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Women's Health Watch

Women's Health Watch

Published Online: Sunday, July 1, 2007   [ Request Print ]

Moderate Alcohol May Lower Heart Risks in Women

A recent study shows that women who drink moderate amounts of alcohol might reduce their risk of nonfatal heart attack. Researchers from the State University of New York at Buffalo studied 320 women, aged 35 to 69 years, who had experienced heart attacks, and compared them with 1565 similarly aged women who had not.

The scientists recorded information on smoking, diet, physical activity, and other health-related factors, including alcohol intake. After adjusting for age, race, education, smoking, and body mass index, they found that women who had an average of one alcoholic drink per day had a 31% reduced risk of nonfatal heart attack, compared with women who drank less.

The researchers noted, however, that all women who drank any amount of alcohol and who became drunk even once a month (drunk was defined as drinking enough to cause slurred speech or unsteady gait) raised their risk of a heart attack by almost 6 times. The researchers concluded that, while they did not recommend alcohol to women who did not already drink, those who drank were not harmed by moderate amounts. The findings were published in the May 2007 issue of Addiction.

 

Vitamin D Plus Calcium Could Lower Cancer Risk

A study from Harvard Medical School (Boston, Mass) suggests that premenopausal women who get plenty of vitamin D and calcium, whether through diet or supplementation, may cut their risk of developing breast cancer by almost one third.

The researchers collected data on 10,578 premenopausal women and 20,909 postmenopausal women, aged 45 years and older, who were taking part in the Women's Health Study. The information included what they ate and the dietary supplements they took. Over an average of 10 years, 276 premenopausal women and 743 postmenopausal women developed breast cancer.

The researchers noted that women who had not yet gone through menopause who also had a high intake of vitamin D and calcium - more than 948 units and 1366 mg, respectively - were 30% less likely to develop breast cancer than their peers who had lower intakes (<617 mg of calcium and <162 units of vitamin D). The finding did not apply to postmenopausal women, however.

The researchers suggested that, while the combination of vitamin D and calcium may offer protection against the cancer, more studies are needed to confirm the information. The findings were published in the May 28, 2007, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

 

Soy Nuts Can Help Lower Women's BP

Baked soybeans, or soy nuts, can help postmenopausal women lower their blood pressure (BP), according to a recent study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Mass.

For 4 weeks, 60 women, average age 53 years, were placed on a low-cholesterol diet that provided 30% of energy from fat, 15% from protein, and 55% from carbohydrates. After the 4 weeks, the researchers randomly divided the women into 2 groups for an 8-week test to study the effects of soy on BP.

The first group continued on the same diet; the second replaced part of the protein they consumed with 4 oz of unsalted soy nuts per day. Women who had started the study with hypertension saw a 9.9% decrease in systolic BP and a 6.8% decrease in diastolic BP; women with normal BP readings at study start experienced systolic and diastolic BP reductions of 5.2% and 2.9%, respectively. Women with high BP also lowered their levels of low-density lipoproteins, while women with normal BP did not. The researchers suggest that the isoflavone content of the soy diet may account for the BP-lowering effect. The results were published in the May 28, 2007, issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

 

One Third of Ovarian Cancer Patients Receive Poor Treatment

Researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle reported that 1 in every 3 ovarian cancer patients in the United States does not get the recommended comprehensive surgery. Women over the age of 70, African American women, Hispanic American women, and patients on Medicaid were at greatest risk for being undertreated for the cancer, which is extremely deadly because it shows few clear symptoms in the early stages and is often detected only after it has spread. Research has shown that aggressive surgery and chemotherapy can effectively treat ovarian cancer, however. The researchers looked at hospital records in 9 states nationwide and noticed that care for the cancer varied greatly from state to state. They found that only 67% of the 10,432 cases they reviewed included the recommended comprehensive surgical procedures. One third of the women were treated at a hospital that performed fewer than 10 ovarian cancer operations a year. The researchers also found that women treated at facilities which did not specialize in cancer were undertreated. Their findings were reported in the April 1, 2007, issue of the journal Cancer.

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