Women's Health Watch

SEPTEMBER 01, 2007

Weight Loss Before Middle Age May Thwart Diabetes

Researchers in Australia have concluded that women who are overweight or obese and want to fend off diabetes should strive to lose those extra pounds before reaching middle age. They found that a woman?s body mass index (BMI) in her late 40s was the strongest indicator of a future risk of developing diabetes in the next 8 years. Surprisingly, there was no link between weight loss in later years and the likelihood of developing the disease. The findings were published in the June 2007 issue of Diabetes Care.

Investigators from the University of Queensland looked at data from 7239 middle-aged (45 to 50 years) women who were participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women?s Health. The women completed health surveys at the start of the study and again at 2-, 5-, and 8-year intervals.

Those women with a BMI of =25 at study start (indicating being overweight or obese) were at the highest risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the following 8 years. Women with a BMI of =35 had a risk 12 times greater than their normal-weight peers of developing the disease. The researchers urged that ?public health initiatives should target the prevention of weight gain before and during early adulthood? to help stave off future occurrences of diabetes.

Older Women with Poor Memory Also Can Have Poor Sleep

Aging women with memory problems are more likely to also have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep than those without memory problems, according to a recent study. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, studied almost 2500 women, average age 69 years, who had no signs of memory problems at the beginning of the study. The women took cognitive tests over a period of 15 years, and at the end of the study they were assessed for problems with sleeping.

The results showed that women who experienced signs of mental decline ?were nearly twice as likely to have difficulty staying asleep and one-and-a-half times as likely to have problems falling asleep and being awake for more than 90 minutes during their sleep cycle,? the study author stated. Women who showed cognitive decline on even one of the tests also were almost twice as likely to take a nap longer than 2 hours during the day.

Researchers speculate that the relationship between the 2 could be the ?brain changes seen in Alzheimer?s disease or other dementias that could increase risk of both memory loss and sleep problems.? Their findings were published in the July 17, 2007, issue of Neurology.

Younger Smokers Raise Their Breast Cancer Risk

The effects of cigarette smoking on the development of breast cancer may be greatest in younger women who have not yet had children. Although there is not a specific link between breast cancer and smoking, recent research has connected smoking in youth to a greater risk of the disease, according to findings published in the July 1, 2007, issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The investigators studied 56,042 women who were participating in a long-term study of radiologic technologists and were free of cancer when they were surveyed at the start of the study (between 1983 and 1993). Before the second survey took place (between 1994 and 1998), 906 women developed breast cancer.

Among women who had children, the amount they smoked before having their firstborn was linked to the risk of developing the cancer.

Women who had smoked for 10 pack-years (number of packs per day times number of years as a smoker), for example, were 78% more likely to develop breast cancer than those women who had never smoked. No relationship was found between smoking after the birth of the first child and breast cancer risk, however.

Smoking May Hasten Menopause

Researchers have found that women who smoke are more likely to experience the onset of menopause before the age of 45 years, which makes them more susceptible to osteoporosis and heart disease. Women who smoked in the past, however, and quit at least 10 years before their menopause began, or before they reached middle age, were less likely to begin their ?change of life? before 45 than whose who currently smoke.

Investigators at the University of Oslo in Norway studied a group of 2123 women aged either 59 or 60 years who were participating in the Oslo Health Study. They found that those who smoked were 59% more likely to have early menopause. The researchers also found that passive smoking, as well as alcohol and coffee consumption, had no significant effect on early menopause. They concluded that, ?the earlier a woman stops smoking, the more protection she derives with respect to an early onset of menopause.? The study was published in the July 7, 2007, issue of BMC Public Health.