Women's Health Watch

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Decline in HRT Mirrors Reduction in Heart Attacks
A new study found that the decline in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to treat symptoms of menopause also reflected a drop in the rate of heart attack. The result was not the same in the rates of stroke, according to findings reported in the May 2009 issue of Medical Care. The use of HRT decreased after a 2002 study showed the therapy increased the risk of heart attack.

The findings were based on US death records, hospital discharge data, and national surveys of medication use between 1990 and 2005 for women aged 40 to 79. Nieca Goldberg, MD, a cardiologist at Total Heart Care in New York City, said that the decrease in heart attacks could be attributed to factors other than reduced use of HRT.

"The lower rate of heart attacks may be due to better screening for heart disease risk factors and better awareness of women's heart attack symptoms by physicians," she said. "It's premature to attribute the decline in heart attacks to the decline in hormone therapy."


Effects of Smoking More Severe for Women

Women may be more susceptible to carcinogens in cigarettes, compared with men. Data on 683 individuals with lung cancer who had been referred to a lung cancer center between 2000 and 2005 showed that women tended to be younger when they developed cancer, despite smoking considerably fewer cigarettes than men. The study was presented at the recent European Multidisciplinary Conference in Thoracic Oncology.

"Lung cancer is not only a man's disease, but women tend to be much more aware of other cancers, such as breast cancer," said Enriqueta Felip, MD, cochair of the conference. "Several case-control studies seem to suggest that women are more vulnerable to tobacco carcinogens than men."


Pregnant Women: Rethink Coffee Consumption
A Norwegian study found that women who drink coffee in early pregnancy have a slightly increased risk of having a baby with cleft lip. One of the researchers noted, however, that the findings should not be a cause for alarm.

The study included 573 women who had babies with cleft lip with or without cleft palate or cleft palate alone and 763 women whose children were born without orofacial clefts. Reporting in the May 15, 2009, issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers found that the women who drank up to 3 cups of coffee during their first trimester were 1.39 times more likely to have a baby with a cleft lip with or without cleft palate. The risk increased 1.59-fold for women who consumed 3 or more cups of coffee a day.


OAB Negatively Impacts Women's Lives
A nationwide survey of women aged 40 to 65 indicated the symptoms of overactive bladder (OAB) compromised their lives. Women with OAB reported feeling physically normal less often than women in this age group overall-56% of the time for women with the condition, compared with 71% of women in general.

The women also reported lower levels of normalcy in other areas of their lives, including relationships with friends and family and emotional state. Of the women with OAB, 78% have sought treatment because they were frustrated with living with the symptoms. Nearly half of the women with OAB (49%) believe they will never be able to completely control their symptoms.


Women Postpone Pregnancy, Blame Economy
The bad economy is causing women to delay getting pregnant and putting off their annual gynecologic exams, found a Gallup survey of women aged 18 to 44.

The survey indicated that 1 in 5 women said they were more worried today than a year ago about having an unintended pregnancy. Also, 1 in 5 women said they were trying to be more disciplined in taking their birth control to prevent pregnancy. Of the married respondents, 1 in 10 reported that the economy was a factor in their decision to delay having a baby.

Furthermore, the survey showed that 3% stopped taking birth control because of cost. The number doubled for women using hormonal contraceptives, such as birth control pills and contraceptive implants. Of the 12% of respondents who changed birth control methods, 14% switched to a cheaper contraceptive.

FAST FACT: Overactive bladder affects 33 million Americans with >75% of them being women.