Women's Health Watch

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Promising New Treatment for Uterine Fibroids
New research finds that focused ultrasound is a successful treatment for uterine fibroids, the noncancerous tumors that cause problems such as prolonged, heavy menstrual bleeding, severe pelvic pressure and pain, frequent urination, fertility problems, and miscarriage.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic treated 119 women with focused ultrasound, in which a radiologist uses magnetic resonance imaging to guide a tightly focused ultrasound on a fibroid. In follow-up 1 year after treatment, 74% of the women stated their improvement in symptoms was “excellent,” and 16% labeled their improvement “considerable.” The study was presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology annual meeting in March 2010.

Although the treatment has promising results, study author Gina Hesley, MD, notes about 8% of the participants required another form of fibroid treatment within a year. This is about the same percentage of patients who require additional therapy after surgical fibroid procedures, such as myomectomy and uterine fibroid embolization.

The new technique is minimally invasive, relatively painless, and has a quick recovery time when compared with surgical treatments. It is not recommended for women who have very large or numerous fibroids, but it may offer a better chance of preserving fertility than other treatments.


Polluted Air Slows Women in Marathons
Women who run marathons in areas with high air pollution may finish the race with slower times, says a new study published in March 2010 in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Study author Linsey Marr, PhD, of the American College of Sports Medicine, and her colleague analyzed race results, weather conditions, and air pollution data for 7 marathons in the United States. They found that high levels of pollution particles in the air negatively affected race finish times, but high levels of other kinds of pollutants, such as carbon dioxide and ozone, did not.

Marathon runners are more affected by pollutants than nonrunners because “during a race, marathon runners inhale and exhale about the same volume of air as a sedentary person would over the course of 2 full days,” Dr. Marr said. The researchers noted that pollution levels during the marathons were rarely above national safety standards, but finish times were nevertheless affected.


Trimmer Waistlines May Reduce Stroke Risk
A study published in the February 2010 issue of the Archives of Neurology found that women with waist sizes >34 inches have higher levels of the naturally occurring estrogen estradiol, which leads to a greater risk of stroke.

Led by Jennifer Lee, MD, PhD, of the University of California, Davis Health System, the researchers analyzed data from 9700 postmenopausal women originally recruited for an osteoporosis study who were not on hormone therapy. During the 8-year follow-up period, 247 of the women had a stroke, and their medical histories and blood samples were compared with 243 women who did not have a stroke.

The researchers found that women with the highest levels of estradiol had a 6-fold greater risk of stroke than women with lower levels. The correlation between waist size and estradiol levels might exist because fat around the waistline is a source of naturally occurring estrogen. “Reducing waist size would be a good defense against future stroke,” Dr. Lee stated.


Moderate Drinkers Stay Slimmer
A glass of red wine with dinner helps women reduce the risk of becoming obese, according to a new study published in the March 2010 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The researchers studied 19,220 women in the United States aged 38.9 years or older, monitoring their selfreported alcohol consumption and body weight for 13 years. A total of 7346 study participants were nondrinkers, 6312 drank a little each day, 3865 reported drinking a moderate amount, 1129 drank more than average, and 568 ingested an excessive amount of alcohol, defined for the study as 30 g/day or more. The study authors found that the women in the middle range gained the least weight in follow-up.

The inverse association between moderate alcohol consumption and weight gain was strongest for red wine, and weaker but still significant for white wine. The associations were similar regardless of the women’s age, activity level, smoking status, and baseline body mass index. ■


FAST FACT: A low level of “good” high-density lipoprotein cholesterol—below 50 mg/dL—is a bigger health concern for women than elevated “bad” low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.


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