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Women and Heart Disease: A Shocking Update

Coronary artery disease is responsible for more deaths among womenA newly published review reveals that even though more women die of heart disease than men, not enough women understand and appreciate their risks. The analysis also confirms that doctors still aren’t treating women with known heart problems as aggressively as they do men. The reviewers, from Ohio State University, note that coronary artery disease is responsible for more deaths among women than breast cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, Alzheimer's disease, and accidents combined. Despite those grim statistics, women are still less likely to receive preventive treatments that are routinely recommended for men (such as drugs to lower cholesterol, aspirin to help prevent blood clots that can lead to heart attacks, and lifestyle advice to lower risks. Heart attacks in women may not cause the crushing chest pain men report. Published in Global Heart, the journal of the World Heart Federation, the review observes that CT scans and other imaging techniques used to evaluate cardiac problems reveal that women generally have narrower coronary arteries than men, their symptoms are more likely to be due to blockages of smaller blood vessels, which might be missed. The reviewers also report that after heart attacks, women are 55 percent less likely to participate in cardiac rehabilitation than men are.

My take? We’ve known about the discrepancies in treatment between men and women with heart problems for a decade or more. I’m disappointed that this review suggests that nothing much has changed. Despite recognition that heart disease is more of a threat to women than it is to men, many women still don’t appreciate their risks and many doctors apparently don’t either. The only good news in this review is the fact that the number of American women surveyed who actually know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for their gender increased from 30 percent in 1997 to 54 percent in 2009.

Kavita Sharma and Martha Gulati, “Coronary Artery Disease in Women: A 2013 update,” Global Heart , doi:10.1016/j.gheart.2013.02.001


How Often Do You Have Headaches? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the possible connection of obesity with migraine headaches: Does Obesity Cause Migraines? Check out the article and let us know how often you experience headaches!


Walnuts for Prostate Health

Walnuts appear to protect against prostate cancerEating walnuts daily appears to protect against prostate cancer, at least in mice. A new study from the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio showed that after researchers injected the animals with human prostate cancer cells, tumors started to grow. But of the 19 mice that received a walnut-enriched diet, only three developed tumors compared to 14 of 32 mice whose diets did not include walnuts. What’s more, the average size of the prostate tumors that grew in the walnut-fed mice was about one fourth the average size of the tumors that occurred in the mice on the “control” diet that contained no walnuts. The amount of walnuts (pulverized into a fine powder) the mice consumed was equivalent to a human serving of about two ounces or two handfuls a day, reported study senior author Russel Reiter, Ph.D., professor of cellular and structural biology. The study was published in the July 2013 issue of Cancer Investigation.

Russel Reiter et al, “A Walnut-Enriched Diet Reduces the Growth of LNCaP Human Prostate Cancer Xenografts in Nude Mice,” (doi:10.3109/07357907.2013.800095)


Gathering Energy Later in Life (Video)

As we age, it may be difficult to have the energy to do daily tasks that we once enjoyed. Ann Marie Chiasson, M.D. describes what many call "chi" as a ball of energy we have in our lives. She also provides some simple tips for regaining your energy throughout life.

Looking for more videos? Check out Dr. Weil's YouTube channel for a great selection.


The Importance (Really) of Beauty Sleep

Better sleep leads to better skinBetter sleep leads to better skin, especially for women as they get older, according to results of a clinical trial at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. The opposite is also true, too: poor sleepers in this study had more signs of skin aging, the researchers reported at the May 2013 International Investigative Dermatology Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland. A total of 60 pre-menopausal women ages 30 to 49 participated in the study; half of them reported poor sleep, but all the participants completed a standard questionnaire-based assessment of sleep quality. Using a skin-aging scoring system, the researchers found more signs of skin aging - fine lines, uneven pigmentation, slackening of skin and reduced elasticity - in the “poor sleep” group. But they saw no significant differences between the two groups in normal, age related skin changes including course wrinkles and sunburn freckles due to sun exposure. The researchers also reported that women who slept well recovered more quickly from sunburn while recovery in poor sleepers was “sluggish” with heightened redness lasting more than 72 hours, an indication that “inflammation is less efficiently resolved.” The good sleepers’ skin also proved 30 percent better at retaining moisture than the poor sleepers’. The study was commissioned by Estée Lauder.

Elma Baron, et al, “Effects of Sleep Quality on Skin Aging and Function,” The International Investigative Dermatology Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, May 8-11, 2013


Power Breakfast for Your Heart

Eating breakfast may help protect you from heart disease...and late night snacking could do you in. These findings come from a 16-year study which examined the lifestyles of 26,902 male health professionals, and illustrate the power eating habits can have over our health. It showed that participants who skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who said they had morning meals. The study, from the Harvard School of Public Health, looked at data from questionnaires the men completed that delved into such issues as how much time they spent watching television, how much they exercised and slept, the quality of their diets, the amount of alcohol they drank, whether they smoked, their medical history, BMI, whether they worked full-time, were married and if had regular physical exams. Late night eating – after going to bed – raised the risk of heart disease by 55 percent, but the researchers noted that not many of the men in the study reported getting up in the wee hours to eat. The study was published in the July 23, 2012 issue of Circulation.

My take? I enjoy breakfast and feel it gives me the energy I need to start my day, but I know many people who skip a morning meal because they aren’t hungry, are in a hurry, or don’t believe it’s necessary. These new findings suggest that it might be wise to rethink that position. Aside from what this study tells us about breakfast and heart health, previous research has suggested that among people who want to lose weight, those who eat breakfast tend to lose more extra pounds than those who skip the morning meal. My typical breakfast includes a bowl of matcha tea, ½ cup of frozen organic berries (thawed), and a slice of wholegrain bread with baked, pressed tofu or smoked salmon. In general, I try to get 30 percent of my calories from fat, 50 percent from carbohydrates, and 20 percent protein at each meal.

Leah E. Cahill, et al “Prospective Study of Breakfast Eating and Incident Coronary Heart Disease in a Cohort of Male US Health Professionals,” Circulation. 2013;128:337-343,  doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.113.001474


How Vivid Are Your Dreams? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the importance of sleep and the REM cycle of sleep: Losing Out on REM Sleep? Check out the article and let us know how vivid your dreams are during sleep!


Acupuncture for Lymphedema

New evidence suggests that acupuncture may help relieve lymphedema of the arm, an accumulation of fluid that can occur after lymph nodes are removed during surgery, and a condition that frequently follows a radical mastectomy for breast cancer. A study at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City showed that acupuncture for lymphedema is safe and well-tolerated. Participating patients had acupuncture twice a week for four weeks. Of the 33 patients taking part in the study, 11 had a significant reduction in swelling of the affected arm and another 18 had at least a small reduction, the researchers reported online on April 10, 2013 in the journal Cancer. Several weeks after their acupuncture sessions, patients said they saw lasting improvement in alleviating swelling. A randomized clinical trial of acupuncture for patients who have had lymphedema for at least six months despite conventional treatment is now underway to assess the potential benefits of acupuncture and how long they last. The study is expected to conclude in October 2014.

Barrie Cassileth et al, “Acupuncture in the treatment of upper-limb lymphedema: Results of a pilot study.” Cancer July 1, 2013 119(13):2455-61. doi: 10.1002/cncr.28093. Epub 2013 Apr 10

“Acupuncture for Chronic Lymphedema After Breast Cancer Treatment,”, accessed July 19, 2013