Optimism is Powerful Medicine

Optimistic people are easier to be around, and their enthusiasm can be contagious, but did you know that optimism may lower your risk of stroke, cancer, and other serious illnesses? A recent study of 70,000 women from the American Journal of Epidemiology provides strong support for a positive attitude.

The findings are compelling. In this long-running study,  more optimistic women enjoyed a 16% lower risk of death from cancer, 40% lower risk from cardiovascular or respiratory disease, and a 50% lower likelihood of death from infectious diseases over the course of about 8 years. Optimism was measured based on responses to a survey, and other health behaviors and conditions were taken into account in order to limit any mitigating factors.

In a report for Health Day, reporter Don Rauf reviewed the study and got opinions from experts around the country, including me. The important message is that optimism is not a fixed character trait. It can be nurtured and developed. As I told Rauf, “It’s easier to feel optimistic when you feel healthy and energetic. By choosing a healthy lifestyle, you may open yourself up to greater gratitude and create more energy for deeper relationships and professional satisfaction.”

To read more about the study, and to learn strategies to improve your sense of optimism, click on the link below.

Source: Optimism May Propel Women to a Longer Life

Divorce is a Heart Breaker for Women

February may be a month of Valentines and roses, but for many of us, it’s just a painful reminder of a once happy relationship gone bad. Divorce is stressful, painful, and complicated, and it can literally make your heart hurt.

A study published last year in the peer-reviewed medical journal Circulation  found that once-divorced women were 25% more likely to have a heart attack than women who remained married. Even after remarriage, the risk remained higher than average. For men, the risk was higher than average, but only matched the women’s risk after 2 divorces. For women, two divorces meant a 77% higher risk compared to those who had never divorced.

In an interview with reporter Tara Haelle, I suggested that “… likely it is the stress of divorce itself that created an unhealthy setting that promoted the development of heart disease. It’s impossible to know whether the women whose marriages ended in divorce were more likely to have other unhealthy relationships, and thus more sources of stress in their lives. Yet recent research has found strong evidence that women’s hearts react in a much more negative way to stress than those of men.”

Want to know more? Follow the link below to the article on the Forbes website.

Source: Divorce Could Literally (Eventually) Break A Woman’s Heart, Says Study – Forbes

Gender Differences in Younger Heart Attack Survivors

Thanks to greater awareness and high tech interventions, along with treatment of important risk factors like hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol, heart attack deaths have dropped substantially over the past 15 years. But despite the impressive gains in prevention and treatment, younger women continue to die from heart disease at a higher than expected rate.  The reasons are varied and complex, but a recent Canadian study sheds some light on the subject. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that following a heart attack, only 65% of women age 55 and younger took all the meds considered appropriate for their condition, compared to 75% of men in the same age group.

In an interview with DailyRx reporter Emily Giunta, I pointed out that “women often minimize their symptoms, or convince themselves and others that everything is OK when in fact it is not. As a result, they may be less inclined to fill prescriptions for medication after a heart attack.”

It is also possible that doctors are reluctant to prescribe certain drugs for women due to concerns about possible side effects. For instance, some heart drugs should not be prescribed if a woman is pregnant or likely to become pregnant. That’s an important discussion for a woman of child-bearing age to have with her cardiologist.

In concluding the interview, I told Giunta that “Heart disease kills more women than all causes of cancer combined, including breast cancer, yet it tends to be underplayed in the press and popular media. Women tend to get to the hospital hours later into a heart attack than do men. It’s been shown that part of the reason for this difference is due to the role the spouse plays in recognizing the importance of the symptoms. And since at least 75 percent of heart disease is preventable in the first place, it’s critical that the message gets out loud and clear to women, their families and their physicians.”

For more on this study, click the link below.

Source: Gender Differences in Heart Attack Survivors | RxWiki

Pesticides and Other Pollutants May Heighten Heart Risks

DDT and other pesticides may have serious effects on the endocrine, or hormonal system, and since they accumulate in fatty tissues, obese women may be at higher risk. Other sources of these endocrine disrupters include common plastics and auto exhaust. Once these chemicals get lodged in the body, they can be very hard to flush out, and consequently may impact our health in a wide variety of ways, raising the risks for heart disease, generalized inflammation, and diabetes, among others.

A Portuguese study recently assessed the presence of these chemicals in the bodies of 121 obese women, and reported alarmingly high levels.

As I told DailyRx reporter Don Rauf, “The study should … remind us that our own health is inextricably linked to the health of the Earth, and that by protecting our planet, we are also protecting ourselves, those we love, and all of our fellow creatures.”

To learn more, click on the link below to read the article on DailyRx.com

 

 

 

Source: How Pesticides May Heighten Heart Risks | dailyRx News

Caring for a Stroke Victim May Take a Toll on the Spouse

Strokes can be devastating for the stroke victim, but also for the spouse. A new study breaks down the physical and mental toll exacted on the caregiver. Read journalist Tara Haelle’s report, and get my take on the study’s findings in this article from EverydayHealth.com

Source: Strokes Take a Toll – On the Survivor and Their Partner | Everyday Health

Birth Control Pills: Rise in a Rare but Deadly Side Effect

Birth control pills have changed the lives of millions of women, allowing them control over reproduction, and limiting pre-menstrual syndrome misery. These drugs typically included combinations of estrogens and progestins, female hormones that can trick the body into infertility. When The Pill first came out, doses of estrogen were much higher, and consequently dangerous side effects like blood clots and high blood pressure were more common. Older progestins were more apt to cause weight gain, masculizing side effects like facial hair, and acne.  The modern newest iterations use much lower doses of estrogen, along with progestins that are kinder to the skin and weight. Although these nuisance side effects are less common than in years past, the latest generation of birth control pills are substantially more likely to trigger dangerous blood clots that may form in the legs and travel to the heart and lungs, obstructing vital blood flow. In some cases, the clots, called pulmonary emboli, can be deadly.

Forbes.com reporter Tara Haelle describes a recent study clarifying this risk, and shares her personal story of surviving a near fatal Pill-induced pulmonary embolus at the age of 18.

In an interview with Haelle, I noted that the risk is especially high for Pill users who smoke, are over 35, are obese, or who have underlying blood clotting disorders. Yet Haelle had none of these risk factors.

It’s important to understand that while the risk of blood clots is important, it will happen to less than 20 in 10,000 women on the drugs.

To read more about the study, along with Haelle’s personal story of survival, click the link below.

Source: The Pill Can Kill In Rare Cases — If You Don’t Know The Signs And Risk Factors

Stress May Reduce Coronary Blood Flow in Women

On any given day, most of use will experience stress in some form or fashion. In fact, stress can sometimes be good for us. It may keep us on track on our projects at home or at work, or impel us to learn to focus our energy to achieve our goals. However, we all know that stress can sometimes be overwhelming, making us feel out of control, angry, or unhappy.

In the past, studies of the effects of stress on the heart have been fairly neutral to slightly negative. However, until recent years, women were largely left out of cardiovascular research.

A new study from Emory evaluated 564 people with heart disease and put them through tests of physical stress and mental stress. Physical stress had a fairly neutral effect on these relatively stable patients. However, the researchers found that in women ages 55 through 64, mental stress had double the effect on the heart as it did for men. For women over 65, there was no substantial effect.

As I discussed with reported Nancy Maleki: “I think women tend to take stress to heart (excuse the pun!) more than men. We often take stress more personally, and consider ourselves at fault for the situation, whereas many men are able to shrug it off, or to compartmentalize the stress in their lives.”

While the study did not address ways to neutralize stress, I noted that “it’s important for women to learn healthy strategies to cope with the stressful situations in their live. Exercise is often a great way to blow off steam and to feel better about yourself in the process. Mindful activities like yoga and meditation can also make a difference, by teaching us how to breathe deeply and to clear out the negative thoughts and feelings that can keep us down. Even a fairly sedentary hobby like knitting or scrapbooking may help, by giving us something else to focus on, if only for a short time.”

To read more about the study, click on the link to DailyRx.com

 

Stress May Reduce Blood Flow for Some Heart Disease Patients | dailyRx.

Heart Attacks Rising in Younger Women

Many people still think of heart attack as a disease of older men, but the truth is that while heart disease is more likely to strike men earlier in life than women, over 30,000 women under the age of 55 suffer a heart attack in the U.S. every year. A new study spearheaded by researchers from Yale University evaluated over 230,000 separate heart attack hospitalizations for men and women ages 30-54, in an attempt to discover differences, similarities, and trends over time. The good news? More people, regardless of gender, are surviving their heart attacks. The bad news? Over the past 10 years, heart attack rates have risen slightly in women and heart attack-related deaths, while declining, are still more common in younger women than in younger men. The reason? Higher rates of preventable risk factors.

In an interview with DailyRx.com reporter Nancy Maleki, I explained: “It’s disheartening to learn that in this age group, risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes have increased over the past 10 years, despite the fact that in many cases these conditions can be avoided simply by choosing a healthier diet, exercising, and maintaining a safe body weight.”

“Women often have multiple roles, including breadwinner, mother and caregiver, and it’s easy to think that with so many pressing needs, you can put off taking care of yourself for another day. It’s time that women realize that the consequences of ignoring your health can be devastating and sometimes irreversible.”

To learn more about the study and its implications, click on the link to the article on DailyRx.com.

 

Women Died of Heart Attack More Than Men | dailyRx.

High Cholesterol Linked to Infertility

There are many reasons that couples may have difficulty conceiving, but you might be surprised to learn that high cholesterol appears to be one of them. A recent study of couples who were part of the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and Environment study found that high cholesterol in both men and women  was associated with lower rates of fertility.

In an interview with DailyRx.com reporter Nancy Maleki, I noted that “Oftentimes, people fear that by lowering cholesterol, they may inadvertently cause other problems to arise. We know that cholesterol is an important component of many of the hormones involved in reproduction. However, typical levels in the US are unnaturally high due to diets high in unhealthy fats and processed foods. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle also contribute.

“For most adults of childbearing age, making heart smart lifestyle changes will go a long way towards improving cholesterol levels. In general, women who are considering pregnancy should not take cholesterol medications, since there is no proof that these drugs are safe during pregnancy.”

You can read more about the study and its implications by following the link to the story on DailyRx.com.

High Cholesterol Linked to Problems Getting Pregnant | dailyRx.