Obesity and Waist Circumference Linked to Hearing Loss Risk

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 6, 2014

Maintaining a healthy weight may help prevent hearing loss in women.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) recently published study results demonstrating that a higher body mass index (BMI) and larger waist circumference are each associated with higher risk of hearing loss in women.

In a study of more than 68,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II who were followed over 20 years, the researchers found that when compared with women with BMI of less than 25, the risk for hearing loss was 17 percent higher for women with a BMI of 30 to 34, 22 percent higher for women with a BMI of 35 to 39, and 25 percent higher for women with a BMI of 40+. Compared with women with waist circumference of less than 28 inches, the risk for hearing loss for those with a waist circumference of 35 inches or more was 27 percent higher. In addition, a larger waist circumference was associated independently with increased risk of hearing loss, even after taking BMI into account. This suggests that central adiposity (or “belly fat”) may itself be a risk factor for hearing loss.

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LAM: Helping Young Women Overcome a Rare and Debilitating Lung Disease

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

Dr. Elizabeth Henske is hoping to change the lives of young women suffering from LAM.

Contributor: Dr. Elizabeth Henske, Director of the Center for LAM Research and Clinical Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Her interests include improving diagnosis and development new treatments for LAM and studying the genetics of lung disease.

A young woman is out of breath after walking up a half flight of stairs. Her symptoms appear to be that of emphysema, yet she has never smoked (the leading cause of emphysema). She does not have any risk factors for emphysema, and her chest X-rays appear normal. How could she ever suspect a serious lung disease?

LAM (lymphangioleiomyomatosis) is a rare lung disease caused by a gene mutation that mostly affects women in their childbearing years (ages 20 to 40). The disease begins when abnormal, muscle-like cells from other parts of the body invade the lungs. Once in the lungs, these LAM cells metastasize (grow out of control), eventually destroying normal lung tissue.

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Promising News about Fertility in Female Survivors of Childhood Cancer

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 7, 2013

A recent study shows that many women who had a cancer as a child can become pregnant.

Many women think that if they had cancer as a child, they might never have children. A recent study shows that though it may be little harder, many of these women are able to get pregnant.

Although women who survived childhood cancer face an increased risk of infertility, nearly two-thirds of those who tried unsuccessfully to become pregnant for at least a year eventually conceived, according to researchers at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. This is similar to the rate of eventual pregnancy among all clinically infertile women.

The new study is based on data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study.  The study followed five-year survivors from 26 institutions who were under 21 when diagnosed with cancer. Researchers studied 3,531 sexually active women, age 18-39, who survived cancer and compared them to a group of 1,366 female siblings who did not have cancer.

Overall, 15.9 percent of women who survived childhood cancer were affected by infertility, with 12.9 percent trying to conceive for at least one year without success. (The remaining cancer survivors included in the infertile group had experienced ovarian failure and may not have even attempted pregnancy.)  Compared to their siblings, the cancer survivors had a 50 percent higher risk of infertility.  Despite higher rates of infertility, nearly two-thirds of cancer survivors conceived, on average, after another six months.  Among the comparison group of clinically infertile siblings, it took another five months to conceive, on average.

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Improving Birth Outcomes in Our Community

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 1, 2013

The Birth Equity Initiative is committed to improving birth outcomes in our community.

Birth outcomes in this country, as in other developed countries, are considerably better than those in developing nations. However, when compared solely with other developed countries, our report card no longer looks so good.

Some of this poor performance can be attributed to the significant health disparities among different US communities. African Americans, for instance, have the highest rate of infant mortality among all our nation’s major racial and ethnic groups. In our own neighborhood, Boston, a black baby is three to four times more likely to die by their first birthday than a white baby.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) obstetrician Audra Robertson, MD, MPH, and she’s helping to do something about it.

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When to See a Fertility Specialist

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 23, 2013

Dr. Elena Yanushpolsky

Today’s post was written by Dr. Elena Yanushpolsky. Dr. Yanushpolsky is an infertility specialist with the Center for Infertility and Reproductive Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and the Director of the BWH Center for Infertility and Reproductive Surgery at South Shore Hospital in South Weymouth. She discusses when its time to see a fertility specialist.

As a couple, you’ve been trying to conceive for several months without success. Should you keep trying or should you consult a fertility specialist? The correct answer is that it depends. Here are some things that can help you determine how soon to see a specialist:

  • Getting Ready:  It’s important for both partners to have a general health evaluation with a primary care doctor before seeking fertility evaluation and treatments. Many illnesses can have an impact on a couple’s fertility.

I also recommend that my patients maximize their chances for conception by using urine ovulation predictor kits which can be purchased over the counter. Other ovulation detection methods, such as basal body temperature measurements and cervical mucous evaluations can be used, though they are less precise than urine ovulation predictor kits.

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Hormones and Hunger – How Do They Relate?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 17, 2013

Psychologist Laura Holsen, PhD, explains how hormones can affect your appetite.

Can hormones play a part in what motivates us to eat? And, if so, how can studying hormones help address health issues such as anorexia or obesity?

These, and other questions, are at the heart of research being done by Brigham and Women’s Hospital psychologist Laura Holsen, PhD, Division of Women’s Health, Department of Medicine, who recently took some time to answer a few questions about how hormones may affect people at both ends of the weight spectrum.

  • How can studying hormones help us better understand eating disorders?

We know that there is an overlap between eating disorders and mood disturbances such as depression. This may be due to disruption within the brain regions that process reward.

It turns out that there are several hormones involved in appetite and mood that act on these regions of the brain involved in reward and making decisions about food intake. So by studying hormone levels while collecting brain activity data, we will get a deeper understanding of the relationship between hormone levels and brain activity in regions involved with appetite, food intake, and mood.

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Overactive Bladder: Tired of the Interruptions?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 9, 2013

Overactive bladder (OAB) is a common yet frustrating condition that affects women of all ages.

Today’s post is written by  Dr. Vatche Minassian, Chief of Urogynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  This is the fifth post in a series about common urogynecologic conditions affecting women.

If the first thing you do when you arrive at the mall, a restaurant, or movie theater is locate the bathroom, you may be suffering from an overactive bladder (OAB), a common yet frustrating condition.

OAB affects women of all ages, races, and socio-economic backgrounds. It occurs more often as women get older and may affect as many as one out of six women. OAB is a chronic condition. This means that although we can successfully help women manage their symptoms, there is usually not a cure that will cause the condition to go away permanently.

Recently, I saw several women with symptoms of OAB. My first patient, 61 years old, described the need to go to the bathroom every hour, even waking up several times during the night to go. The same day, another of my patients, who is 45 years old, recounted feeling a strong urgency to urinate, often being unable to hold her urine for long. The following day, a third patient, 72 years old, voiced the following concern, “Doctor, when I feel the need to go, I’ve got to find a bathroom quickly. In fact, I know where all the bathrooms are at the mall or grocery store.”

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Online Tour: Having Your Baby at Brigham and Women’s

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 19, 2013

Our Maternity Tour is available online 24/7 for our patients and their families.

Until recently, our patients needed to travel to our hospital to get an inside view on what it is like to have your baby with us. Now, our Maternity Tour is available online 24/7 for our patients and their families.

To help expectant families, our online maternity tour includes:

  • Information from our obstetricians, nurses, midwives, anesthesiologists, and newborn specialists
  • A visual trip from admitting to labor, then delivery and postpartum
  • Personal stories from moms who’ve recently had babies at BWH

By taking the tour, you can learn more about having a baby at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Start your tour here.

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Fertility Treatment Options for Women with Endometriosis

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 13, 2013

Dr. Marc Laufer, founder of the Boston Center for Endometriosis

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. Today’s post is written by Dr. Marc Laufer, a senior gynecologist in the Center for Infertility and Reproductive Surgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He also founded the Boston Center for Endometriosis in 2012. This post also appeared on the blog of RESOLVE New England, a nonprofit organization helping patients facing fertility issues.

Recently, I saw 37-year-old woman who was concerned about her difficulty becoming pregnant after she and her husband had been trying for four months. Though her pelvic ultrasound was normal, she mentioned she had significant pain during her periods and some pain with sex. She had experienced this pain for many years. Given her history, I suspected she might be suffering from endometriosis.

Endometriosis occurs when the cells that normally line the inside of the uterus (endometrial cells) are found in other parts of the body, usually in the abdomen or pelvic cavity. Endometriosis can cause severe pain and, if undiagnosed or untreated, can result in fertility problems. There is no correlation between the amount of disease and the amount of pain experienced. Some women have a small amount of disease but experience significant pain, while others have no pain but still experience fertility problems. The more advanced your endometriosis, the more difficult it may be to become pregnant.

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Overcoming the Challenges of Living with Interstitial Cystitis

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 6, 2013


Interstitial cystitis treatments can help women live more comfortably.

Today’s post on interstitial cystitis, is the fourth post in a series about pelvic floor disorders that impact the quality of life in women.  It was written by physicians in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Urogynecology, led by Dr. Vatche Minassian.

Occasional burning with urination or treatment for a urinary tract infection is common once women go through puberty. However, if you have chronic and disruptive burning or bladder pain and urine testing does not indicate an infection, you may have a condition called interstitial cystitis (IC). Women with IC have a urethra and/or bladder wall that is tender and easily irritated, leading to uncomfortable symptoms such as pain, a sense of the need to urinate, or the feeling of not emptying the bladder completely. There is no definitive test to diagnose IC, and there is no clear understanding of what causes it. Although IC currently has no cure, there are treatments that can help you manage your symptoms to feel better and live more comfortably.

Women with IC often experience gynecologic problems too, such as a worsening of bladder symptoms during intercourse, and pain or burning at the entrance to the vagina.The combination of symptoms can be very frustrating for patients. Women with this array of issues may need a referral for specialized diagnosis and treatment. Urogynecologists, with specialized training in gynecology as well as expertise in pelvic floor disorders, can manage both the urologic and gynecologic aspects of this condition. They also are comfortable talking to women about sensitive health conditions.

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