Tag Archives: womens health

Olive Oil Decreases Blood Pressure in Young Women

August is designated as National Olive Oil Month, and today’s post is the second in recognition of this healthy food. Today we examine the effect of a polyphenol-rich olive oil on blood pressure and the markers of inflammation in young women.

A group of researchers from Spain performed a double blind, randomized dietary intervention trial, to examine the effects of a polyphenol-rich olive oil diet on blood pressure, as well as markers of endothelial function and oxidative stress. The subject group was young women (average age 26 years) who had recently been diagnosed with either high-normal blood pressure, or Stage 1 hypertension.

The subjects began with a four month run-in period, during which a set Mediterranean-style diet was provided to all the participants to follow. After the four month run-in, the women were randomized to either a polyphenol-rich olive oil diet, or a polyphenol-poor olive oil diet, which was then followed for two months. After two months there was a 4 week wash out period, after which the groups were reversed and followed for an additional two months. While in the polyphenol-rich group, participants consumed about 30 mg/day of polyphenols from olive oil. 24 women completed the study.

The researchers discovered that the polyphenol-rich diet let to a significant decrease in both systolic (7.91 mm Hg) and diastolic (6.65 mm Hg) blood pressures. In addition, markers of oxidative stress (ADMA, ox-LDL) and inflammation (CRP) were significantly reduced.

The drop in blood pressure seen with the polyphenol-rich diet is profound, in that it is comparable to the drops in blood pressure one might see with some of the first line anti-hypertensive medications.

This study is important in that it studies a dietary intervention in women, a group that is often underrepresented in medical research. Also, this was a group with high-normal or the earliest stages of hypertension, not a group with more significant disease. It’s possible that in a population with much worse hypertension there may be even more profound improvement in blood pressure.

Incorporating olive oil into your daily diet appears to be a low-risk way to help lower blood pressure and improve vascular health.

“People with high blood pressure, diabetes- those are conditions brought about by lifestyle. If you change the life style, the conditions will leave.”–  Dick Gregory

(Source- American Journal of Hypertension, Volume 25 Number 12, December 2012)

This blog is a review of published and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone.

 

Sugary Drinks Increase Risk of Cancer

In a study published three weeks ago, researchers from France looked at the relationship between the consumption of sugary drinks and the risk of cancer.

The average American consumes about 45 gallons of soda each year. An average 12 ounce can of soda contains upwards of 40 grams of total sugar, or about nine teaspoons of sugar.

A population-based prospective cohort study was completed with over 100,000 subjects from the French NutriNet-Sante study. Participants were 18 years of age and older, with a predominance of women (79%) to men (21%). Mean age at baseline was 42 years.

The sugary drink group consisted of energy drinks, fruit drinks, sodas, sports drinks, 100% juice drinks, among others. Consumption of sugary beverages was assessed by 24 hour dietary records. Association of beverage intake and risk of overall, breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer was assessed.

The researchers found that there was a positive association between the amount of sugary drink intake, and risk of overall cancer and breast cancer. Also, when looking specifically at 100% fruit juices these were also positively associated with risk of overall cancer.

Interestingly, the researchers did not find an association between artificially sweetened beverage consumption and the risk of cancer.

The researchers suggest several possible mechanisms by which sugary drinks may increase cancers risks. These include obesity, increased visceral fat, higher glycemic index, and increased pro-inflammatory markers.

This is a solid study, which included nearly 80,000 women. This study demonstrates how a simple dietary intervention, in this case limiting sugary beverages including 100% juices, may potentially have a meaningful impact on our health. Perhaps next time you are reaching for a soda, grab a glass of water instead.

“I can remember a reporter asking me for a quote, and I didn’t know what a quote was. I thought it was some kind of soft drink.” –  Joe DiMaggio

(Source- BMJ 2019; 365:12408)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

 

Physical Activity Lowers Women’s Heart RIsks

This week is National Women’s Health Week, and in recognition of this important week today’s post will look at a study in older women, examining the effect of physical activity on coronary heart disease.

A research group performed a prospective cohort study from subjects participating in the Women’s Health Initiative. Nearly 6000 women with an average age of 78 1/2 were enrolled, and were followed for up to five years. These were women without a history of heart attack or stroke.

The activity level of the women was measured by the use of a accelerometer that was worn on the right hip. This device is designed to capture measures of subject activity and mobility. Researchers found that light physical activity was associated with a dose-responsive reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease in this cohort of older women. The results were considered to be statistically significant.

The group with the highest quartile of light physical activity was associated with a 42% reduced risk of heart attack or coronary death, compared to the group with the lowest quartile of light physical activity. Similarly, there was a 22% reduced risk of cardiovascular events in the highest quartile of light physical activity, compared to the lowest quartile of light physical activity group.

This was a well-designed study among a group of older women, a group that is often neglected in medical research. This was also a diverse population, including substantial numbers of black (33.5%) and Hispanic (17.6%) women. It is impressive that encouraging more activity, even of the “light” variety, yielded some very substantial results.

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”– Hippocrates

(Source- JAMA Network Open, 2019, 2(3))

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

Mediterranean Diet Good for Women’s Heart Health

May 12-18 is celebrated as National Women’s Health Week, and in recognition of this important week today’s post will examine research studying the effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on cardiovascular risk factors in women.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Mediterranean Diet, it is loosely based on the traditional cooking styles of those countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Some of the important tenants of the diet include eating lots of vegetables and whole grains, using olive oil as a substitute for butter and margarine, eating more fish and less red meat, and choosing nuts as a healthy snack.

In a recently published paper, researchers affiliated with Harvard Medical School examined the effects of a Mediterranean-style diet upon cardiovascular risk factors in a group of women participants. This particular study involved nearly 26,000 women. To assess the women’s dietary habits, a food-frequency questionnaire which included 131 items was administered at enrollment in the study. The researchers then calculated what they termed the “Med Score” for each participant. The Med Score ranged in scale from 0 to 9, with a higher score indicating better adherence to the Mediterranean Diet. The subjects were then placed into three different categories (Low, Medium, High) based on their Med Score. Multiple lab markers were taken as well, including LDL, HDL, CRP, fibrinogen, and lipoprotein (a).

This group of women was then followed for about 12 years. They were monitored for cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. The researchers discovered that the subjects in both the Medium Med Score group and the High Med Score group had significant cardiovascular risk reduction, compared to the Low Med Score group. The risk reduction was 28% in the High Med Score group, and 23% reduction in the Medium Med Score group, compared to the Low Med Score Group.

This is a very well done study, which adds to previous research on the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. This is a large group of women, who were considered healthy at baseline, which is important to note. Here we have a relatively simple dietary modification that had a profound positive impact on women’s cardiovascular health. The Mediterranean Diet seems to be a low-risk diet, that is worthy of consideration by women, and men as well.

“No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.”– Moses Maimonides

(Source- JAMA Network Open, 2018:1(8))

This bog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

 

Poor Dental Health Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Disease in Women

March 20th is World Oral Health Day, and in recognition of this our post today will examine the relationship between periodontitis and cardiovascular disease in post-menopausal women.

Statistics from the CDC indicate that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., accounting for nearly 1 in 4 female deaths. It is estimated that heart disease costs the U.S. about $200 billion annually.

For this study, researchers enrolled 57,000 females from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, between the years 1993-1998. The women were from 40 health centers nationwide, between the ages of 50 to 79. The participants periodontal status was assessed by a questionnaire at five years. There was also annual follow-up through 2010.

Results of the study demonstrated that total mortality risk was significantly higher in women with either edentualism or periodontitis. Also, women who were edentulous had a significantly higher risk of coronary vascular disease and coronary heart disease. These higher risks held even after data was adjusted for potential confounding factors.

This is a very robust study- a large group of post-menopausal women, a cohort that is generally underrepresented in medical research. Given the results of the study, good oral hygiene may be worthy of consideration as a way to potentially lower risk of cardiovascular disease later in life.

On World Oral Health Day, please remember to thank your dentist and hygienist for all their efforts on behalf of your health!

“You don’t have to brush your teeth- just the ones you want to keep.”– Anonymous

(Source- Journal of the American Heart Association, 2017)

This bog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

Eat Your Veggies- Help Your Heart

In recognition of registered dietician nutritionist day, our post today will look at how some dietary factors impact cardiovascular health.

A recent study examined a group of Swedish women and their dietary habits. Nearly 39,000 women completed a 96 item food frequency questionnaire. The questionnaire asked about how certain food or beverages had been consumed over the prior year. Researchers then calculated estimates of the total antioxidant capacity of each respondents diet. Four categories including fruit and vegetable consumption, whole grain consumption, and coffee consumption were used. The participants in the study were followed for approximately ten years. Women in the highest ranking group of total antioxidant capacity of diet, compared to the lowest ranking group, had a 20% lower risk of a heart attack.

This study is an interesting one as it examines a group of women. Women have been typically underrepresented in medical research. This was also a large study of nearly 39,000 subjects, and large is better in this regard.

Finally, which one of us has not encouraged our children to “eat more vegetables”? Now we can add that it is good for their heart as well!

“I eat more vegetables than the average vegetarian.”– Dr. Robert Atkins

(Source- American Journal of Medicine, Vol 125, No. 10, Oct. 2012)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

 

 

Let’s Help Prevent Diabetes in Women-Just Say No to Soda for 2018 Part 3

On Wear Red Day 2018, we will review a recently published study that examined the relationship between beverages, both artificially sweetened and sugar-sweetened, and subsequent development of diabetes, in a group of menopausal women. This is our third recent post regarding the ill effects of drinking soda.

The research group examined data from the Women’s Health Initiative, a massive study of more than 90,000 women spread out at over 40 clinical centers throughout the US. Nearly 65,000 women were eventually part of this prospective observational study, with over 8 years of follow-up on average.

Participants were queried about their intake of artificially sweetened beverages, sugar-sweetened beverages, and plain water, via questionnaires. Subjects were assessed for diabetes at enrollment, and at annual follow-up.

Even when researchers controlled for other risk factors such as body mass index or total energy intake, their analysis showed both artificially sweetened beverages and sugar-sweetened beverages were associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes, in this group of post-menopausal women.

Both artificially sweetened and sugar-sweetened beverages showed a dose-dependent increase risk of diabetes. The more soda one drank, the higher the risk of developing diabetes.

One of the most interesting “take-home messages” from this study was that while the risk of developing diabetes was a bit lower in the artificially sweetened group, compared to the sugar-sweetened group, there still was an increased risk. This casts doubt over whether or not artificially sweetened beverages are a safer alternative to the sugar-sweetened ones. Both should be avoided.

Data from the American Heart association show that adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than those without diabetes. In addition, of those 65 and older with diabetes, 68% will die from some sort of heart disease. So on Wear Red Day 2018 let’s take a step in avoiding diabetes and heart disease by eliminating or avoiding entirely soda, both the artificially and sugar-sweetened varieties.

(Source- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2017; 106)

This blog is a review of medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

Acupuncture to Prevent Migraines

June is designated National Migraine Headache Awareness Month. In recognition of this today’s post is related to the topic of migraine headaches.

A group of researchers in China recently designed a study to investigate the long-term effects of true acupuncture on migraine headaches. A total of 249 subjects with ages from 18 to 65 years old and who had migraine headaches 2-8 times a month were included in the study.

The study lasted 24 weeks, and consisted of 4 weeks of treatment followed by 20 weeks of follow-up. Participants were randomized to a true acupuncture group, a fake acupuncture group, or a control group (wait list). Those in the true and fake acupuncture groups were treated 5 days a week for a total of 20 treatments, usually 30 minutes each visit.

The outcome measure of the study was the change in frequency of migraine headaches from the start of the study until 16 weeks. This was assessed by a migraine diary. A total of four acupuncture points were used for each treatment, two of which were fixed points that were used in each treatment session.

At the end of the study researchers found that in the true acupuncture group the frequency of migraines, number of days with migraines, and pain intensity of migraines was reduced to a greater degree than that in the fake acupuncture or control group.

Two important additional points-  although the acupuncture was only administered for four weeks the benefits last until the end of the study, which was 24 weeks, or 20 weeks after the last session of acupuncture. Also, the study consisted of 77% women, who suffer from migraines disproportionately.

It is estimated that over 37 million people in the U.S. suffer from migraine headaches. These are found most often in folks between the ages of 35 and 55, and are much more common in women than men. Based on the results of this well-designed study perhaps acupuncture should receive more consideration as a prevention strategy for these debilitating headaches.

(Source- JAMA Internal Medicine 2017; 177 (4))

This blog is a review of medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

Curcumin For Knee Arthritis

May is recognized as Arthritis Awareness Month and we will have several posts on arthritis during the month of May.

Curcumin is a spice that has been used since ancient times, often as a coloring agent in Asian foods. Curcumin is an active ingredient of the Asian spice turmeric, which is a member of the ginger family. Turmeric is a widely used spice in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking and is grown in India, Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and elsewhere. Turmeric is also used in Ayurvedic Medicine, and is currently being studied in Western Medicine for possible uses. Curcumin has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. There has been a lot of interest in this spice due to its potential health benefits.

A research group in Thailand recently completed a study of the efficacy of an extract of curcuma domestica in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. A total of 367 subjects enrolled in the study. The participants in the study were primarily female (90%), with a mean age of 60 years. The group receiving the curcuma extract was compared to a similar group which instead received ibuprofen for the knee pain. 

The enrollees in the study were assessed at baseline, at 2 weeks, and at 4 weeks, which was the end of the study. Patients were assessed via a functional pain scale, and a six-minute walk test.

At the end of the four-week study the extract of curcuma domestica was found to be as effective as ibuprofen. The curcuma was generally well tolerated, with few side effects.

(Source- Clinical Interventions in Aging 2014:9)

This blog is a review of medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone.. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

 

High Glycemic Index Diet a Risk Factor for Depression in Post-Menopausal Women

May is National Mental Health Month in the U.S., and in recognition several of this month’s posts will address mental health topics.

In 2015 a group of researchers associated with a number of universities including Columbia, Duke, the University of Minnesota, NYU, Stony Brook University and UC-Davis published a prospective cohort study examining the high glycemic diet as a possible risk factor for depression in post-menopausal women. The research group examined data from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, which included over 80,000 women enrolled at over 40 clinical centers across the U.S.

Participants in the study completed a food frequency questionnaire at baseline, which consisted of 145 items. Participants also completed the Burnam 8-item questionnaire which measured depressive symptoms, both at baseline and then again at 3 year follow-up.

Results of the study showed that a higher glycemic index diet was associated with increasing odds of depression incidence in this group of post-menopausal women. In addition, researchers found that added sugars were strongly associated with depression incidence.

There were some other interesting findings of the study. Increased consumption of lactose, a sugar found in milk, was associated with significantly lower odds for depression incidence. Lactose is a lower glycemic index sugar. Also, both higher dietary fiber content and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables were also associated with lower odds for depression.

The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates on a scale of 0 to 100, based on how they raise glucose levels after eating them. Glucose is given a score of 100. GI scores for some common foods for comparison purposes include 36 (apples), 13 (peanuts), 56 (potato chips), and 111 (baked russet potatoes, a favorite of Idahoans), based on a standard serving size. 

It has been established that diets high in sugars and refined starches are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and increased inflammation, and it is perhaps through this relationship that the risk for depression is increased. 

Depression is a common problem world-wide. The World Health Organization estimates as many as 300 million adults suffer from depression, and it is more common in women. This well-designed study incorporates a large group of women across multiple study sites in the U.S. The results would seem applicable to a large group of post-menopausal women. Monitoring and reducing the glycemic index of one’s daily diet appears to be a simple way to lower the risk for developing depression.

(Source- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2015; 102)

This blog is a review of medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.