Posted by on September 3, 2015 - 2:39pm

Young and middle-age women whose diet included high levels of anthocyanins -- the flavonoids present in red and blue fruits such as strawberries and blueberries -- had a significantly reduced risk for myocardial infarction (MI), a large prospective study found. Women whose anthocyanin intake was in the highest quintile had a 32% decrease in risk of MI during 18 years of follow-up, according to Eric B. Rimm, ScD, of Harvard University, and colleagues. And in a food-based analysis, women who consumed more than three servings of strawberries or blueberries each week showed a trend towards a lower MI risk, with a 34% decrease compared with women who rarely included these fruits in their diet, the researchers reported online in Circulation.

"Growing evidence supports the beneficial effects of dietary flavonoids on endothelial function and blood pressure, suggesting that flavonoids might be more likely than other dietary factors to lower the risk of [coronary heart disease] in predominantly young women," they observed. A number of preclinical experiments have demonstrated cardioprotective effects of anthocyanins, including anti-inflammatory effects, plaque stabilization, and inhibition of the expression of growth factors. While studies have suggested that MI risk is increased in young and middle-age women who smoke or use oral contraceptives, little is known about the influence of diet in this population, whose risk may differ from that in older women. The younger women may have a greater likelihood of endothelial dysfunction and coronary vasospasm and less obstructive disease. Because dietary flavonoids -- found in vegetables, fruits, wine, and tea -- are recognized as benefiting endothelial function, the researchers looked at outcomes for 93,600 women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study II who reported their consumption of various foods and their lifestyle factors every 4 years.

To read more visit: Cassidy A, et al "High anthocyanin intake is associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction in young and middle-aged women" Circulation 2013; DOI:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.122408.

Posted by on September 1, 2015 - 1:59pm

The truth is, finding accurate information about reproductive health is hard! Indeed, as Ruth Miller, retired sexual health educator, describes it, "women don't understand their fertility," and know that they have periods but don't know about what happens between their periods.  For instance, women have a clear, watery discharge before their period--this is called cervical mucus, but few reproductive health books and professionals tend to talk to women about it.

Cervical mucus is discharded a few days before ovulation and helps sperm live longer as it awaits the release of the egg. Put simply, cervical mucus is a natural fertility agent that a woman's body produces to increase her likelihood of achieving a pregnancy. The consistency of the cervical mucus changes after the egg has been released and died or fertilized. Understanding the purpose of cervical mucus helps women understand the biology behind their own fertility and can help them manage their cycles if they want--or don't want--a pregnancy.

If you're curious about your own reproductive health, check out this free, online course "Introduction to Reproduction," developed by Northwestern University professor Teresa Woodruff, PhD.

Source: Huffington Post

Posted by on August 25, 2015 - 11:16am

Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, still continue to be a serious 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 August 19, 2015 - 3:39pm

Kindara (a fertility app) is a startup that not only helps women track ovulation cycles and fertility, but has also raised $5.3 million in seed funding towards women's health. Kindara was launched in 2012 "as a fertility-tracking app that would prompt women to enter signs like basal temperature and cervical fluid measurements to determine when they're ovulationg," but earlier this year, the company began expanding. Kindara founder Will Sacks said "the healthcare system is ill-equipped to give women good results about how their bodies work, because it doesn't really give them any data," and that is what Kindara is attempting to fix.

Kindara allows women to enter information regarding everything from their temperature and hormone levels to diet and exercise. Over time, the app helps women see correlations between these factors and their fertility. Graphically representing one's health information may help women visualize the ways hormones work within the body. Involving women in analyzing these different variables at play can help them connect their reproductive health to their holistic health. Similarly, Dr. Teresa Woodruff of the Women's Health Research Institute is launching a free online course on September 1st called Introduction to Reproduction where students of any age can learn the biological nuances of reproductive health that impact their daily lives. Hopefully, by effectively utilizing technology we can start to change the landscape of women's health and better educate the intricacies of this field.

Source: Techcrunch

Posted by on August 17, 2015 - 1:39pm

When patients undergo an acute myocardial infarction, lifestyle changes are necessary to reduce the risk of relapse. Yet research shows that women and minority patients have a more difficult time with risk factor modification efforts. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health revealed that 93% of the patients examined had at least one of the five cardiac risk factors evaluated, and of that 93%, black female patients had the greatest risk factor burden of any other subgroup.

The study examined 2,369 patients who were hospitalized for acute myocardial infarction. The cardiac risk factors evaluated were hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, smoking, diabetes, and obesity. These are well established and potentially manageable risk factors that, when mitigated properly, may decrease the development of coronary heart disease, adverse cardiac events, and even mortality.  Why, then, are 93% of patients showing at least one risk factor post-heart attack?

The answer may lie in the disparities in educating and discharging patients after an acute myocardial infarction episode. For instance, the research revealed that black female patients were less likely than white patients to receive lipid-lowering medications and smoking-cessation counseling, and this is merely one example of the inconsistencies associated with patient care.  While this study postulates other possible reasons for the high number of at-risk patients, the purpose of the research is to help target intervention strategies to those groups most affected.  Improving post-AMI preventative strategies will decrease the risk of recurrent events while improving patient health outcomes.  Susan G. Kornstein, MD stated “These findings indicate missed opportunities for both prevention and management of cardiac risk factors, particularly for women and minority patients.” Perhaps with this surfacing research, patient risk factors will no longer be a “missed opportunity,” but rather a preventative priority for clinicians across the globe.

Read more about this research study here.

Posted by on August 12, 2015 - 1:12pm

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

Posted by on August 11, 2015 - 10:51am

John Oliver's recent episode on sex education featured on his show "Last Week Tonight" demonstrates how much farther we need to go to provide adequate information on sex education and reproductive health in our country's schools. Roughly 44% of Americans unknowingly assume sex education is part of the Common Core curriculum, but it is not. In reality, the lack of adequate sex education in high school could lead to incorrect knowledge later on about reproductive health.

Beyond the biology of sex education, there's a feeing that "most adults don't tell the real truth about sex," in the classroom and at home, perpetuating the taboo of sex education. Often when schools do provide sex education, it is conflated with having sex, rather than an understanding of reproductive anatomy and function. Indeed, only 22 states have mandated sex education courses and only 13 states requrire sex education instruction to be medically accurate, troubling statistics! John Oliver states "There is no way we'd allow any other academic program to consistently fail to prepare students for life after school," and he's right. It's time to provide accurate, biologically-sound education surrounding sex and reproductive health. Understanding the biological facets of sex education as well as the social and health-related repercussions better inform students to make more holistic choices regarding their health. Indeed, Dr. Teresa Woodruff at the Women's Health Research Institute is launching a MOOC (a free online course) entitled "Introduction to Reproduction" on September 1, 2015 to better educate a network of students on reproductive health from the biological perspective.

Click Here to watch John Oliver's Episode on Sex Ed

Source: Pacific Standard

Posted by on August 6, 2015 - 4:28pm

You may have heard the buzz this summer about the little pink flibanserin pill, an experimental drug that has been created to boost female libido. This pill, made by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, is the first drug that has claimed to boost female sexual desire and has sparked intense and emotional debates about whether or not the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should approve it. The debate has garnered a lot of media attention and public response, all of which can be confusing and misleading depending on the source. We’re here to synthesize the information. 

What is flibanserin?

Flibanserin is the pill that targets lost libido in pre-menopausal women by enhancing sexual desire and decreasing emotional distress. The experimental drug has often been referred to as “female Viagra.” This nickname, however, is misleading as the two drugs work in completely different ways. Viagra helps men get and keep an erection by increasing the blood flow to the penis. In contrast, flibanserin targets the brain, not the genitals.

Specifically, the drug shifts the balance of three key chemicals in the brain: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and is increased by the drug to help increase interest in sex. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that helps the brain control our attention and focus. The targeting and increase of these two chemicals is said to increase the “excitatory factors for sex.” The drug also decreases serotonin, which is known to decrease sex drive.

The Debates

Before this year, flibanserin has been rejected twice by the FDA. The first rejection occurred in 2010 over both concerns of the cited side effects, which included nausea, dizziness, and sleepiness as well as its limited effectiveness shown in clinical trials. Three years later in 2013, the drug was rejected again for continuing to show limited benefits to patients – the agency said that additional studies needed to be conducted to show that the benefit of the drug outweighed the risks.

At the beginning of June 2015, the drug was once again brought before the advisory committee of the FDA and the committee voted in favor of approving the pill as long as there are significant measures in place to make sure that women are aware of the risks and side effects. While the committee did vote in favor, the debate continues to grow about whether or not the FDA should follow the committee’s suggestion.

The first point is that the benefits of the drug are controversial. Clinical trials of flibanserin reported that women who took the drug had an average increase of 1.0 more satisfying sexual events per month than women who took a placebo. The effectiveness, therefore, is debated: some people say that one extra episode of satisfying sex per month is significant, while others say it is not enough of an increase to be deemed effective.

A second point of debate is regarding the side effects of the drug. Every drug has side effects and the listed ones for flibanserin include sleepiness, nausea, and dizziness. There are also reports of fainting and drowsiness, which has been shown to lead to a higher risk of accidents, and there are concerns about the potential increases risk for these side effects when the drug is combined with alcohol. Another area of concern that has been expressed is that it is unknown whether flibanserin interferes with SSRI antidepressants, such as Prozac, which boost serotonin levels in the brain.

One of the most pressing risks identified by people who are wary about the drug is the unknown long-term health risk. The clinical trials were too short to identify the possible long-term risks of taking the pill daily.

The other big debate surrounds the idea that the campaign for this drug is oversimplifying female sexuality and changing sexuality into a medical problem. According to Adriane Fugh-Berman, who studies drug companies at Georgetown University, this is seen as part of a larger trend in the United States of pharmaceutical companies “medicalizing the normal human experience” and turning “everything into a disease that needs a pill.” It is not uncommon for women to have symptoms of low libido and some argue that medication is not the answer for everyone. Low libido can be the symptom of many different issues to which flibanserin might not be the best solution, including fluctuating hormones, depression, fatigue, stress, interpersonal dynamics with a partner, and lack of foreplay, among other pharmacological, psychological, and physical issues. People on the other side of the debate argue that since women, unlike men, do not yet have a medication that addresses low sex drive, the approval of flibanserin is crucial for this scientific and societal breakthrough for women.

As you can see, the debate is complicated. While many organizations are pushing the pill in order to give women the first libido pill, others are hesitant that there is not enough data for women to make informed decisions about taking the pill. The FDA is set to make its final decision on or before August 18th.





New York Times 

Sprout Pharmaceuticals


Science Alert

Posted by on August 5, 2015 - 4:24pm

By Rachel Lombard

Research indicates that about 18% of women suffer from migraines, compared to only 6% of men, and the reason could lie in hormonal changes. Many women notice a relationship between their hormonal changes and their migraines. The trigger could be due to a drop in the level of estragon immediately before the start of one’s menstrual flow. Below are some tips for women on how to best prevent or treat their migraines.

Manage migraines during menstruation:

  • Take a cold wet cloth or an ice pack surrounded by a dry cloth and place on forehead in the painful area
  • Stay hydrated with plenty of water
  • Try breathing and relaxation exercises which can lower stress and lessen the symptoms of a headache
  • Take over the counter pain relievers such as  ibuprofen starting two days before  menses until the end of the flow
  • See a doctor who can prescribe other medications that could help relieve symptoms such as Triptans

Manage migraines when on oral contraceptives:

Some women may experience an increase in migraines when they begin taking oral contraceptives. Oral contraceptives can have many different formulations with various estrogen and progesterone levels. If you have menstrual migraines and take oral contraceptives it may be best to talk to your doctor about options that could help relieve your migraines. Possible options to consider:

  • Take a pill with less inactive placebo days
  • Decrease the drop in estragon on inactive days by taking a pill with a lower dose of estragon
  • Wear an estrogen patch or take estragon pills on inactive days

The exact correlation between hormone levels and migraines is still being explored, but it is important to identify signs and symptoms of migraines induced by hormonal changes.



Mayo Clinic

Migraine Research Foundation

Headache Help

Posted by on August 3, 2015 - 10:29am

“Remember to wipe front to back.” “Always pee after having sex.” “Drink lots of cranberry juice!” You’ve probably heard all of these tips before. But what are people trying to help you prevent? The answer is simple: urinary tract infections (UTIs).

A UTI is an infection anywhere in your urinary tract. The urinary tract is made up of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra, all of which work together to make and store urine and then remove it from the body. The urinary system is designed to keep out fungi, viruses, and bacteria. However, sometimes the body’s defenses fail and bacteria enter the urinary tract and cause an infection.

Women are more likely to get UTIs than men are: about half of women will get a UTI at some point in their life. The reason for this has to do with biology. First, a woman’s urethra is much closer to her anus than a man’s is, which makes it easier for bacteria to reach her urethra. Second, once the bacteria is at a woman’s urethra, it has easier access into the bladder as a woman’s urethra is much shorter than a man’s. There are many different ways bacteria can get to the urethra. Wiping from back to front, waiting too long to pass urine, having sex, and having a catheter can all enable bacteria to get to the urethra.

The most common symptoms of UTIs are a strong, persistent urge to urinate, passing frequent and small amounts of urine, stinging or burning when you urinate, pressure in your back or lower abdomen, and urine that smells bad or is milky, cloudy or reddish in color. UTIs are treated easily with antibiotics and most people begin to feel better within one or two days. However, if you do not get treated for a UTI, the infection can spread to your kidneys and cause serious problems in the rest of your body.

Around 1 in 5 women experience a second UTI and some women get three or more urinary tract infections per year. This is common as some women are more prone to these infections due to genetic predispositions or abnormalities in the structure of the urinary tract. If you suffer from chronic UTIs, ask your doctor about a treatment plan.

In regards to widely held belief that drinking cranberry juice can prevent and treat UTIs, the research is conflicting. While there is a an active ingredient in cranberries, that helps prevent bacteria from attaching to the wall of the bladder, studies show that cranberry juice and other cranberry supplements do not contain enough of this ingredient to actually prevent the bacteria from sticking. Talk to your doctor before using cranberry juice as a treatment for a urinary tract infection.

Take these steps to reduce your risk of UTIs:

  • Urinate when you need to – don’t hold it
  • Wipe from front to back
  • Drink plenty of water every day and after sex
  • Urinate after sex
  • Avoid douches and feminine hygiene sprays
  • If you use a diaphragm or spermicidal jelly for birth control, both of which can increase bacteria growth, consider switching to another method



Mayo Clinic

US Office on Women’s Health