MARCH 01, 2008

Hyperglycemia Raises Women's Heart Disease Risk

A new study found that higher blood sugar levels in women can signal a higher risk of heart disease. The study found that heart disease risk for women occurs at lower blood sugar levels than for men. Also, for any blood sugar level, women have a greater risk of developing diabetes than men. The findings were published in the January 22, 2008, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Researchers with the Framingham Heart Study collected data on 4058 men and women who were children of the original Framingham participants. Using the new guidelines for defining high blood sugar (between 100 and 125 mg/dL), they found that the higher the participant's blood sugar level was at the start of the study, the greater the chance of developing heart disease. The researchers also found that women whose blood sugar was at the level determined by the older guidelines (between 110 and 125 mg/dL) had the same risk of developing heart disease as women diagnosed with diabetes.

Obesity, Depression Go Hand in Hand

A study by the Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, Washington, has found that many middle-aged women live with obesity and depression simultaneously, and in most cases one condition helps to fuel the other.Women diagnosed with clinical depression were more than twice as likely to be obese (have a body mass index [BMI] of 30 or more) as their nondepressed counterparts. Conversely, obese women were more than twice as likely to be depressed, compared with nonobese women. The link between the 2 conditions remained regardless of other factors, such as marital status, education, tobacco use, and antidepressant use.

The researchers also found that women with BMIs of 30 or higher were less likely to exercise, had the poorest body image, and consumed 20% more calories than women with lower BMIs. The findings were published in the January/February 2008 issue of the journal General Hospital Psychiatry.

Menopause Symptoms Fade With Time

Women who experience headaches, irritability, and mood swings during the onset of menopause might be heartened to know that these symptoms could lessen as menopause progresses. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania suggests that, in spite of the belief that menopause symptoms get worse with time, "a number of women will find relief once menopause is reached." The findings appear in the January 2008 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Researchers followed the progress of 404 women, aged 35 to 47 years, for 9 years to study how average menopause symptoms, as well as concentration problems and anxiety, might change during menopause. They saw that women who tended to have headaches, irritability, and mood swings experienced a decrease in these symptoms as menopause drew nearer. The researchers suspect a correlation between the levels of folliclestimulating hormones, which rise with the onset of menopause, and the easing of symptoms.

The Pros and Cons of Caffeine

Two recent reports on the effects of caffeine on women may have some rethinking their beverage choices. A study from Harvard Medical School shows that caffeine helps women stave off ovarian cancers, but researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research found that increased caffeine intake boosts the risk of miscarriage.

The first study examined data taken from health questionnaires from more than 121,000 women aged 30 to 35 years who were monitored for alcohol and caffeine intake, as well as smoking, to determine the impact of these activities on ovarian cancer risk. Researchers found that women who drank more caffeine—whether in soda, tea, or coffee—were at a lower risk. Neither smoking nor alcohol consumption had a noticeable effect, however. The findings were published in the January 22, 2008, issue of Cancer.

The second study (n = 1063) found that pregnant women who consume 200 mg or more of caffeine per day could double their risk of miscarriage. Of the 264 women who said that they did not consume any caffeine, 12.5% experienced a miscarriage. In women who consumed 200 mg or more per day, however, the miscarriage rate jumped to 24.5%, after other risk factors were taken into account. The results were published in the online version of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

F A S T   F A C T : Women who sleep ≤5 hours a night are twice as likely to suffer from high blood pressure as those who sleep ≥7 hours.