in remission and even the survivor’s life expectancy could be factors examined in the adoptive process. These are clearly potential and unspoken barriers to survivors who are trying to adopt children and the prejudice that can occur against these survivors in an environment where agencies have the freedom to choose adoptive parents.

While this can seem discouraging, the study did also find that 70% of the agencies were willing to be known as cancer friendly agencies so that survivors looking to adopt could find supportive places to help them with this adoptive journey.

Earlier this week, Reuters Health reported on a similar study that was conducted at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. The research further confirmed the above findings that cancer survivors can in fact face barriers in the adoption process. The newest study included interviews with adoption agencies across the country, touching on topics such as the cost of adoption, any added application steps for cancer survivors, and even whether women who place their children up for adoption might have reservations about cancer survivors as adoptive parents.

Just as in the study done by the Oncofertility Consortium, the Moffitt Cancer Center study showed that life expectancy and the number of years the survivor has been disease free are factors considered when agencies are determining suitable adoptive parents. However, there is hope: more than 50% of the adoption agencies reported that “a cancer history might be seen as a positive for a birth mother looking for parents who have overcome hardships and have an appreciation for life.”

It is clear that not only does more research need to be done to identify potential barriers for survivors who would like to adopt children, including laws, legislation, and agency policies, but also more advocacy for the rights of cancer survivors in the adoption process.

We are proud that the Oncofertility Consortium had devoted itself to doing research on how to preserve fertility in both male and female cancer patients so that they too can one day start families of their own.

To see the Oncofertility Consortium's list of Cancer Friendly Adoption Agencies, click here.

 

Sources:

Oncofertility Consortium Report

Reuters Health

Posted by on July 17, 2015 - 8:50am

The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) recently announced their 2015 Esteemed Awardees, and the WHRI is thrilled to see Paula Stern, PhD at Northwestern University among those recognized! These prestigious awards are given annually to recognize the achievements of the ASBMR members, and Dr. Stern was awarded the Louis V. Avioli Founders Award, which is given in recognition of a member who has made fundamental contributions to bone and mineral basic research.

Dr. Woodruff of the Women’s Health Research Institute stated “Paula is a leader in bone biology and richly deserving of the Louis V. Avioli Founders Award from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research,” and today we commend her for her accomplishment! Dr. Stern Graduated from the University of Michigan in 1693 with her PhD in Pharmacology, before going on to do her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Rochester. Dr. Stern’s primary research relates to the signaling pathways involved in hormone action on osteoblasts and osteoclasts, and its implications for osteoporosis, cancer metastases to bone and women’s health. Congratulations, Dr. Stern, on your achievements!   

Posted by on July 15, 2015 - 2:58pm

This week, cities and towns all over the United States have been hit by heat waves, with temperatures reaching the high 90s and low 100s. The National Weather Service reports that heat is one of the leading weather-related killers and results in hundreds of fatalities each year and even more cases of heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Spending too much time outside, over-working your body on a hot day, or staying too long in an overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses. In order to stay safe, it is important to know the signs and symptoms:

Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to excessive loss of water and salt that is contained in sweat. It usually occurs after being exposed to high temperatures in combination with not drinking enough water. The warning signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, weakness, and fainting. Victims will typically have a fast but weak pulse rate and fast but shallow breathing. Be sure to help the victim cool down by having them hydrate with cool water and move them to an air-conditioned environment. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat illness and it is considered a medical emergency. It occurs when the body temperature rises rapidly due to exposure to high temperatures and dehydration, which leads to failure of the body’s temperature control system. The warning signs are: extremely high body temperature, usually 104 °F or above, red, hot, dry skin, no sweating, a rapid, strong pulse, dizziness, disorientation, and nausea. If you see someone with any of these signs, immediately call for medical assistance. It is also crucial that you begin to cool down the victim by placing them in a cool shower, spraying them down with cool water, wrapping them in a cool, wet towel. Do NOT give the victim fluids to drink.

Heat related deaths are 100% preventable. Here are some tips to staying safe during a heat wave:

  • Drink plenty of water and avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine
  • Wear lightweight, loose fitting, light-colored clothing
  • Stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day
  • Never leave children, disabled adults, or pets in parked vehicles
  • Minimize direct exposure to the sun and wear sunscreen
  • Use air conditioners or spend time in air-conditioned places such as malls or libraries
  • Listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes

 

Sources:

National Weather Service

CDC

Posted by on July 13, 2015 - 2:35pm

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that on average, 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. They also report that 1 in 3 women are victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. However, these numbers underestimate the problem, as many victims do no report the violence to police, family, or friends for a variety of reasons.

In 2013, MORE Magazine and the Verizon Foundation conducted a survey about domestic violence in the United States. The survey found that 80 percent of domestic violence victims experience chronic health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic pain, asthma, and insomnia, among others. Abused women are not only more likely to suffer from chronic illness but they are also more likely to suffer from multiple chronic conditions than women who have never experienced abuse.

Many of these health problems begin to show up in abused women later in life, years after the abuse has ended. While this fact is not yet fully understood by doctors and researchers, Bruce McEwan, a neuroscientist at Rockefeller University, explains that these conditions can be triggered by the brain being in high stress and a constant fight-or-flight response mode, a strain on the brain he calls “allostatic load.” This state of hyper-arousal can last long after abuse ends and the body can become desensitized to the regulating effects of cortisol, which is a stress hormone, and as a result lead to impairment of brain function, the immune system, and endocrine system. As Michele Black, an epidemiologist at the CDC, said in the original article, “All that stress is really toxic. There’s no organ that’s immune. Your whole body is at risk.”

Inspired by the groundbreaking and award-winning report from MORE Magazine, the Society for Women’s Health Research, a national non-profit that promotes research on the biological differences in disease, and the Verizon Foundation partnered to launch the “Beyond the Bruises” campaign, which unites survivors, advocates, and organizations in bringing awareness to the correlation between domestic violence and chronic health issues. The campaign has a website resource center at BeyondtheBruises.org and features a short video in which survivors of domestic violence share their stories about struggling with chronic illnesses due to their abuse. The goal of the campaign is to bring attention to the link between domestic violence and chronic illness, urge doctors to screen for domestic violence, encourage women to have honest conversations with their doctors, and start a national dialog about these issues.

If you or someone you know need help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit their website here.

To learn more about Domestic Violence from the CDC, click here.

Sources:

Society for Women's Health Research

MORE Magazine

CDC

Huffington Post 

Posted by on July 10, 2015 - 11:19am

Genital herpes is another highly contagious and common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States: around one in every six people between the ages of 14 and 49 has genital herpes. Two viruses, known as herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2), cause the infection. HSV-1 usually causes oral herpes, which is an infection in the lips and the mouth, which manifests itself as cold sores. This type can also cause genital herpes. However, HSV-2 is the usual cause of genital herpes.

HSV-2 is most often passed by unprotected vaginal and anal sex. It can also pass from one partner’s genitals to another partner’s mouth, resulting in oral herpes. The fluids found in herpes sores carry the virus and contact with those fluids in any way causes infection. You can also get herpes from an infected partner who does not have a visible sore, as sores can often times be hidden or simply just not very noticeable. 

Many people who have genital herpes have very mild or no symptoms at all. Because of this, most people who are infected do not know it. The most common symptom is one or more painful, fluid-filled sores, which break open and often release fluid before healing. These typically appear between 2 and 20 days after you have contact with an infected partner and can last from 7 to 10 days. They often times come back during episodes called outbreaks. Other symptoms include flu-like symptoms, problems urinating, and itching or burning of the genitals. While herpes cannot be cured, there are medicines that can shorten and even prevent outbreaks. If you or your partner(s) have had any of these symptoms, it is important to get tested by your doctor for STDs.

If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, it is important to inform your doctor. Sometimes herpes infections can lead to miscarriage, early delivery, and the infection can also be passed from mother to child during birth and cause neonatal herpes, a potentially deadly infection.

The only way to avoid getting STDs it to not engage in vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If you are sexually active, being in a mutually monogamous relationship and using latex condoms correctly every time you have sex can lower your chances of getting herpes.

 

Sources:

CDC 

American Academy of Dermatology 

U.S National Library of Medicine 

WebMD

 

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