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Wear Red for Women’s Health

This Friday, the first Friday in February, is National Wear Red Day® for Women’s Health. It’s also the 15th anniversary of the campaign kickoff to raise awareness for the number one killer of women…Heart Disease.

According to the American Heart Association, since 2003, tremendous strides have been made in our heart health.:

  • Nearly 90% of women have made at least one healthy behavior change.
  • More than one-third of women have lost weight.
  • More than 50% of women have increased their exercise.
  • 6 out of 10 women have changed their diets.
  • More than 40% of women have checked their cholesterol levels.
  • One third of women has talked with their doctors about developing heart health plans.
  • Today, nearly 300 fewer women die from heart disease and stroke each day.
  • Death in women has decreased by more than 30 percent over the past 10 years.

However, 1 in 3 women still die each year of heart disease and stroke. Compare that to 1 in 31 women who die each year from breast cancer. It’s actually more deadly than all cancers combined.

There are some risks that you can’t control when it comes to heart disease (like family history, age, gender, race, or being born with an underlying heart condition), but there are many things you can do to prevent your risk for developing heart disease:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Manage your blood sugar
  • Get your blood pressure under control
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Know your family history
  • Stay active
  • Lose weight
  • Eat healthy

Though age is a risk factor, heart disease doesn’t discriminate and affects women of all ages. Young women have a 20 percent increased risk of heart disease if they combine smoking and taking birth control pills. Though risks do increase with age, you can reduce the risk by eating healthy and not leading a sedentary lifestyle that can cause plaque to build up in your arteries.

Even if you feel completely healthy, fit and active, you still could be at risk due to hidden factors such as high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier depending on family history. Blood pressure and BMI should also be monitored and checked as part of your annual exam.

Healthy blood pressure should be around 120 over 80 in healthy adults. Hypertension is the leading cause of stroke and a major cause of heart attacks. More than 30 person of American adults have high blood pressure. Most people don’t know they have hypertension until they go to the doctor.

Your Body Mass Index (BMI) is a good indicator of whether you’re at a healthy or unhealthy weight. You can calculate your exact BMI using this formula: Multiply your weight in pounds by 703, then divide your height in inches, then divide again by your height in inches. Even losing 10 pounds can lower your heart disease risk.

Here are the BMI ranges so you can be mindful of where your healthy BMI range would be:

  • Underweight: Less than 18.5
  • Healthy weight: Less than 25
  • Overweight: Between 25 and 29.9
  • Obese: 30 or higher is considered obese

What’s the scariest part? 64 percent of women who die suddenly of heart disease had no previous symptoms. Oftentimes, the symptoms of a heart attack are misinterpreted in women. The reality for women is that we are more likely to experience these the following symptoms as opposed to extreme chest pain:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Back or jaw pain
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheaded or fainting
  • Pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
  • Extreme fatigue.

Stop by one of our stores in Rocky Point or Hampstead and pick up a free quiz for knowing your risk factors, so you can have an informed conversation with your doctor.


Cervical Health Awareness

Cervical Health Awareness Month is a chance to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from HPV (human papillomavirus) and cervical cancer. HPV is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. It’s also a major cause of cervical cancer.

About 79 million Americans currently have HPV and many of them don’t know they are infected. Each year, more than 11,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer.

In a story recently reported by the New York Post, it has been determined that more people die from cervical cancer than previously thought. “Black women in the US are dying from the disease at a rate 77 percent higher and white women at a rate 47 percent higher, according to the study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.” Women who had hysterectomies, which eliminated their risk of developing cervical cancer, were not previously accounted for and were included in the overall percentages.

What is HPV?

HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses. HPV is named for the warts (papillomas) some HPV types can cause. Some other HPV types can lead to cancer. Men and women can get cancer caused by HPV infections. In women, HPV infection can also cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar HPV cancers. But there are vaccines that can prevent infection with the types of HPV that most commonly cause cancer.

How do people get HPV?

HPV is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact and is so common that nearly all men and women get it at some point in their lives. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. You can develop symptoms years after being infected, making it hard to know when you first became infected.

In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer.

Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or groups of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. A healthcare provider can usually diagnose warts by looking at the genital area.

HPV cancers include cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. HPV infection can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.

The good news?

The HPV vaccine (brand name Gardasil) can prevent HPV. Parents should make sure their pre-teens get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12. Teens and young adults should get the HPV vaccine if they didn’t get it as pre-teens. Women up to age 26 and men up to age 21 can still get the vaccine.

Cervical cancer screenings can help detect abnormal cells early, before they turn into cancer. Most deaths from cervical cancer could be prevented by regular Pap tests and follow-up care. Women should start getting regular Pap tests at age 21.

For the most part, there are no symptoms of beginning stage of cervical cancer. However, common symptoms may include:

  • Vaginal bleeding: This includes bleeding between periods, after sexual intercourse or post-menopausal bleeding.
  • Unusual vaginal discharge: A watery, pink or foul-smelling discharge is common.
  • Pelvic pain: Pain during intercourse or at other times may be a sign of abnormal changes to the cervix, or less serious conditions.

All of these cervical cancer symptoms should be discussed with your doctor.

Cervical cancer may spread (metastasize) within the pelvis, to the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body. Signs of advanced cervical cancer include:

  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Leg pain or swelling
  • Leakage of urine or feces from the vagina
  • Bone fractures

Cervical cancer can be preventable and is treatable if caught in time. Regular Pap test are crucial to your overall health.

Take time today to call your doctor and schedule an appointment for your annual check up (if you haven’t already.)

Deep Vein Thrombosis: Learn the Risks

Lots of things can cause pain and swelling in your leg. But if your symptoms stem from a blood clot deep in your leg, it can be dangerous. Blood clots can happen to anyone, anytime. But some people are at increased risk. Taking steps to reduce your chances of a blood clot forming in your veins can help you avoid potentially serious problems.

Blood clots can arise anywhere in your body. They develop when blood thickens and clumps together. When a clot forms in a vein deep in the body, it’s called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Deep vein blood clots typically occur in the lower leg or thigh.

“Deep vein thrombosis has classic symptoms—for example swelling, pain, warmth, and redness on the leg,” says Dr. Andrei Kindzelski, a National Institute of Health blood disease expert. “But about 30–40% of cases go unnoticed, since they don’t have typical symptoms.” In fact, some people don’t realize they have a deep vein clot until it causes a more serious condition. There are more than 20,000 cases of DVT every year.

Deep vein clots—especially those in the thigh—can break off and travel through the bloodstream. If a clot lodges in an artery in the lungs, it can block blood flow and lead to a sometimes-deadly condition called pulmonary embolism. This disorder can damage the lungs and reduce blood oxygen levels, which can harm other organs as well.

Some people are more at risk for deep vein thrombosis than others. “Usually people who develop deep vein thrombosis have some level of thrombophilia, which means their blood clots more rapidly or easily,” Kindzelski says. Getting a blood clot is usually the first sign of this condition because it’s hard to notice otherwise. In these cases, lifestyle can contribute to a blood clot forming—if you don’t move enough, for example. Your risk is higher if you’ve recently had surgery or broken a bone, if you’re ill and in bed for a long time, or if you’re traveling for a long time (such as during long car or airplane rides).

Having other diseases or conditions can also raise your chances of a blood clot. These include a stroke, paralysis (an inability to move), chronic heart disease, high blood pressure, surgical procedure, or having been recently treated for cancer. Women who take hormone therapy pills or birth control pills, are pregnant, or within the first 6 weeks after giving birth are also at higher risk. So are those who smoke or who are older than 60. But deep vein thrombosis can happen at any age.

You can take simple steps to lower your chances for a blood clot. Exercise your lower leg muscles if you’re sitting for a long time while traveling. Get out of bed and move around as soon as you’re able after having surgery or being ill. The more active you are, the better your chance of avoiding a blood clot. Take any medicines your doctor prescribes to prevent clots after some types of surgery.

A prompt diagnosis and proper treatment can help prevent the complications of blood clots. See your doctor immediately if you have any signs or symptoms of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. A physical exam and other tests can help doctors determine whether you’ve got a blood clot.

Seek treatment if you have these symptoms. They may signal a deep vein clot or pulmonary embolism:

  • swelling of the leg or along a vein in the leg
  • pain or tenderness in the leg, which you may feel only when standing or walking
  • increased warmth in the area of the leg that’s swollen or painful
  • red or discolored skin on the leg
  • unexplained shortness of breath
  • pain with deep breathing
  • coughing up blood

There are many ways to treat deep vein thrombosis. Therapies aim to stop the blood clot from getting bigger, prevent the clot from breaking off and moving to your lungs, or reduce your chance of having another blood clot.

Treatments include:

Compression socks or elastic hosiery that squeeze blood up the legs to prevent swelling and blood clots.

Blood thinning drugs, also called anticoagulants, are the most common treatment for DVT. They can keep a clot from growing or breaking off, and they prevent new clots from forming. But they can’t thin your blood, despite their name, or dissolve an existing clot. Blood thinners such as Warfarin, Heparin, Eliquis, Arixtra, Xarelto, and Fragmin are available with a prescription and are usually prescribed first to prevent further clotting.

If you think you may be at risk for deep vein thrombosis, talk with your doctor.
Sources: National Institute of Health, Mayo Clinic, and WebMD

Thyroid Disease in Women: Know the Symptoms

Thyroid disorders are much more common in women than in men, but they’re often missed or confused with other conditions. Do you know the symptoms?

The thyroid is a small but powerful gland in your neck. It produces hormones that control your metabolism, or the way your body uses energy. It also influences your heart rate, body temperature, bones, digestion and reproductive system. When the thyroid hormones get out of balance, it can have profound effects on your health.

Thyroid disorders are much more common in women than in men. Yet the symptoms of thyroid disease are often overlooked or confused with other conditions. As a result, many women don’t get the treatment they need. This puts them at risk for serious problems such as high cholesterol, heart disease and infertility.

What are the most common thyroid disorders?

Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can occur at any age, but it becomes more common as a woman ages, especially after age 50. It occurs when the thyroid doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones. It may not cause noticeable symptoms at first, but as thyroid hormone levels continue to drop the metabolism slows. A woman will start to feel weak and run down and may have other symptoms such as weight gain and constipation.

Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) is most common in women between ages 20 and 40. It occurs when the thyroid makes too much thyroid hormone. A rising hormone level causes the body to speed up. This can cause a woman to feel jittery or irritable, lose weight without trying and have trouble sleeping. Thyroid nodules sometimes grow on the thyroid gland. Nodules usually don’t cause symptoms, but a doctor may feel a nodule during a careful physical exam. As a nodule grows it may be felt as a lump in the front of the neck. Most thyroid nodules are harmless. Fewer than one in 10 is cancerous, but any nodule should be checked. Even a benign nodule may sometimes need to be removed.

How do thyroid disorders affect women?

Thyroid disorders can have a range of effects on a woman’s sexual and reproductive health across her lifespan.

  • Puberty: During puberty, hyperthyroidism can cause early menstruation (before age 9). It may also cause delayed menstruation and delayed growth.
  • Infertility: Thyroid disorders can cause irregular or skipped periods, which can make it hard to get pregnant. They also raise the risk of miscarriage.
  • Pregnancy: During pregnancy, untreated thyroid disorders raise the risk of high blood pressure, anemia, miscarriage and low birth weight. They may also have long-term effects on the baby.
  • Postpartum depression: Some women develop a thyroid problem after delivery called postpartum thyroid dysfunction. It causes fatigue, low mood and irritability, and it may be linked to postpartum depression.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): Hypothyroidism can cause symptoms similar to PMS, including weight gain, bloating and depressed mood.
  • Menopause: Thyroid disorders can cause premature menopause (before age 40). Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can mimic those of menopause, such as hot flashes and insomnia.

What are the symptoms of thyroid disorders?

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) may cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain from fluid retention
  • Low tolerance of cold
  • Dry skin and dry, brittle hair and nails
  • Forgetfulness and trouble concentrating
  • Irregular or heavy periods
  • Constipation
  • Miscarriages or infertility

Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) may cause:

  • Nervousness
  • Sweating
  • Low tolerance of heat
  • Trembling hands
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • More frequent bowel movements
  • Light or absent menstrual periods
  • Muscle weakness
  • Goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland)

Thyroid nodules often often cause no symptoms, but they may be felt as a lump in the front of the neck below the Adam’s apple. A cancerous nodule may grow quickly, feel hard and cause:

  • Pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the jaw
  • Hoarseness
  • Trouble swallowing

If you have any symptoms of a thyroid disorder, see your doctor. Thyroid disorders can be treated successfully, usually with medication or surgery.

Source: United Healthcare

Final drug approvals from 2016

The FDA has approved a few more new medications to close out 2016.

Spinraza was just recently approved to treat children and adults with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a rare and often fatal genetic disease affecting muscle strength and movement. Spinraza is an injection administered into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord.

“There has been a long-standing need for a treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, the most common genetic cause of death in infants, and a disease that can affect people at any stage of life,” said Billy Dunn, M.D., director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “We worked hard to review this application quickly; we could not be more pleased to have the first approved treatment for this debilitating disease.”

SMA is a hereditary disease that causes weakness and muscle wasting because of the loss of lower motor neurons controlling movement. There is wide variability in age of onset, symptoms and rate of progression. Spinraza is approved for use across the range of spinal muscular atrophy patients.

Rubraca was also approved in December to treat women with a advanced ovarian cancer who have been treated with two or more chemotherapies and whose tumors have a specific gene mutation (deleterious BRCA) as identified by an FDA-approved companion diagnostic test.

“Today’s approval is another example of the trend we are seeing in developing targeted agents to treat cancers caused by specific mutations in a patient’s genes,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and acting director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence.
“Women with these gene abnormalities who have tried at least two chemotherapy treatments for their ovarian cancer now have an additional treatment option.”

The National Cancer Institute estimates that 22,280 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016 and an estimated 14,240 will die of this disease. Approximately 15 to 20 percent of patients with ovarian cancer have a BRCA gene mutation.

For patients two years of age and older with mild to moderate eczema, Eucrisa was approved. Atopic dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory skin disease, is often referred to as “eczema,” which is a general term for the several types of inflammation of the skin. Atopic dermatitis is the most common of the many types of eczema and onset typically begins in childhood and can last through adulthood. The cause of atopic dermatitis is a combination of genetic, immune and environmental factors. In atopic dermatitis, the skin develops red, scaly and crusted bumps, which are extremely itchy. Scratching leads to swelling, cracking, “weeping” clear fluid, and finally, coarsening and thickening of the skin.

“Today’s approval provides another treatment option for patients dealing with mild to moderate atopic dermatitis,” said Amy Egan, deputy director of the Office of Drug Evaluation III in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER).

Serious side effects of Eucrisa include hypersensitivity reactions. Eucrisa should not be used in patients who have had a hypersensitivity reaction to Eucrisa’s active ingredient, crisaborole. The most common side effect of Eucrisa is application site pain, including burning or stinging.

Zinplava was approved in October to reduce the recurrence of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) in patients aged 18 and older. Zinplava is used together with antibacterial drugs that are given to treat CDI. Clostridium difficile causes inflammation of the colon and diarrhea, which can be deadly. Zinplava is administered intravenously by healthcare professionals.

Adverse effects associated with the use of Zinplava may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • nausea
  • pyrexia
  • Headache

In addition, heart failure was reported more commonly in Zinplava-treated patients with a history of congestive heart failure (CHF) in the two Phase III clinical trials. In patients with a history of CHF, Zinplava should be reserved for use when the benefit outweighs the risk.

The treatment of soft tissue sarcoma just got some help with the approval of Lartruvo with doxorubicin to treat adults with certain types of soft tissue sarcoma (STS), which are cancers that develop in muscles, fat, tendons or other soft tissues. Lartruvo is approved for use with the FDA-approved chemotherapy drug doxorubicin for the treatment of patients with STS who cannot be cured with radiation or surgery and who have a type of STS for which an anthracycline (chemotherapy) is an appropriate treatment.

“For these patients, Lartruvo, added to doxorubicin, provides a new treatment option,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and acting director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence. “This is the first new therapy approved by the FDA for the initial treatment of soft tissue sarcoma since doxorubicin’s approval more than 40 years ago.”
And finally, Exondys 51 was just approved to treat patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This is the first drug approved to treat patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Exondys 51 is specifically indicated for patients who have a confirmed mutation of the dystrophin gene amenable to exon 51 skipping, which affects about 13 percent of the population with DMD.

“Patients with a particular type of Duchenne muscular dystrophy will now have access to an approved treatment for this rare and devastating disease,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “In rare diseases, new drug development is especially challenging due to the small numbers of people affected by each disease and the lack of medical understanding of many disorders. Accelerated approval makes this drug available to patients based on initial data, but we eagerly await learning more about the efficacy of this drug through a confirmatory clinical trial that the company must conduct after approval.”

DMD is a rare genetic disorder characterized by progressive muscle deterioration and weakness. It is the most common type of muscular dystrophy. DMD is caused by an absence of dystrophin, a protein that helps keep muscle cells intact.The first symptoms are usually seen between three and five years of age, and worsen over time. The disease often occurs in people without a known family history of the condition and primarily affects boys, but in rare cases it can affect girls. DMD occurs in about one out of every 3,600 male infants worldwide.

People with DMD progressively lose the ability to perform activities independently and often require use of a wheelchair by their early teens. As the disease progresses, life-threatening heart and respiratory conditions can occur. Patients typically succumb to the disease in their 20s or 30s; however, disease severity and life expectancy vary.


Source: FDA