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For women over the age of 40 looking to get pregnant, it is important to start working with a fertility specialist sooner than later. The treatment options available become more limited as we age, so…
October 14, 2021
Dr. Jones: So you've just done everything you can to get ready to start a family, and now you can hear your biological clock ticking loudly. When should you get help?
You're a 43-year-old woman, and you've heard your baby biological clock ticking. You want to have a baby, and you stopped your birth control, and it didn't just happen. When should you get help?
Well, it depends. Of course, it depends on a lot of things, your health history, and the male part, but actually, we start with your age. And when it comes to this age, sooner is better than later.
We're going to do this in three parts. So if this isn't your age or the age of the person you're worried about, check out our other podcasts because we have done this in three different age groups.
Here in The Scope virtual studio with us is Dr. Erica Johnstone. She's a specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility and an associate professor at the University of Utah. Her special techniques for fertility include advanced reproductive technology, some amazing technology that can help people have a family of their dreams who otherwise might not be able to have a family.
She has enormous experience with in vitro fertilization in her clinic and with egg and sperm donations and other advanced technologies. So you're over 40 but not close to 50 quite yet, and you know your biological clock is ticking and you want to have a child. Should you just try for a while or should you try to see someone before you try?
Dr. Johnstone: So I would recommend scheduling an appointment as soon as you start trying. And part of the reason for that is it may take a little time to get that appointment, but we know that for women who are 40 and above, time is absolutely of the essence. And so we wouldn't want women to miss an opportunity to become pregnant because they're unaware of something that may be affecting their chances. So really, the sooner, the better.
Dr. Jones: Right. They might need a little tune-up.
Dr. Johnstone: Exactly.
Dr. Jones: Sooner than later. So who should you try and see, and what will they do?
Dr. Johnstone: So for women over 40, I do recommend seeing a reproductive endocrinologist or an infertility specialist. Now, it is true that sometimes it can take some time to get an appointment, and so it's also a good idea if you have an OB-GYN or can see one quickly, to start with an OB-GYN who can get started in talking to you about your fertility and doing initial fertility tests.
Dr. Jones: Things like sperm count? Or what kind of testing do you think?
Dr. Johnstone: Exactly. So for the male partner, we would do a semen analysis and look at the number of sperm, how many of those sperm are swimming forward, and how many of those sperm have normal head shapes.
For the female partner, we would look at some general health labs. We always want to look at general health and make sure there aren't any important things about your overall health condition, maybe things like diabetes or high blood pressure that can be optimized before you become pregnant.
But then we also look at your menstrual cycles. Are they regular? Are you ovulating every month? We look at your uterus and ovaries for factors that may be making it hard to become pregnant, like certain types of ovarian cysts or fibroids. We make sure the fallopian tubes are open. And then we also look at ovarian reserve, which is looking at whether the number of eggs remaining in your ovaries is normal for your age. Is it higher than average? Or is it lower than average?
Dr. Jones: Most women . . . or I shouldn't say this. Many women have male partners who are about their age. And, of course, some women in their 40s might have partners that are . . . their male partner in their 20s. But it's not uncommon for women in their 40s to have male partners that are in their 60s. Are there any data about men as they get older and their fertility?
Dr. Johnstone: Sure. So men's fertility does decline with age, but at a much slower rate than for women. When women go through menopause, it is extraordinarily unlikely that they would become pregnant naturally again, whereas we know it is possible for men to conceive pregnancies really all the way into their 70s and 80s, but they're more likely to have abnormalities of their sperm.
And then there are certain risks for children born to older fathers, which include neurodevelopmental type diseases. Things like autism and bipolar disorder can be more common in children born to older fathers.
Dr. Jones: So how likely is it that women will be successful having a baby the ordinary way, just trying to get pregnant on their own, when they're, let's say, between 40 and 45 compared to 45 and 50?
Dr. Johnstone: Sure. So for women between 40 and 45, it's actually changing quite rapidly with each passing year. So on average, when we look at large groups of women, of women who want to conceive at age 40, about half will get pregnant naturally. But that decreases quickly to perhaps 20% to 25% by age 42 to 43. And by age 45, it's quite rare to become pregnant naturally.
Dr. Jones: Let's say you're 48. Are there options you should be thinking about from the beginning?
Dr. Johnstone: Absolutely.
Dr. Jones: And the miscarriage rates are higher too. So actually getting pregnant is part of the problem, but staying pregnant is even a bigger problem sometimes.
Dr. Johnstone: Yeah. So as women get into these ages where natural conception is unlikely even with assisted reproduction, the option that's most likely to be successful is using donor eggs. So eggs from a woman in her 20s that will give you a very high chance of being able to become pregnant.
Dr. Jones: Is there any age that's too old?
Dr. Johnstone: This is a really difficult question, and it's one that we're seeing as women in our country and throughout the world continue to become pregnant at older ages.
The risks during pregnancy go up kind of slowly as women get through their early and mid-40s. But by the late 40s and 50s, pregnancy becomes a very high-risk endeavor. As women get into their 50s, if they do become pregnant, a very high chance of having problems with high blood pressure during pregnancy, issues with growth for the baby, potentially serious complications.
And so women who are in their late 40s and 50s and are thinking about pregnancy, we recommend they sit down with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist to really understand these risks for them and what other health conditions they may have that may further increase those risks.
Dr. Jones: Right. There's a famous story from the Bible about Sarah who was 80, I guess. And so I guess I don't . . . When I read that I went, "Yeah, right. That's not going to happen." I mean, I know miracles happen in the Bible, but 80 is really . . . that's not going to be okay.
Dr. Johnstone: No. And I think it's important for people to know when we see women in the media giving birth at very old ages . . . I think the latest I've seen recently was 72. Again, these pregnancies were usually conceived with donated eggs, and sometimes they don't portray just how risky these pregnancies can be.
Dr. Jones: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you see many older movie stars even in their early 60s or their mid-50s who are giving birth and they never tell the specifics because it's a private issue as to where these pregnancies happened, what kind of eggs they were. But whenever I see somebody who's in their early 50s giving birth who's a movie star, I went, "Yeah, right."
Dr. Johnstone: Absolutely.
Dr. Jones: I don't want people to think that that's just an ordinary, common occurrence because then they'll be hopeful, and you don't, unfortunately, know that the person availed themselves of technology right away.
So anyway, as women get closer to the end of their reproductive life, closer to 50, the chances of a successful pregnancy becomes smaller and smaller, and the chances of miscarriage get larger. But there are options that can help you to have the children of your hopes, and we can help.
I really want to thank Dr. Johnstone and all the technologies that she's so good at accessing to help people have their families. And thanks to you for joining us on The Scope.
For women over the age of 40 looking to get pregnant, it is important to start working with a fertility specialist sooner than later. The treatment options available become more limited as we age, so finding the right doctor to help with conception can be a crucial step in your fertility plan. Learn what can be done to help women over 40 become pregnant.
A daughter’s first period marks her entry into womanhood. For a lot of parents—mothers in particular—this is also a time of new anxieties and concerns about their child’s…
July 02, 2021
So your daughter just had her first period. What's normal, what's not, and what to expect now.
A girl's first period marks her entry into womanhood. It's called menarche. And many parents, especially moms, seem to have a lot of anxiety and questions about it. Many moms readily admit to me that they have forgotten what periods were like when they started. So if something doesn't seem right, they get incredibly nervous that something is wrong with their daughter. Some worry that their daughter has started too early or too late. Actually, any time between ages 9 and 15 is normal.
Some worry that their daughter doesn't have a period every month like clockwork and that they need their hormone levels checked or some sort of treatment to make their periods regular. Well, it is hormones to blame for this. However, it's because hormones are still settling themselves out. It can take two to three years before periods become regular. If there is a family history of irregular periods, they might never be regular. And that's okay too. Parents really worry if their daughter's periods are not regular. But unless their daughter is sexually active or they go months between periods after having them for about a year, there really isn't anything to worry about. Irregular periods by definition happen either less than three weeks apart or more than five weeks between periods. Otherwise, they're normal.
Moms also get concerned about cramps. Sorry, but cramps are part of periods. Your daughter should not miss school or stop being physically active because of cramps. Being physically active has been shown to decrease cramps. I have parents wanting me to write letters so that every month their daughter can miss school during her period. Periods normally last 3 to 10 days. So that's a lot of school missed. I try not to do these letters and instead discuss ways to help their cramps. Over-the-counter naproxen really helps and so does a heating pad.
Some girls will even have nausea or vomiting with their periods due to hormone fluctuations. Treating them supportively with anti-nausea medicines can help.
Moms also get concerned about their daughter's becoming anemic. This does not happen usually. Girls normally lose between 30 to 40 milliliters per period. This is six to eight teaspoons of blood. So while it looks like a lot of blood during a period, it's not as much as it seems. If your daughter has something called menorrhagia, that is excessive blood loss and that is 80 milliliters or more of blood loss per period. And these girls normally pass blood clots that are larger than a quarter. These girls will usually soak through a pad or tampon every hour for several hours during the heaviest portions of their periods. They may also need double maxi pads for protection. If this is the case, then you should talk to your daughter's pediatrician about ways to help.
I often get asked by moms if their daughters could have endometriosis or fibroids or other gynecological issues. As a pediatrician, I can do basic period management and gynecology. I can do oral or injectable birth control to help with periods. But often the best thing for me to do is to refer my patient to a gynecologist if it's more than I can address. They are much better at diagnosing and managing female concerns.
Finally, moms also ask me if their daughters need Pap smears now that they have started their periods. No. That used to be the case, and it's pretty traumatic for a young girl. The current guidelines are if a girl is 21 or has been sexually active for three years, then they get a Pap smear, and that would be done by a gynecologist, not a pediatrician.
Bottom line, most period concerns are actually part of normal development. Your pediatrician can let you know when something is not normal and refer you to a gynecologist who sees teenagers for additional help when needed.
A daughter’s first period marks her entry into womanhood. For a lot of parents - mothers in particular - this is also a time of new anxieties and concerns about their child’s health. What to expect now that your daughter has had her first menarche.
Keeping our bodies strong and conditioned goes well into our later years, and is especially important for those over 50. A strong physical body can help reduce illnesses and provide independence so…
Mindfulness practices can help with stress, depression, and anxiety—but research has shown that they can also help with physical conditions. Trinh Mai with University of Utah Health's…
May 18, 2021
Interviewer: I think many of us have already heard or know that mindfulness can help with stress and depression and anxiety, but did you know mindfulness can also help with a lot of physical conditions as well, such as pain management, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, AIDS, cancer? It can help improve your sleep, stomach issues, and even eating disorders.
Trinh Mai is a mindfulness educator at The Resiliency Center at University of Utah Health. And mindfulness can help all these physical ailments as well, huh?
Trinh: Yeah. Isn't that wild?
Interviewer: It is wild. Tell me more about that. I mean, how does that work exactly?
Trinh: What all of those conditions share in common is that chronic stress can contribute to all of those conditions — hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, digestive conditions. Often stress is at the root of it, and stress is also the outcome of a lot of health conditions. So if there's a practice like mindfulness that can help you to better manage stress, then it's going to help you to better manage those symptoms.
Interviewer: This isn't something right now that I think a lot of physicians necessarily do. I bet you I could go to my doctor and say, "Hey, tell me about mindfulness and how that could manage my diabetes." You might get a blank stare. So are more and more physicians kind of adopting it, or how is this manifesting itself in traditional healthcare?
Trinh: Actually, how I came to mindfulness was my neurologist. I don't just teach this, I practice it and I'm a believer because I went to my neurologist about 10 years ago and said, you know, "I'm having all these neurological issues, pain, numbness." And we did a workup, and luckily I didn't meet any particular diagnoses, but she said, you know, stress often contributes to pain.
So she actually recommended that I take mindfulness-based stress reduction, and that's a course that I currently teach now so I feel really lucky. But that course changed a lot for me. It helped me to become more aware of what triggered my pain, and then it helped me to be aware of, you know, how I react to my pain can actually reduce it or exacerbate it. Sometimes the reactions actually make things a lot worse than the initial problem.
And then I, through the practice, actually became more aware and then I hopefully have been able to reduce my pain in other aspects. Hopefully, I'm less of a pain as a parent and as a partner. But yeah, it's awareness. That's what mindfulness is. And when you're aware, then you have more choices of what course to take.
Interviewer: I know a lot of people personally, and probably even me a few years back, if a physician in medicine would have told me what your neurologist told you, I'd be like, "Oh, they just can't figure out what it is. This is ridiculous." I can almost hear somebody going home and go, "Yeah, they told me I need to be more mindful. How's that going to help? Give me a pill, give me a diagnosis, tell me what's wrong."
And I think a lot of us have a hard time believing that stress can cause some of these other health conditions. So that story was great because I think it just really illustrated, you know, it did, it made a difference in your life and it can make a difference for a lot of people.
So let's get to the question now. So somebody is listening to this podcast, maybe they're suffering from one of the things we mentioned, maybe it's something else. How do they do it? Let's give somebody a first primer and then we'll give some resources.
Trinh: Yeah. So let me start with, first of all, I think that a lot of people that I've taught they'll tell me, "Oh, yeah, it's not for me because my mind races and I just can't make it stop," or "I can't sit still, that makes me too nervous." Well, you know what? I totally get that. I come from generations of people, particularly women, that cannot sit still. Like my mom, she's 70 something, she's retired, but she does not sit still. So I totally get that.
And it's like anything, the more we do, the stronger our muscles are to be able to do it, and the better we get. The other thing I think it's important to know is that you don't have to make your mind stop. So I'm going to just repeat that. You do not have to make your mind stop. We can't necessarily control that, but what we do have control over is if we pay attention to it or not, and we can bring attention to our bodies.
So for example, if I were to ask you now, can you bring attention to your feet on the ground and feel the surfaces of the ground? And if you can do that, you're practicing mindfulness.
Interviewer: That's it?
Trinh: Yes. And, you know, your mind's going to wander off to, "Oh, well, I got better things to think about." And that's cool. But when you notice that, you can bring it back.
So now I'd like to invite you to bring your attention to your breath and maybe see if you can pay attention to three breaths, the inhale, the exhale, feeling the air enter the nostrils, and opening up your body. Exhaling completely, feeling the body contract.
The mind wanders off. You notice. That means you're aware and you bring it back to your breath. And then at the end of the next exhale, maybe just check in and notice how you feel. See if there's any shifts.
Interviewer: I feel more relaxed already, and we did that for like, what, 18 seconds. That was amazing.
Trinh: Thanks for practicing along, Scot.
Interviewer: That was fantastic. So it doesn't seem like it's hard. You just kind of have to be paying attention. I'd imagine there's a lot of resources that you can get to it. There's apps I hear advertised or probably YouTube videos. Is there any place, in particular, you'd like to go for somebody who just wants to start?
Trinh: So, you know, I'm biased. I work for Wellness and Integrative Health here at the University of Utah, so I am going to invite you there first. You might want to check out the University of Utah Wellness and Integrative Health YouTube channel, and it's under Be Well Utah. So that's the series that you can check out.
And then, you know, taking courses, trying a class is a lovely way to get support and structure and a community to start a habit. So we have two courses. We actually have three. We have Everyday Mindfulness, which is an introductory course, and it's four weeks. And then we have the gold standard, which is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. And that's the one that John Kabat-Zinn started and has decades of research behind it. And that one is nine weeks.
And then I just started a self-compassion course during lunch, and that's only an hour long for four weeks. So a few options for you to just, you know, try it out and see what it's like for you.
Mindfulness practices can help with stress, depression, and anxiety—but research has shown that they can also help with physical conditions. Explore the treatment of chronic stress through mindfulness practices and how it can help manage health conditions like chronic pain, blood pressure, and heart disease.
Research from the University of Utah and Planned Parenthood shows evidence that the hormonal intrauterine device or LNG-IUD is an effective option for both long-term and emergency contraception. Dr.…
February 18, 2021
Dr. Jones: So you ran out of your birth control pills and the condom broke or something like that. You really don't want to get pregnant right now or anytime soon. What do we know about your options?
Many women know about emergency contraception, and many don't, something you can do to decrease your chance of pregnancy if you had unprotected or under-protected intercourse. There are two types of emergency contraceptions approved by the FDA that are available in the U.S., and they are pills, and they decrease the chance of pregnancy if they're taken within five days of unprotected intercourse. But there are other types of birth control that would work and keep on working if you're looking for contraception for more than this month.
With us today is Dr. David Turok. He is an OB/GYN specialist in family planning and chief of the division of family planning at the University of Utah. Thanks for taking some time for us, Dr. Turok.
Dr. Turok: Thank you.
Dr. Jones: What were the background reasons to ask the question of whether the levonorgestrel IUD, which is what we're going to be talking about, would work for emergency contraception? What made you do this question?
Dr. Turok: Well, I speak with people a lot about emergency contraception because I'm very interested in it, and I think it's amazing that you can use something after you've had sex to prevent pregnancy. And every time I talk about it with people during grand rounds or during educational presentations, people always, always, always ask . . . because we know we have great data to say that the copper IUD works very well for emergency contraception, people always ask, "Well, what about the hormonal IUD, the levonorgestrel IUD? Can you use that?" So 10 years ago, we started trying to gather data on this topic, and finally we have an answer.
Dr. Jones: So people came to the clinic wanting emergency contraception and they walked into the clinic thinking that they might get some pills. How did you get so many women to participate in the study when they came for just pills?
Dr. Turok: Like in many aspects of life, Utah is unique. And currently, one of the forms of emergency contraception pills is available without a prescription. You can just walk into pharmacy or supermarket and get them. Sometimes it's behind the counter, you might have to ask, but you can get it without a prescription.
In Utah, because there are many limitations for people, young people especially, with insurance coverage, people seek out the cheapest place to get it, and that is Planned Parenthood where there's a sliding scale and where people have known for a long time that they can get the pills.
And we've done a few different surveys and a few different kinds of projects where we offer people walking in for emergency contraception IUDs, and it's around 12ish percent of people are interested in an IUD in that setting. And that's, I think, potentially driven in Utah by the fact that people don't have adequate insurance coverage and they're looking for opportunities to get better methods of contraception. And when there are low or no-cost options presented, people are interested.
So, at the peak before Plan B, one of the pills was available over the counter. Planned Parenthood statewide distributed more than 50,000 doses of oral emergency contraception. So people know, and lots of people come to Planned Parenthood clinics in our state for the service, and when you present them with IUDs, some are interested in it.
Dr. Jones: So some of them are really looking for something for longer than just this month?
Dr. Turok: Exactly. Yes.
Dr. Jones: Right. So you've known that the copper IUD . . . we've all known from data that goes back 20 years, really, that the copper IUD works. So you then offered them either a copper IUD or a hormone-containing IUD. And what did you discover?
Dr. Turok: So what we found in this study where we randomized people to get one or the other type of IUD, either copper or the hormonal IUD, we found that the pregnancy rate was low, very low, in both groups in the month after.
So with copper IUDs, we had 321 people who were assigned to that, and we got one-month outcome data on. And we expected in that group, zero or one would have a pregnancy. And it was zero.
And with the levonorgestrel group, we really didn't know. We had built into the study stopping points. Like, if there were a bunch of pregnancies early on, we were just going to stop. But what happened was there were 317 people who got the levonorgestrel IUD and there was one pregnancy. Lower than we thought and much better than the pills.
Dr. Jones: Right. That's important because the methods that are currently FDA-approved, that those 50,000 women who came to our clinics seeking pills, the failure rate or the ineffectiveness rate is much higher than what you found with the IUDs, either one of them.
Dr. Turok: Yeah. To me, one of the very cool things about the study is the other studies that got FDA approval for those oral methods, these were things that took a long time and hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to go through the FDA process to get that approval. And in this study, we took a method that was already FDA-approved and we just showed that it works for this as well.
And the upside relative to the pills is, as you know, that people who are getting this can get . . . this is not just better than the pills for this one event, but you can continue to use it as long as you want, up to seven years, or for the copper IUD, up to 12 years. And that is a set-it-and-forget-it method.
Then for the LNG IUD, there's this side benefit, which is why it's more popular than, I think, the copper IUD, in that it dramatically reduces or eliminates both menstrual bleeding and cramping. And that is a big upside. And that's why I think people really wanted an answer to this.
Dr. Jones: Well, we have some evidence from another big study that just gave women what they wanted when they asked for contraception and then followed them, that the IUDs were something like 20 times more effective than birth control pills in preventing pregnancy?
Dr. Turok: Correct.
Dr. Jones: So if a woman comes to our clinic for an emergency contraception and she wants long-term reliable contraception, would she be offered an IUD, do you think, in our clinics? Because now that the work was done around here, I'm hoping that our clinicians know that it's an option. Do you think it's going to be used in the clinics?
Dr. Turok: I want to say absolutely.
Dr. Jones: I do, too.
Dr. Turok: But I would also say as our team is working on getting this paper published, I would occasionally have these pangs of terrible thoughts that 10 years down the road, it's going to be like the authors of this paper and 10 other people that we know that know about this and nobody is going to ever have done any of it.
And so I started making lots of phone calls and sending lots of emails to people who I thought would be critical partners in disseminating the information. And one of the things that helps get the word out a lot is getting the paper published in a high-impact journal.
Dr. Jones: Right. It was published in "The New England Journal of Medicine," which is probably our premier medical research journal, I think, in the United States, or one of them.
Dr. Turok: One of the, I think, nice things about the study is "The New England Journal" publishes papers that change practice. That is their main motivator for selecting research articles. And you have a very low chance of submitting something and getting it published. But it was very reassuring to know that they felt this was important enough to be published there and that they were confident that it would change practice.
And there are lots of other organizations, professional organizations, a variety of health practitioners, and providers that can disseminate this to people who work with them.
I also have been working with the people from UpToDate to revise the article on emergency contraception to incorporate this and they were amazing. ACOG carried a piece on their listserv email and we're going to work with them to try to update Lark information in their emergency contraception information. So there are all kinds of ways to get the information out.
And a really important place to do that is also with Planned Parenthood Federation of America. As you know, they have something called the National Medical Committee that makes decisions on changes in practice. So I just sent an email and lately before this interview responding to questions from people who organize the National Medical Committee about this.
It's, I think, a great opportunity for Planned Parenthood Federation of America to lead on the dissemination of this because the information came exclusively from Planned Parenthood clinics. This is a collaboration between our team at the University of Utah and Planned Parenthood Association of Utah.
If you look at what gets published in "The New England Journal," the vast majority . . . and currently, probably nobody is a more fastidious reader and consumer of their publication than you. If you look at those trials that get published, most of them are these big, multi-site, and sometimes multinational studies with tons of sites and huge numbers of participants. This study is different.
Dr. Jones: It is. It's really amazing that you have a very local group who was completely committed to answering the question. And I think that that's a phenomenal thing.
I think, at The Scope, we're trying to get the word out also to individual women so they might be willing to come in and ask. So not only do clinicians need to know, but if individual women say, "By the way, do you think I could get this IUD today? Do I have to wait?" that changes practice.
Dr. Turok: Absolutely. So the education and dissemination of information have to be from push and pull factors from supply and demand side. And as I had mentioned, we're already working on trying to get providers up to speed. But there's lots of opportunity that we're going to be working on to make sure that people who are seeking emergency contraception will know about this.
Obviously, the internet is a fabulous place to do that. And there are also some organizations that focus specifically on emergency contraception. There's a U.S. Emergency Contraception Consortium and an International Consortium of Emergency Contraception, and they are fabulous at providing consumers information about different products and ways to access them. So we look forward to working with them as well.
Dr. Jones: Right. Well, Dr. Turok, I am very grateful for your time, and we'll work at The Scope in trying to get people the information they need. But the research to answer this kind of question takes years and takes a team of dozens of nurses, and clinic staff, and researchers, and above all, it takes hundreds of women who are willing to participate, answer questions, and follow up. To all of them, we are very grateful because "I hope I just didn't get pregnant" isn't a very good birth control method. And it's been a long time coming and I'm so glad to see it here. Thanks a lot, and thanks for joining us on The Scope.
Research from the University of Utah and Planned Parenthood shows evidence that the hormonal intrauterine device or LNG-IUD is an effective option for both long-term and emergency contraception. Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones speaks with Dr. David Turok and what his team’s research means for women and OBGYN practice.
Seeing your hair turn shades of gray can be shooking, especially if you're not yet at the age when gray hair would normally start appearing. Why and how does hair turn gray, and why do some…
July 30, 2020
Health and Beauty
Shades of Grey. Gotcha. When you clicked, maybe you thought I would be talking about what goes on in a very popular book series. Nope, not even. I am going to talk about whether your kid really can turn your hair gray.
We've heard our mothers say that someone stressed them out so much it turned their hair gray, or that an acute stress turned their hair white overnight. There are some references to it in the "Talmud," the Jewish holy book, and supposedly Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France, had her hair turned white overnight between the time that she was sentenced to the guillotine to the next morning when she met with the guillotine. Of course, that's very unlikely, and maybe being a queen during the French Revolution was so stressful that her hair turned white over several months and she covered it with a wig. And when she took it off at her final performance, her hair was white.
First, a little discussion on the anatomy of the hair follicle. The hair is produced under the skin in a hair follicle that's lined with pigment-making cells called melanocytes. Melano means dark or dark-colored and cytes means cells. Melanocytes are in our skin and make pigment either naturally, given our genetics, or when we tan. For those of us who are freckled, we have patches of melanocytes that make more pigment.
In the hair follicle, the melanocytes arise from stem cells that replenish the number of melanocytes. As these stem cells divide, some become melanocytes and some stay as stem cells. This is a strategy for cells that are renewed all over our body. As we age, we run out of stem cells, so we don't make so many new specialized cells like melanocytes. That means no more color to the hair as we age. At least that's the theory. Genes and diseases, like autoimmune diseases, can determine when and if you go gray.
So back to the stress theory. Some clever researchers at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute just reported some interesting studies in mice in the journal "Nature." So, first, they thought maybe going gray was the loss of the melanocytes from an immune problem. It's known that some people with immune problems go gray. So they injected mice with capsaicin, the stuff in chili peppers, which is known to cause an immune stress response in mice. They did this in mice without immune cells, and the mice went gray. So it wasn't the immune system in this case.
The second was to stress out the mice in another way. They were exposed to short-term pain or stressful living conditions in their cages, and they went gray. But was this due to cortisol, which our adrenal gland and mice's adrenal glands make when they get stressed out? Or was it something else? So they took out the adrenal gland of the mice, and they still went gray. By the way, the human race owes the mouse race a serious debt of gratitude for all that they go through for medical research.
So maybe it was the sympathetic nervous system. Each hair follicle has nerves around it. Your hair stands up when you're scared. And when the mice were stressed acutely, their nerves were flooded with norepinephrine. When that happened, all the melanocyte stem cells got programmed to make melanocytes. So there were no more stem cells left to make melanocytes in the future. Now, this didn't happen overnight, but a relatively short period of time. And then the mice didn't have any more stem cells. They didn't have any more melanocytes, and they went gray. So this is a plausible reason for the old wives' tale that acute or chronic stress can turn you gray.
So what do you do about this? Well, having gray hair is a sign of wisdom. You let the gray hairs figure it out. Maybe people who've been through a lot of stress and survived it have a visible cultural signal of their resilience -- their gray hair. Of course, we could suggest that you avoid all stress, but that's pretty hard to do and impossible if you have any kids or any kind of extended network of people you love.
So you can love your gray. For American women over 50, we don't do that so much. It's been suggested that at some time 90% of women over 50 dye their hair. When you finally decide to go gray, you can dye your hair white, but that would be a shock. You could color your hair but put gray highlights and then let it grow out. You could color your hair gray with colored highlights and let it grow out. Best of all, you shouldn't even listen to me because I'm clueless. Talk to your colorist about what's the best way to go gray gracefully, but don't stress out about it.
Why and how does hair turn gray, and why do some people "turn gray" earlier than others? The science and medical research behind the old wives' tale that acute or chronic stress can turn you gray.
6,000 women in the United States enter menopause each day. One-third of all women in the United States will be postmenopausal by 2020—most are baby boomers. Menopause symptoms, such as hot…
November 12, 2020
Hot flashes, they are hard to describe and women experience them differently, and it's been a really long, hot summer. But what if that summer lasted 15 years?
All women who live long enough and it really isn't all that long, just to about 51, will have their ovaries stop working. When that happens, estrogen levels fall. And about 85 percent of women who make that transition from ovaries on to ovaries off will experience hot flashes.
The baby boomers, formerly the largest generation in the U.S., now replaced by the millennials, are aging and 6,000 women in the U.S. enter menopause each day. By the year 2020, coming right up, about 50 million women in the U.S. will be post-menopausal, one-third of all women in the U.S.Symptoms Associated with Hot Flashes
The two signature symptoms of estrogen withdrawl are hot flashes and vaginal dryness, and both are treated pretty well by estrogen. Many women are not distressed by these symptoms and good for them.
But AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons—but as not all members are retired, they are just AARP—anyway, AARP did a menopause survey of their female members between 60 and 69, and 72 percent said that menopausal symptoms interfered with their lives and eight percent said it interfered a great deal.
Now, these women were actually about 10 years from their menopause. And when their ovaries stopped working 10 years ago and they're still having symptoms, 20 percent said that they had vaginal dryness, 24 percent had hot flashes, and 23 percent night sweats. Of course, some had all three symptoms and some had none.
Women with severe hot flashes typically experience them for seven to 15 years, and 15 percent of women with severe hot flashes experience them for more than 15 years. Now, what in the brain makes this hot flash happen? Do only women get them?Studying the Neuroscience of Hot Flashes
Recently, some very cool research on hot flashes was done in mice, and they found that the KISS1 neurons, kiss isn't that cool, KISS1 neurons that are part of the brain that make up the ovaries and testes work, so these KISS1 neurons make the ovaries and testes work, actually have their feet on the ground in the part of the brain that controls temperature.
These KISS1 neurons in mice work the same way that those neurons work in humans. Activating KISS1 neurons initiated a fast rise in the mouse's skin temperature followed by a drop in core body temperature. The same symptoms occurred in male and female mice. Removing the female mouse's ovaries made this temperature swing worse. We know that men that had their testes removed or who take medication for prostate cancer that makes the testes stop working can have hot flashes.
Now, we don't know if the mice who experienced these changes in their body temperature experienced distress, but some other studies suggest that they seek out cooler places in their cages. We don't know if they have spikes in anxiety or irritability, or if they're having hot flashes and they're getting angry, but that would be an interesting experiment to do.
Hot flashes at menopause may have more complex neuron functions than just KISS1, and about 15 percent of normal women never have hot flashes with menopause. So it's complicated. But understanding some of the brain's mechanisms might help us to think about new therapies.Coping with Hot Flashes and When to Seek Help
Now, back to that survey from AARP, 46% of the women surveyed said that they had never discussed menopause with a health care provider, and only 1 in 12 had been referred to a menopause specialist. So what's the takeaway from all these numbers?
One, most women who experience menopause will have hot flashes.
Two, most women who experience hot flashes will tolerate them.
Three, most women with hot flashes will find that their flashes decrease in a couple of years. That sounds like a long time to me in a long, hot summer with hot nights.
Four, about one in eight women will have significant distress from their hot flashes and they'll go on for a long time. For 50 million women who will be post-menopausal in 2020, one in eight of 50 million is a lot of women.
Five, women who bring to their experience of menopause all the physical, social, cultural, environmental, emotional, financial, and spiritual experiences. In other words, hot flashes can be wrapped up in all of the seven domains of women's health.
Six, there are quite a few options other than estrogen, which works best, for managing hot flashes, and most clinicians don't know about all of the options.
Seven, if you are suffering from hot flashes that seem to go on and on and on, the longest summer ever, talk to your clinician. Ask them what is their training in menopause and ask what they know about different options. If you try some of the options they offer and you're not getting better, or if you don't like the side effects of the options, you should seek out a menopause specialist.
Eight and last, many specialists called reproductive endocrinologists have training in menopause. And some physicians, primary care providers and OB/GYN's have a special interest in understanding menopause and caring for women who are having difficulties. Some clinicians have made it their special interest in their practice. It could be a search, but your doctor probably knows where you can get help.
At University of Utah Health, you can use our app for finding a doctor who has an interest in treating menopause symptoms. That will get you started. The most important thing is that we're learning more and developing and understanding new options. So no big sweat, and thanks for joining us on The Scope.
6,000 women in the United States enter menopause each day. One-third of all women in the United States will be postmenopausal by 2020—most are baby boomers. Menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, can last as long as fifteen years and can cause significant distress.
Thirty percent of women ages 40-50 have an overactive bladder: more bathroom breaks during the day, urgent trips waking you up at night. According to women’s specialist Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones,…
August 13, 2020
Interviewer: You're getting older and you're noticing that you're peeing more during the day, during the night. Is this normal? That's coming up next on The Scope.
Today, we're talking with Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones. She's the expert on all things woman. Dr. Jones, the scenario is you're 40, 50, you're getting up there in the numbers and for whatever reason, you're just starting to pee more. You're starting to wake up more in the night, you're starting to take a little more breaks during the day. What's going on? Are you normal?
Dr. Jones: Yeah, this is, well, remember we talked about normal . . .
Interviewer: Is she normal?
Dr. Jones: Is she normal? Welcome to the overactive bladder club. Welcome to the potty club. It turns out that urgency, meaning a bladder that contracts before it's really, really full is quite common. And the range in studies go from five percent to 30 percent of women by midlife have what they consider an overactive bladder and sometimes even leak a little.Causes for an Overactive Bladder
Dr. Jones: So let's talk about medical or structural problems that might lead to this. We're not talking about stress incontinence, meaning you got to go when you cough or sneeze. This means you're just kind of walking around and then you got to go and then you just went and then it's an hour or two later and you've got to go and it's just going. First of all, the most common that causes urgency, meaning I've got to go is a urinary tract infection. But if this has happened over a long period of time, that's not going to be it. A UTI, a urinary tract infection, is actually an acute event.
Interviewer: And usually hurts, doesn't it?
Dr. Jones: It usually hurts. Now, there are women who have fibroids or something in their pelvis that's growing that's leaning on their bladder. So just as when a woman's pregnant and the baby's head is leaning on the bladder and they have to go all the time, if you have a big fibroid on your bladder or another pelvic mass, that can be a benign mass and it could have been growing slowly over years and you just know that you can't hold as much. So those are some reasons.
There are people with neurologic problems, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions that can make kind of an overactive bladder and that's what you see on the TV, it's called overactive bladder.
The most common reason is we don't know. So I call it idiot-pathic, instead of idiopathic, meaning it's unknown, I call it idiot-pathic. And it has to do with an aging brain. And that is the kind of ability to calm your bladder that you had to learn at two so that you could be continent and not pee in your pants all the time.
As you get older, you lose some of that so your brain can say, "Oh, I think I want to pee and I want to pee now." You can retrain your brain to say, "No, I really don't. I just went two hours ago and I haven't had anything to drink." So mindfulness training actually works very well.Treating Urgency with Mindfulness
So we have classes here at the University of Utah in mindfulness training specifically to help women with overactive bladder. As I said, it's common. Five to 30 percent of women complain of this. So they have to get up once or twice at night.
Now, another important reason before I get back to the overactive bladder is I see women walking around in their yoga pants with their water bottle. And they have water bottle with them everywhere because it's part of their drinking, drinking, drinking so that certainly can be part of it in women who are trying to watch their weight know that drinking water is good, and then they're drinking buckets of water and they have to go.
And those women, when you ask them are when they keep a diary, actually will let you know if you have them pee in a little thing we called the hat that sits in the potty so you can measure it. They are peeing a lot because they're drinking a lot.Diabetes and Frequent Urination
There are other conditions like diabetes where you have a lot of sugar in your blood. Those people actually become dehydrated because when you have to get rid of the sugar, you have to get water out with it so those people pee a lot.
So there are a couple of things that are medical that caused frequent urination but those people are peeing in buckets and when you have to get up in the night and you get out of bed and you just pee a little bit, so that's urge incontinence or urgency we call it. There are ways to treat it.
Now, there's medicine to treat it but the medicines make a little difference. So they did some randomized studies where they looked at medicines that are actually, you see them advertised on the TV. They may decrease the number of urge episodes a day by one or two so you're still left with a moderate amount.
Interviewer: You're still pretty much going regularly.
Dr. Jones: You're still going. You are. And they have side effects of dry eyes and dry mouth, and what do you do when you have a dry mouth?
Interviewer: You drink more.
Dr. Jones: You drink more. So I think what we usually try to do is help people retrain their brain.
Interviewer: So mindfulness is the best solution.
Dr. Jones: Mindfulness is one of the best solutions and making sure that you don't have a lump in there, that you don't have diabetes, that you don't have other conditions that will make you go that are medical concerns. The most common is the brain just isn't as good at suppressing that bladder spasm as it was when you were 20, and now you need to retrain your brain.
Interviewer: So if you don't have a medical condition like diabetes, or urinary tract infection, and you're getting up there in the numbers . . .
Dr. Jones: Yeah, in the numbers.
Interviewer: In the numbers, right? We're just going to call them the numbers, and you're peeing a lot more than you used to, this is normal.
Dr. Jones: This is normal and I'm sorry.
Causes and solutions for frequent urination in aging women.
You’ve been good about family planning, You’ve had the children you want, when you want. You’ve always used birth control, but when can you stop? For most women, it is when they…
January 28, 2021
You've been so good about your family planning. You've always used birth control, but when can you stop? This is Dr. Kirtly Jones from Obstetrics and Gynecology here at University of Utah Health Care and this is The Scope.
So you've spent all your life planning your children. You had your babies when you wanted them. You didn't have any extra babies. You've really been good at it, but when can you stop? The answer is when you or your partner are using some form of really good birth control so you can stop. If your partner has a vasectomy, well, that's great.Declining Fertility and Risk of Complications
Now, a really good form of birth control was menopause. So let's talk a little bit about your contraceptive method and menopause. First, fertility, we know, declines starting at about 30. We know that women who are trying to get pregnant sometimes struggle in their late 30s and certainly do in their 40s. The difficulty is that a pregnancy in your 40s that's unplanned is a definite problem because women in their 40s who get pregnant, even though they're not very fertile, do have higher risks of complications in pregnancy, like high blood pressure and diabetes.
They're actually more likely, believe it or not, to have twins. And they have more complications in terms of blood loss and a whole lot of other problems just with the pregnancy. And of course, we all worry about the difficulties in chromosomal abnormalities in our babies that increases in women after their 30s. So women are more likely to have complications in pregnancy. They are more likely to have a baby with a chromosomal anomaly like Down syndrome and importantly, they are more likely to miscarry. And by the end of your 40s, you are really likely to miscarry.Menopause as Contraception
However, you don't want to get pregnant even though your chances are low. So when, even if you're being very careful, when is it time to stop? Okay. So let's now talk about menopause. Menopause is defined as when you haven't had a period for a year. Then that last period a year ago is your menopause. Now, you have to be of the right age.
So the average 20-year-old who hasn't had a period for a year is probably not in menopause. She hasn't run out of eggs. She may have another reason for not having her periods. But women in their late 40s and early 50s who haven't had a period for a year are very, very likely to be in menopause. So if you haven't had a period for a year, then you're likely in menopause and you can stop using your contraceptive method.
However, it's difficult to know if you're in menopause based on your periods if you're using a contraceptive method that changes your periods. So let's take, for example, birth control pills. Birth control pills block ovulation but give you hormones that make you have a period every month. So you can be in menopause, have no more eggs, be completely infertile, but because you're taking the pill, you'll have a period every month.
So how do you know, if you're on birth control pills, that you're in menopause? Well, the difficult answer is you have to stop your pills and see what happens. If you stop your pills, and you're about 52, and you don't have a period for six months, then you're in menopause. But what happens if you are 52, and you're still fertile, and you stop your pills, and you get pregnant? Well, the option is, of course, to stop your pills, see what happens, and use a different method, a barrier method, use condoms, use foam. Remember, you're not very likely to get pregnant because you're not very fertile and you're not very likely to stay pregnant because you're likely to miscarry. So that's one option.
The other option is to say, "Well, why don't I just stay on my pills because going through the perimenopause," those years when your periods are totally unpredictable and not very pleasant, "why don't I stay on these nice little periods that I like on the pill until I'm about 54?" We know that at 54, about 90% of women have gotten through menopause. At 50, the average age of menopause, only 50% of women are menopausal. But by 54, about 85 to 95% of women are menopausal. So you just stay on your pills and stop at 50 and you're very likely to be done.IUD's and Injections as Contraception
Let's talk about an IUD that has hormones in it. For women who have an IUD with hormones in it, many of those women have very light periods or no periods at all so you may not know that you're in menopause. You may have some hot flushes because your estrogens have gone away. You may use a blood test, which doesn't work very well for women on the pill, but it can work for people with a hormone-containing IUD. You could do a blood test called FSH and if that is really high, then it's likely, not guaranteed, but likely, that you've run out of eggs and you're in menopause.
Or you can just stay on that IUD that has some hormones in it until you're about 54. And many women in their early 50s who have hot flushes may want to take a little estrogen and they have the progestin protection. They protect their uterus lining against abnormalities with that little hormonal IUD. So wait until you're a little older and then take your hormonal IUD out.
If you're taking a shot like Depo-Provera, about 80% of women on Depo-Provera don't have periods so you won't know when you're in menopause. Well, the same kind of strategy goes with Depo-Provera as it does with the hormone-containing IUD. You can just wait till you're a little older or you can stop, use a backup method. You can stop your shots, use a backup method, and wait and see if you start your periods again.
So this is kind of a complicated question. The good news is that for women who stop their method, whatever it might be, at 50, then, in fact, the chances of getting pregnant are very low. How low is low for you, though? If the chances of getting pregnant and having a baby is 50 to 1 in 100, is that a number that you're willing to take a risk for? Not me. For me, that's no, I wouldn't take a 1 in 100 risk of a baby, that with all the complications of a pregnancy at 50 is. So I was much more willing to push my contraception out to 54 and then say, "Now I'm ready to be done."
So it's a personal choice. It's one that you discuss with your partner, with your family, if that's what you want to do, in terms of what their thinking about future childbearing, what kinds of risks are they willing to take if you do get pregnant? But definitely talk with your clinician because there are some options that are really good ones to make this transition with low fertility, but still some fertility, and some good therapy for menopausal symptoms.
So many women actually use a low-dose birth control pill to help them with their menopause symptoms. So that's the difficult answer for a difficult question, but I want to say good for you for having been such a good contraceptor all these years. And thanks for joining us on The Scope.
The types of birth control and the steps women can begin to take to get off birth control when they’re ready.
Did you know women who have had vaginal births and female paratroopers both have an increased risk for pelvic prolapse? This condition is caused by a stretching of the supports of the uterus and…
October 22, 2020
Dr. Jones: What do Utah women who've had lots of babies have in common with female paratroopers? This is Dr. Kirtly Jones from Obstetrics and Gynecology from University of Utah Health Care. And if you want to know the answer, stay tuned to The Scope.What Is Pelvic Prolapse?
Dr. Jones: So what do women who have lots of babies through the vagina, through vaginal birth, or maybe only one baby, have in common with female paratroopers who haven't had any children? Both groups are at increased risk for pelvic prolapse. This means their inside female parts are falling out. Having a vaginal birth and repeated trauma to the pelvic floor, as a female paratrooper can have, can cause the support to the uterus and the cervix to stretch and then drop a little lower in the vagina.
Commonly the cervix may be as low as at the entrance to the vagina and occasionally the cervix and uterus may actually be positioned outside the vagina. This is called pelvic organ prolapse. Not only can the uterus come down, but the bladder can come down leading to urinary leaking or difficulty urinating. Both situations can be uncomfortable. Today in The Scope radio studio, we're talking with Jan Baker, a nurse practitioner in the Pelvic Floor Clinic at the University of Utah. She specializes in the evaluation of pelvic organ prolapse and in the non-surgical management of this common problem. Jan, welcome to The Scope.
Jan: Thank you, Kirtly.
Dr. Jones: So how common is this? Not very many female paratroopers, but a lot of people have had babies.
Jan: Well, it's likely more common than our statistics tell us because this is, again, one of those unspeakable problems that women don't want to talk about. But it is thought that about one and a half to 1.8, almost 2 women per 1000 women have prolapse, some form of prolapse. But when we do studies of women with no symptoms of prolapse and they're examined, up to 50% of those women can have prolapse. Although it may not be where they're noticing it, but they have started to develop prolapse. So prolapse symptoms usually peak right around age 60, but about half of the women that seek care for prolapse symptoms are usually between the ages of 30 and 60. So it is quite common.Conditions That Can Cause Pelvic Prolapse
Dr. Jones: So what conditions can cause this? We mentioned having births and we mentioned being a paratrooper.
Jan: The biggest risk factor is childbirth, then just getting older.
Dr. Jones: Oh, great.
Jan: Because, unfortunately, the longer you're alive, the more and more gravity has its effect.
Dr. Jones: Gravity wins. Gravity always wins.
Jan: Gravity always wins, but obesity, menopause, family history, race . . . Latinas and white women are more likely to get prolapse, and a previous hysterectomy also seem to play a role in the development of prolapse.Early Symptoms
Dr. Jones: So what are the symptoms a woman might have that would suggest that they might have this problem?
Jan: Well, the most common early symptom is kind of this mild pelvic pressure or maybe a mild kind of a backache at the end of the day. Maybe some mild urinary frequency, maybe feeling like they need to go to the bathroom a little bit more frequently.
Dr. Jones: And later on?
Jan: And then, later on, they may start to notice a bulge coming from their vagina, or they may start struggling with a bowel movement and that is usually what brings women to seek care.
Dr. Jones: Yeah. So what can be done about it?Self Care before Seeing a Physician
Jan: Well, if the prolapse is not very bothersome, watchful waiting is a very good option. Education, though, at this time, can really be important. Because, although we don't know for sure, many experts in the field believe that weight loss, managing constipation, managing a chronic cough, reducing high-impact aerobic exercises such as jumping or running or jumping out of an airplane, or a trampoline, jumping on a trampoline. Using vaginal estrogen, smoking cessation and doing a pelvic floor muscle exercise might slow down the progression.
So actually talking to women about these things, maybe that might make a difference. You know, these interventions make sense because you're not continually putting pressure on the pelvic floor, but we don't have any good research to support their use. But they do make sense and they don't have any side effects.
Dr. Jones: Well, that's good. Actually, just knowing that what you have is there and it's common and it's not cancer, it's not a tumor. This is just life on the planet Earth and we can't move to a smaller planet with less gravity. So if a woman doesn't want surgery or isn't a good candidate for surgery because of her age or medical conditions, what are some of the non-surgical options?
Jan: So if the vaginal bulge has started to bother them, a vaginal pessary is a good option for her. And it's really good for those women who don't want to have surgery, who maybe cannot have surgery because they have medical problems that make it not a safe option.
Dr. Jones: Or they're going on a walking trip to Europe right now, no time for surgery. What can we do until I get back?
Jan: And maybe they can postpone, they want to postpone surgeries, but they want to be comfortable, exactly.What's a Vaginal Pessary?
Dr. Jones: So can you help me with what's a pessary?
Jan: Well, a pessary is a device that fits inside the vagina and it's made from rubber, plastic or a silicone-based material. Lots of sizes and shapes. And what I do in the clinic is I fit a woman. We basically put a pessary in and see how it fits. The only reason a woman would know that she has the pessary in place is that she doesn't have the vaginal bulge anymore. She should not even know that pessary is in place. And what's interesting is pessaries have been used before Christ. And what they used were pomegranates, and more recently, potatoes have been used. Although, we don't recommend those use now because we have pessaries that have been developed by scientists.
Dr. Jones: A little cheaper, though, but having said that I would rather have something that was made out of silicone than something that might sprout. Well, okay, so how well do they work?
Jan: Sixty-three to 83% of women can be fit with a pessary and of those women that can be fit, 76 to 80% of those are satisfied with their pessary.
Dr. Jones: And how long can you use them?
Jan: Well, you can use a pessary as long as you want to.
Causes and treatments for pelvic prolapse.
A heart attack affects men and women in the same way, but the different sexes experience the symptoms differently. Many women even dismiss the symptoms. Cardiologist Dr. John Ryan talks about why…
September 03, 2020
Interviewer: Did you know that when women have heart attacks the symptoms are different from men? True. You're going to find out more about that next on The Scope.
I was surprised to find out that heart attack symptoms are actually different in men and woman. We're going to learn more about that right now with Dr. John Ryan, he's the director of the Dyspnea Clinic at the University of Utah. Men and woman, heart attack symptoms are different, is that true?Heart Attack Symptoms in Women
Dr. Ryan: It's true to a certain extent, so the traditional concept we have of heart attacks being the crushing chest pain, hand on your chest, sweating, vomiting and presenting to the emergency department and be found to have a heart attack, is seen more commonly in men, however, part of the issue is is that women also experience these, but tend to ignore them more. So yes, they have the symptoms, but they just tolerate them better or dismiss them as being a heart attack, because many women don't feel that they're predisposed to a heart attack.
Interviewer: So for example if you were to ask somebody what kind of pain you're feeling, one person might say it's a level ten, same amount of pain...
Dr John Ryan: Yes, exactly.
Interviewer: ...number five, women are doing the same thing with these symptoms.
Dr. Ryan: Exactly, yeah, so there's a tendency to dismiss the symptoms, so therefore the symptoms often times need to be more severe or more advanced before woman present with them and then by the time they're more severe and more advanced, they're then different, so instead of having left sided chest pain or pain radiating down the left arm, they now have central chest pain and it's radiating down both arms. So that's what ultimately can make the syndromes different. Also, women often don't feel that they should have heart attacks.
Interviewer: They don't have time.Women's Heart Health
Dr. Ryan: Not only do they not have time, but it's a problem that men have. And this is a serious misconception because cardiac heart disease is the biggest cause of death of women in the United States.
Interviewer: Which is a surprise to a lot of people.
Dr. Ryan: Surprise to a lot of people and it's an important public awareness issue so therefore when women again, when they get their chest pains, or their symptoms from the heart attack, not only do they tolerate it more than men, but also they dismiss it as being a heart attack, sure, sure, why would I be having a heart attack, I'm a woman.
Dr. Ryan: I don't have heart disease.
Interviewer: Why do women dismiss, I mean, what is it about a woman's body that they tolerate it more? Any idea?
Dr. Ryan: Probably a pain threshold issue.
Interviewer: We've heard that before.
Dr. Ryan: Exactly, yeah, women often claim to have a higher pain threshold than men, and that's probably true and in this, and that's a very, that's an advantage, but ultimately that ends up hindering people in terms of presenting when they are having their heart attack. So that's probably the issue.Are There Different Types of Heart Attacks?
Interviewer: The symptoms are the same but different, they experience them differently, but at the end of the day, are heart attacks different?
Dr. Ryan: So the heart attacks are still associated with significant morbidity, significant mortality and so in that regard they are just as ominous and just as sinister. And the pains, again, the classical pains that people get or that people are taught, is that the central chest pain or the left sided chest pain, radiating down into the left arm, woman often times don't describe this as pain but will describe it as a pressure or a tightness in the chest, all of which are various adjectives that really impact how you perceive pain and again that reflects how you perceive pain. But ultimately the prognosis is still serious, still ominous, and still needs to be treated, taken very seriously and women need to be aware of the fact that they are as likely to experience cardiovascular events as men.How to Prevent a Heart Attack
Interviewer: Is there a take away that you would have?
Dr. Ryan: Although we want to see patients when they're having heart attacks, we want to prevent patients from having heart attacks all together, so the more important aspect would be for women to be proactive in order to preventing events, so doing exercise, eating healthy, having heart smart diets and trying to, staying on top of their blood pressure, cholesterol and so on so that we don't end up seeing them when they've had a heart attack.
Although heart attacks affect both men and women, women tend to be more likely to dismiss the symptoms until they become severe due to previous misconceptions about women's heart health. Learn to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack and how to prevent one altogether.