Belly fat may pose more danger for women than for men

You've probably heard that extra pounds around your middle are bad for your heart. But a new study has found that excess weight in your belly — a body shape doctors refer to as central adiposity — may be even worse for women's heart health than men's. The study, in the March 6 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association, involved about 500,000 people (55% of them women), ages 40 to 69, in the United Kingdom. The researchers took body measurements of the participants and then kept track of who had heart attacks over the next seven years. During that period, the women who carried more weight around their middles (measured by waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, or waist-to-height ratio) had a 10% to 20% greater risk of heart attack than women who were just heavier over all (measured by body mass index, or BMI, a calculation of weight in relation to height). A larger waist-to-hip ratio, in particular, appeared to be a bigger heart attack risk factor for women than men. The analysis showed that compared with BMI, waist-to-hip ratio was 18% stronger as a heart attack predictor in women — versus 6% stronger in men. More »

Should I get the new shingles vaccine?

Q. I've had the Zostavax vaccine to prevent shingles, but now I've heard there is a new vaccine that is supposed to be more effective. Should I get the new vaccine? And can I get it, since I already had the Zostavax shot? A. You heard correctly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that healthy adults over age 50 get two doses of a new vaccine called Shingrix, which was approved by the FDA in October 2017. Doses are given two to six months apart. Shingrix is said to be more than 90% effective against shingles and postherpetic neuralgia — a painful nerve condition that can arise as a shingles complication. This new vaccine is believed to be more effective than Zostavax, which has been used since 2006 and has been reported to reduce the risk of shingles by only 51%. Research has also shown that Zostavax loses its ability to prevent shingles after five years. More »

Food and mood: Is there a connection?

 Image: © ogichobanov; © Foxys_forest_manufacture/Getty Images If you've ever found yourself in front of the TV after a bad day, mindlessly digging ice cream out of the container with a spoon, you know that mood and food are sometimes linked. But while stress eating is a verified phenomenon, the relationship between food and actual mood disorders, such as depression, is less clear. Or, to put it another way: can the things you eat influence your risk for depression — and can dietary changes potentially improve your mental health? "The research regarding dietary factors and depression is still inconclusive," says Patricia Chocano-Bedoya, a visiting scientist in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. But there have been hints that food may play a role in depression. More »

Pelvic physical therapy: Another potential treatment option

The exact cause of pelvic pain for many women can be elusive, despite lots of tests and scans. In some cases, the symptoms are related to a problem that is often overlooked, says Dr. Eman Elkadry, an instructor in obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School. Pelvic pain may stem from a pelvic floor muscle problem that can be helped by a specialized form of physical therapy known as pelvic physical therapy. "Although pelvic physical therapy may not work for everyone, it can be quite effective for certain individuals," says Dr. Hye-Chun Hur, director of the Division of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and associate faculty editor of Harvard Women's Health Watch. She stresses that pelvic physical therapy is normally undertaken by a trained female practitioner. The pelvic floor is essentially a bowl-shaped set of muscles that supports your bladder, bowel, rectum, and uterus. Pelvic pain sometimes occurs when muscles of the pelvic floor are too tight, says Dr. Elkadry. This causes a condition called myofascial pain, or pain caused by muscle irritation. (Locked) More »

Is this normal?

Different women experience different types of vaginal discharge. There is a wide range of “normal.” However, some symptoms like postmenopausal bleeding do warrant a closer look from the doctor. (Locked) More »