Pharmacy Times

Women’s Health Watch

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Don’t Ignore Heavy Periods
Researchers have released new guidelines aimed at physicians and women to help recognize signs of bleeding disorders, which often go undiagnosed.

“Too often, women think heavy bleeding is OK because the women in their family—who may also have an undiagnosed bleeding disorder—have heavy periods as well,” said the study’s lead author Andra James, MD. “We want women who continually experience abnormal reproductive tract bleeding, specifically heavy menstrual bleeding, to be alert to these other signs and approach their physicians about being evaluated.”

The recommendations, which appeared in the July 2009 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, include:

• A personal history of heavy periods

• Blood disorders in family members

• Bruises when no injury has occurred

• Bleeding for >5 minutes with minor wounds

• Excessive or prolonged bleeding after dental extractions

• Hemorrhaging that requires blood transfusions


FAST FACT: The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that 27.2 million women are estimated to have low bone mass.


Take Multivitamins to Live Longer
Women may prolong life by taking multivitamins. The study, reported in the June 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that multivitamins prevent parts of women’s DNA from shortening. The telomeres (the end portion of chromosomes) protect chromosomes from damage. Because telomeres shorten to some extent when cells divide, the researchers hypothesized that stopping this shortening could protect new cells, thereby reducing the effects of aging.

The researchers based their findings on an analysis of 586 women participating in the Sisters Study. The women were asked about their vitamin supplement use over a 12-year span. The scientists also took blood samples and tested DNA. The study results indicated that multivitamin use was linked with longer leukocyte telomeres. 

Osteoporosis Therapy Adherence Helps Avoid Fracture
A CVS Caremark study that analyzed women diagnosed with osteoporosis over a 2-year period found that 87% of women aged 18 and older, who were taking medication to treat the disease, did not experience a fracture during the study’s duration. The study also found that untreated women <65 years of age were 5.7 times more prone to have a fracture, compared with women treated with bisphosphonate, estrogen, or other hormone-related osteoporosis therapy.  

Menopause Slows the Brain Temporarily
Women entering menopause who notice their brains not working as well should not be alarmed—it is only temporary. The 4-year study involved >2300 women aged 42 to 52.

The study included women who were still menstruating regularly, had completed menopause, or were in perimenopause. The women were given a series of tests to determine cognitive skills. The tests measured memory and how quickly they processed information. The researchers found that when it came to processing speed, all the women, except those in the late perimenopausal stage, improved their scores after repeatedly taking the test. Similar findings were seen with verbal memory tests.

Reporting in the May 2009 issue of Neurology, the researchers concluded that the differences between the women were a matter of some failing to improve as much as others over time. The women with lower scores as they entered menopause did better after it.

Women in Clinical Trials: Too Few
An analysis on all original clinical cancer research published in 2006 in 5 major cancer journals showed that women are underrepresented in clinical cancer research. The study, which included >1 million participants, examined 661 prospective studies about types of cancer that affect both men and women at relatively equal rates.

The research indicated that women made up 37% of participants in studies not receiving government funding, compared with 41% of women in government-funded studies. Barriers to clinical participation include lack of information and the perception that the studies will interfere with personal responsibilities. Furthermore, researchers have been told to avoid involving vulnerable populations in their studies (eg, women of childbearing age).