Women’s Health Summit: Making Change Happen

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 20, 2014

CBS News Correspondent Lesley Stahl (left) speaks to U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg about gender inequities in medical research.

On March 3, in a filled ballroom at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Boston, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Women’s Health leaders, state and national representatives, and distinguished guests came together to discuss an urgent problem in biomedical science.

“We must face the hard truth: research in women’s health and gender differences lags far behind the research in men’s health care,” said U.S. Senator (MA) Elizabeth Warren, who provided keynote remarks. “And too often the policy conversation around women’s health lags as well. This must be addressed.”

Although 20 years have passed since the National Institutes of Health’s Revitalization Act became federal law – requiring the inclusion of women and minorities in clinical research studies and the analysis of results by sex – a major gender gap still exists in medical research.

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Gender in Medicine: Getting Both Sides of the Story

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 25, 2014

The National Institute of Medicine says that “every cell has a sex.” This means that men and women are different, at least physiologically, all the way down to the molecular and cellular levels. But, according to Dr. Paula Johnson, Executive Director of the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, these biologic differences are often ignored when designing medical studies, and even when valuable gender-specific findings are in our hands, we often fail to apply the knowledge. Although Dr. Johnson suggests that women’s health has suffered most from these failures, she stresses that placing greater emphasis on sex- and gender-based research and care will help reap benefits for both women’s and men’s health. Watch the following video to learn more.

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Your Health: Ten Things That Really Matter, Tip #10

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 28, 2013

It's important to know your wellness numbers and which ones are most important to you.

To conclude American Heart Month, we’ve been featuring health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)

Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Today, we present the final tip.

10. KNOWING YOUR NUMBERS IS NOT ENOUGH: KNOW WHICH NUMBERS ARE MEANINGFUL TO YOU.

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Your Health: Ten Things that Really Matter (Part 3)

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 27, 2013

Tip #9: Be active!

To conclude American Heart Month, we’re featuring ten health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)

Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Check back with us as we publish new tips through the end of February.

7. IMPROVE COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR PROVIDERS.

Ask Me 3™ is a patient education program to promote communication between health care providers and patients to help improve health outcomes. The program encourages patients to understand the answers to three questions:

  • What is my main problem?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Why is it important for me to do this?

Patients should be encouraged to ask their providers these three simple but essential questions in every health care interaction. Likewise, providers should always encourage their patients to understand the answers to these three questions. Studies show that people who thoroughly understand health instructions make fewer mistakes when they take their medicine or prepare for a medical procedure. They also may get well sooner or be able to better manage a chronic health condition.

TIP:  Bring all of your medications (including over the counter) to your annual physical.

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Your Health: Ten Things That Really Matter (Part 2)

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 26, 2013

Inadequate sleep can lead to anxiety, overeating, high blood pressure, difficulty concentrating, and other problems.

To conclude American Heart Month, we’re featuring ten health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)

Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Check back with us as we publish new tips through the end of February.

4. PREVENT DIABETES.

Patients with diabetes take longer to heal from injuries than those without. Diabetes can cause heart attack, stroke, kidney problems, impaired vision, and neuropathy. Although diabetes can come from a genetic predisposition, a high-sugar diet and lack of exercise are modifiable risk factors. Exercise, even without associated weight loss, can improve the body’s glucose control. Studies show that physical activity decreases your risk of diabetes. One hundred and fifty minutes per week (or just 30 minutes per day on weekdays) can reduce your risk of getting diabetes or reduce dependence on medications if you already have diabetes.

It’s never too late. If you have diabetes, you can still exercise. Just make sure you check your blood sugars regularly and be honest with your doctor about your exercise level. Together, you can come up with a plan to balance your exercise level and medications to help with blood sugar control.

TIP:  Use a pedometer!  It is much more fun to count steps than carbohydrates.  If you like the sweet stuff, try to avoid snacks with high sugar content, as they don’t make you feel full.

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Your Health: Ten Things that Really Matter (Part 1)

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 25, 2013

Health tip #1: Quit smoking.

To conclude American Heart Month, we’re featuring ten health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)

Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Check back with us as we publish new tips through the end of February.

1. DON’T SMOKE: IF YOU DO SMOKE, STOP.

Smoking promotes multiple medical problems, including chronic health issues like heart attack, stroke, osteoporosis, and cancer. The same is true for all tobacco-containing products, from cigars to chewing tobacco. Secondhand smoke should also be avoided.  Improvements in health, including lifespan and activity level, begin the day you quit. While quitting should be the goal, even simply decreasing the number of cigarettes you smoke can improve your life. Preventive efforts, like lowering cholesterol, may be especially effective in decreasing risk for smokers and former smokers.

TIP: If you’ve tried quitting, keep trying!  Research shows it takes an average of three to five tries to quit. If you’re struggling, ask your doctor for help.

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A Hearty Dose of Cardiovascular Advice and Research

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 12, 2013

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, and it is also one of the leading causes of disability. As part of American Heart Month, we offer insight from our clinicians and researchers about how to reduce your heart disease risks and what new things we’re learning about cardiovascular disease and treatment.

 

Heart Disease: Eliminate Excuses to Reduce Your Risks

Dr. Eldrin F. Lewis, MD, MPH, tells his patients that they’ll dramatically reduce their risk of developing heart disease if they follow a few simple guidelines for reducing their blood pressure (hypertension). Genetics can indeed play a role in developing high blood pressure, but obesity, inactivity, tobacco and alcohol use, stress, and salt intake are all hypertension risk factors that you can  control.

 

Weighing the Benefits and Risks of Cholesterol Drugs

If you’ve been taking a statin medication to lower your cholesterol, you might be wondering what you should do in light of new warnings about the link between statin use and diabetes. Research conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital may help you and your doctor weigh the benefits and risks.

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Women’s Health Legislation: A Top Priority in 2013?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 15, 2013

Sixty percent of women voters want women's health to be a priority in 2013.

In 2013, will our nation’s leaders commit themselves to ensuring that all women receive the care they need? Paula A. Johnson, MD, MPH, Executive Director, Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology, and Chief, Division of Women’s Health, has blogged this provocative question on the Huffington Post.

Dr. Johnson points to the record number of women who will be sworn in as United States senators this year and, in part, the re-election of President Obama as convincing evidence that women – beyond the politics of abortion – want a comprehensive approach to women’s health that includes preventive care and research and that they want it to be a policy priority.

Supported by research from November that indicated 60 percent of women voters and 53 percent of all voters wanted women’s health to be a top priority for the next president, Dr. Johnson poses the questions “Will our leaders listen? Can they really afford not to?”

Read Dr. Johnson’s Women’s Health Policy blog on the Huffington Post.

- JCL

Preventive Care Becomes Affordable

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 2, 2012

Dr. Paula Johnson is a key advisor on women’s health as a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee on Women’s Health Preventive Services.

The following post is based on a presentation on the Affordable Care Act given by Dr. Paula Johnson, Chief, Division of Women’s Health and Executive Director of the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Chronic disease accounts for seven out of ten deaths in the United States. These conditions are often preventable and largely treatable. Yet, Americans currently use preventive services at about half the recommended rate.

“Disease prevention is based on scientific and medical evidence. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure,” says Dr. Paula Johnson, Chief of the Division of Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Executive Director of the BWH Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology.

The Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law on March 23, 2010, has made preventive services financially accessible for millions of Americans. The law provides for a range of important preventive health services to be included in your health plan, with no co-payments, co-insurance, or deductibles. Examples include:

• Blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol tests;
• Cancer screenings, including mammograms, colonoscopies, and Pap tests;
• Counseling on quitting smoking, losing weight, eating healthfully, treating depression, reducing alcohol use, and more;
• Routine vaccinations against diseases, such as measles, polio, or meningitis;
• Flu and pneumonia shots;
• Additional eight specific preventive services for women, including well-woman visits, contraception, domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling, counseling for sexually transmitted infections, human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing every three years for women over 30, counseling and screening for human immune-deficiency virus (HIV), gestational diabetes screening, and breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.

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Women and Heart Attacks: Know the Signs

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 12, 2012

Did you know that the warning signs of heart attack can vary greatly between the sexes?

Did you know that heart disease affects more women than men and that the warning signs of heart attack can vary greatly between the sexes?

Long considered a man’s problem, heart disease is actually responsible for 52 percent of all deaths in American women, claiming 250,000 female lives every year – more than all forms of cancer. And, on top of this staggering statistic, studies have shown that women are more likely to have a heart attack as the first sign of heart disease.

“Rather than the chest pain and pressure radiating up the arm and to the jaw often experienced by men, there are data that women are more likely to experience symptoms of heart attack that are less typical, such as abdominal discomfort, shortness of breath, and sweatiness,” says Dr. Paula Johnson, Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease in Women and Chief of the Division of Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, explaining that women often ignore these symptoms as they can easily be mistaken for other less serious conditions.

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