More Important Health News for Women You Haven't Heard

Major health stories you probably missed.

Meryl Davids Landau
Meryl Davids Landau lets you in on some great health news that flew under the radar.

Great Way to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

When you have insomnia, your troubles don’t begin when you lay your head on your pillow, says Ramadevi Gourineni, MD,  director of the insomnia program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. People who can’t sleep typically suffer from too much arousal—where their mind races and their body pumps out excess adrenaline—all day long. Gourineni wondered if relaxing the mind during the day might help chronic insomniacs sleep better later. So she and her colleagues taught a handful of insomniacs to meditate (by focusing intently on the parts of their body, on light and sound, and on their breath). They were instructed to practice this twice a day for about 15 minutes each time. After two months, the group was compared with another that learned about improving general health and lifestyle habits. Although both groups boosted their total sleep time, the meditators spent less time tossing and turning in the middle of the night.

Make it work: People in this study practiced a type of meditation known as “kriya yoga” (the kind featured in the classic Autobiography of a Yogi), but Gourineni believes that any regular relaxation process, including yoga, tai chi or deep relaxation, can unwind you enough to get those perfect zzzzs at night.

Quell Nausea the Asian Way

Nausea and vomiting after abdominal surgery are about the toughest types of queasiness to counter. Experts estimate that up to 70 percent of patients succumb after having an operation. Amazingly, something as simple as stimulating acupuncture points on the ear proved so effective that not a single woman undergoing major gallbladder surgery in an Iranian study threw up afterwards, and only 6 percent said they’d felt nauseated (compared with 66 percent and 74 percent, respectively, for a control group). In the study, needles were inserted during the surgery into acupuncture points on the ear, and were stimulated for two minutes at a time while the patients rested in the recovery room.

Make it work: If you get nauseated regularly for any reason, you might want to consult a trained acupuncturist. You can also try do-it-yourself acupressure when a more minor urge to upchuck strikes: place your index and middle fingers across your wrist at the base of the palm to find the point most used for nausea, known as P6. It’s located in the groove in the center between the two large tendons. Press on that point for a few minutes until the sensation passes.

Move Yourself to Calm

Everyone touts yoga as a great stress reducer, but does it work in women who are plagued with anxiety? Yes, found Iranian researchers. They gave 65 women an anxiety questionnaire, then had half of them take two 90-minute hatha yoga classes a week. After two months, anxiety levels were tested again. Before starting the yoga, 41 percent of the women said life had them feeling anxious, but after the classes the percentage was slashed in half. The researchers believe yoga makes you aware of the tension you’re holding in various parts of your body and teaches you how to release it. 

Make it work: It’s easy to find a yoga classes in gyms and studios. If you prefer to downward dog in the privacy of your home, great DVDs include Rodney Yee’s “Yoga for Beginners” and Sara Ivanhoe’s beachfront workout, “Yoga on the Edge.”

Don’t Skip Hormones Before Your Mammogram

The breasts of women on hormone therapy are more like those of younger women—denser and less fatty—a fact that has caused some doctors to worry that HT might make annual mammograms harder to read. That led some to request their patients to take a one- or two-month hormone holiday before the big squeeze. To see if this actually makes a difference, scientists at the University of Washington asked 1700 midlife women to either stop their pills for one or two months or to keep taking them. It turns out the women who halted the hormones (for either length of time) were recalled for follow-ups as often as those staying on it. Although breast density did lessen during the break, it didn’t make a difference in the mammogram results, says study coauthor Diana Buist, PhD, associate investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. What the hormone holidau did cause: more hot flashes and sleeping woes.
Make it work: Feel free to stay on your hormones even when your mammogram is looming. If your doctor suggests going off beforehand, ask him to check out this study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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First Published Tue, 2009-12-22 13:29

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