Posted by on May 27, 2010 - 12:52pm

May 31st is World No Tobacco Day—an annual awareness day sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 1987 to draw worldwide attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes. The theme for this year's World No Tobacco Day is "gender and tobacco, with an emphasis on marketing to women."   Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide and is estimated to kill more than 5 million people each year.

Although women account for only about 20% of the world's 1 billion smokers, female tobacco use is on the rise. In the US., 17.4% of adult women smoke.  Particularly troubling is evidence that tobacco industry advertising increasingly targets girls and women. World No Tobacco Day 2010 recognizes the importance of controlling the epidemic of tobacco use among women. This year's theme emphasizes the importance of understanding gender differences in tobacco use, advertising, and health effects to protect and promote the health of women and girls worldwide.

Cigarette smoking kills more than 173,000 women in the United States each year. In addition to the risks both men and women face from smoking, women are at risk for a unique set of complications, including certain cancers and problems with fertility and pregnancy. Even with all these risks, many women continue to smoke cigarettes. This may be because cigarettes contain a very addictive chemical called nicotine. "Nicotine is highly addictive, and smoking should be treated as a chronic, relapsing medical condition," explains Carol Southard, RN, MSN, and tobacco treatment specialist with the Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group at the Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness.

"Seeing your health care provider is an important first step and can be a good source of support to discuss options to help you stop smoking. There are seven FDA approved medications to help people quit smoking. Medications constitute an important cessation intervention, and it is recommended that clinicians should encourage every patient willing to make a quit attempt to use medication and counseling treatments. By using some of the medications, you may be able to at least double your chance of quitting," adds Southard.

Posted by on May 21, 2010 - 12:34pm

The results of a study were recently released that examined the best strategy to wean college-age women who are considered addicted or pathological tanners from tanning salons.   "They're not worried about skin cancer, but they are worried about getting wrinkled and being unattractive," said June Robinson, a professor of dermatology at Northwestern University and senior author of a May 17 paper in Archives of Dermatology. "The fear of looking horrible trumped everything else," said Robinson.

Between 25 to 40 percent of older adolescent girls visit tanning salons, according to the study's authors and they and other scientists link the rapidly rising rates of melanoma and other skin cancers in young women to tanning beds.  The National Cancer Institute reports that melanoma rates among Caucasian women aged 15-39 rose 50% between 1980 and 2004.  The World Health Organization recently reclassified indoor tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category.

The study included 435 college women who visited tanning salons up to four times a week.  The study results surprised the researchers.  Click here for full  press release.

Source:  Marla Paul, Northwestern University Newscenter.

Posted by on May 19, 2010 - 8:00am

You may have seen the cover article on our Spring Newsletter titled “Spotlight on Obesity: Is it just your weight?”  This article focuses not only on the epidemic of obesity in the U.S. but also on the serious health conditions that may result from obesity.  Although obesity is on the rise, however, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia still continue to be a problem, especially in women.  According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (2003) 90 percent of individuals with eating disorders are women between the ages of 12 and 25.  Eating disorders are closely correlated with depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders, so it is important to diagnose and treat early.

The most common disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating.  You may already be familiar with these disorders, but they are listed below along with some the complications that may arise.

Anorexia nervosa is a disorder categorized by obsession with weight and food causing individuals to starve themselves or to exercise excessively in order to maintain a weight typically far below the normal weight range for their height and age.  Complications of anorexia include, heart problems, anemia, permanent bone loss, malnourishment, absent menstruation and death.

Bulimia nervosa is categorized by periods of binge eating followed by vomiting or excessive exercise to get rid of extra calories or weight.  Individuals with bulimia are similarly obsessed with weight and food.  Both disorders are closely tied to self-image and thus may be difficult to treat.  Complications of bulimia include heart problems, digestive problems, tooth decay, absent menstruation and death.

Binge-eating disorder is still not considered a psychiatric condition, but may be treated similarly to bulimia and anorexia.  Binge-eaters tend to consume unusually large amounts of food on a consistent basis.  This disorder may lead to obesity and complications associate with obesity such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.  In addition binge-eating disorder can cause psychological problems such as depression and suicidal thoughts.

Although the term eating disorder usually means one of the three disorders listed above, the term disordered eating is used to describe a variety of eating abnormalities that do not necessarily fall into, or are not severe enough to be categorized as one of the typical eating disorders.  Disordered eating may not be as serious in terms of complications, but it may lead to more serious eating disorders if left untreated or unaddressed.  According to a survey conducted by Self Magazine and the University of North Carolina, as many as 65% of American women between 25 and 45 exhibit disordered eating behaviors.  Women should not be afraid to seek help for issues they may have with eating, even if they do not think it is a severe eating disorder.  As peers, we should be supportive of women who are suffering from these diseases, and help them to overcome their issues.

Posted by on May 17, 2010 - 10:16am

dopamine molecule

Several recent press releases from the National Institutes of Health have focused on new findings from scientists at Yale who have demonstrated that when endometrial stem cells were injected into the brains of mice with a laboratory-induced form of Parkinson's disease, they appeared to take over the functioning of brain cells destroyed by the disease.   The stem cells were obtained from endometrial tissue from nine women who did not have Parkinson's.   In the laboratory, the researchers verified that the unspecialized endometrial stem cells could be transformed into dopamine-producing nerve cells like those found in the brain.   When these cells were injected into the brains of Parkinson's mice the cells migrated to the site of the damage and developed into dopamine-producing cells.

This finding raises the possibility that women with Parkinson's disease could serve as their own stem cell donors.   Similarly, because endometrial stem cells are readily available and easy to collect, banks of endometrial stem cells could be stored for men and women.

Parkinson's disease results from a loss of brain cells that produce the chemical messenger dopamine, which aids in the transmission of brain signals that coordinate movement. Endometrial cells are found in the lining of the uterus and the range of possibilities for using these cells is very exciting.

The findings appear online in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

The study's authors were Erin F. Wolff, Xiao-Bing Gao, Katherine V. Yao, Zane B. Andrews, Hongling Du, John D. Elsworth and Hugh S. Taylor, all of Yale University School of Medicine.

Posted by on May 13, 2010 - 2:22pm

Last night, the Institute for Women's Health Research held is first grassroots social event in Chicago.   More than 120 women (and a few brave men) turned  out  to network with each other, learn about the state of women's health research and enjoy Chicago comedienne Patti Vasquez.  Patti's humor resonated with the multi-generational audience with jokes focusing on everything from teenage antics,  pregnancy, mother-daughter relationships and growing up in a mixed family (Mexican/Irish).   Women came from the city as well as the southern, western and northern suburbs to attend and many of them were truly energized about the Institute and what it is accomplishing.   It was fun to see pioneer  Sally Rynne there, who opened the very first free standing women's clinic in Chicago over 30 years ago!   She told me she was delighted to see women's health advocacy alive and well.  When she found out about our Illinois Women's Health Registry two years ago, she said she signed up immediately because this was a tool that was long overdue.    Special thanks to Kirkland and Ellis Foundation who were a contributing supporter of this event.    Make sure you check our web site for future events!

Posted by on May 11, 2010 - 1:44pm

Nicole Miles learning how to take blood pressure during a Oncofertility Saturday Academy module in 2008. Nicole is now a sophomore at Smith College with the goal of applying to medical school.

The Oncofertility Summer Research Fellowship 2010 selected three Oncofertility Saturday Academy alumni students to provide them with ongoing support to pursue their academic and career goals.  Nicole Miles, Shaquita Webster, and Megan Romero will be working in Dr. Teresa Woodruff’s laboratory alongside basic research scientists this summer for eight weeks.  Student fellows will be involved in conducting biological research in the field of Oncofertility.  Fellows will take part in day-to-day lab operations, attend weekly meetings, and learn cutting-edge biotechnology techniques while assisting with research on a NIH-funded project.  Fellows will be writing papers detailing the results of their research as a required portion of this fellowship. In addition, students will aid in the planning of and assist with the inaugural Infectious Diseases Saturday Academy program.

The three fellows have a variety of science interests and career aspirations.  Nicole Miles is a sophomore at Smith College and taking the prerequisite courses to apply for medical school to become an OB/GYN clinician.  Shaquita Webster is a freshman at Spelman College who took a couple biology courses this year.  Shaquita is anticipating that the summer fellowship will support her to make the decision to pursue a career in reproductive physiology.  Megan Romero is returning for her second year of the fellowship.  As an experienced student fellow, she will provide additional leadership and guidance to Nicole and Shaquita.  Megan will be transferring to a university in Florida with an accredited forensic science program next fall to start her junior year in college.

The Oncofertility Summer Research Fellowship is a continuation of the Oncofertlity Saturday Academy for the fellows.  The Oncofertility Saturday Academy recruits high school girls who are curious about science to increase the number of girls and minorities entering the “science pipeline.”  The Oncofertility Summer Research Fellowship retains the girls to keep them in the “science pipeline” as they transition from high school to college.

Posted by on May 11, 2010 - 11:22am

Northwestern's Institute for Women's Health Research is celebrating National Women's Health Week with our Stand Up For Women's Health Event tomorrow evening, May 12, at 6 PM.  You can get more information here, but we are looking forward to a great night of comedy with one of Chicago's finest comediennes, Patti Vasquez.

National Women's Health Week is a weeklong health observance coordinated by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women's Health.  From their website: "National Women's Health Week empowers women to make their health a top priority.  With the theme "Its Your Time," the nationwide initiative encourages women to take simple steps for a longer, healthier, and happier life."

The Institute for Women's Health Research encourage you to celebrate National Women's Health Week by signing up for the Illinois Women's Health Registry (click for link).  Thirty minutes of your time can change the course of women's health in Illinois.  Isn't that a great way to take charge of your own health?

Posted by on May 11, 2010 - 11:22am

Sharon Green, Executive Director of the Institute for Women's Health Research

In celebration of National Women's Health Week, Sharon Green, Executive Director for the Institute for Women's Health Research at Northwestern will be appearing on the Steve Cochran Show, WGN-AM radio 720 in Chicago, during the 1:30-3:30 PM slot.  She will be talking about the importance of focusing research on sex and gender differences.  You can listen through the WGN website, here.

She will be joined by Patti Vasquez, a well known Chicago Comedienne who will be performing Wednesday, May 12 at the Chicago Center for the Performing arts to help raise awareness and funds for the Institute.  For ticket information or to make reservations, call 312-503-2421.

Posted by on May 11, 2010 - 11:01am

Posted by on May 5, 2010 - 4:55pm

A recent article by Appel and Anderson in the New England Journal of Medicine, reaffirms previous studies that have suggested that salt intake reduction can be a highly effective, inexpensive way to reduce deaths due to heart disease and stroke.  Table salt is 40% sodium and 60% chloride and the maximum recommended levels of sodium is 2300 mg per day (about 1 teaspoon of salt).   The mean intake of salt (reported as sodium on food labels)  in the United States is very high and far above the recommended levels.   Unfortunately, American men average a consumption of between 3100-4700 mg. of sodium per day; women range 2300-3100 mg.

It is well known that sodium plays a role in developing high blood pressure (hypertension) and that high salt at an early age may enhance our propensity to high blood pressure in certain populations as we age. It is the sodium part of table salt that is significant.   In an earlier blog on sugar, we mentioned that sugar occurs naturally in certain foods. The same is true for sodium.   One of the ways we can lower salt intake is to simply cook with less salt and not salt the food once it gets put on our plates.  However, about 75% of our dietary salt comes from processed foods that contain the mineral before we even prepare it.   A good example is the tomato.    A fresh tomato naturally has 14 mg. of sodium; a cup of canned tomato soup has 932 mg. of sodium per cup (depending on manufacturer).   Another example:  3 ounces of fresh tuna has 50 mg. sodium and the same amount of canned tuna has 384 mg. sodium.   Part of the challenge is to convince policy makers and the public at large that prevention in the long run is much cheaper than the treatment of heart diseases and stroke.

According to the authors cited above, a national effort to reduce daily sodium intake by 1200 mg. could annually reduce the number of new cases of coronary heart disease by 60,000-120,000 and there also would be significant reductions in new cases of stroke and heart attack.    Sound like a simple fix?  This would involve major changes in the food industry, our lifestyles and our cooking patterns.   While people already impacted by these chronic health conditions may adapt, would people who are currently healthy be inclined to pass up a piece of grandma's apple pie for a fresh picked apple?

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