February-March 2012

February was Heart Month

February might have had an extra day this year, but it still flew by!  Amidst all of the mayhem that starts a new year, did you notice a lot of people wearing red?  If so, it's probably because February was Heart Month.  In Arizona and nationwide, heart disease is the leading cause of death among women over 25 years old.  Current research is uncovering new risk factors for heart disease and identifying steps that women can take to reduce their heart disease risk.

Existing health conditions, lifestyle choices, and family history are known to influence an individual’s risk of developing heart disease.  Individuals who suffer from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes mellitus are at increased risk.  Tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption can raise blood pressure, thereby increasing heart disease risk.  Furthermore, a diet high in saturated fats, salt, and cholesterol and a physically inactive lifestyle can also increase heart disease risk.  Finally, heredity is also a known risk factor.

Almost 20 percent of people who develop heart disease, however, do not have any of these traditional risk factors.  Current research aims to identify new risk factors for heart disease.  HPV infection, for instance, may be related to heart disease in women.  According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women who are infected with any of the 37 strains of Human Papillomavirus are 2.3 times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than women who are not infected with HPV.  Additionally, women infected with one of the two strains of HPV associated with cervical cancer are more than 2.8 times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.     

Fortunately, there are several steps individuals can take to lower their risk of suffering from heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, individuals can reduce their risk of heart disease by quitting smoking, limiting alcohol use, being active, and eating a healthy diet.  The Mayo Clinic has also recently rolled out a new campaign encouraging women to “know their numbers” for blood pressure, lipids, and body mass index.  You can check out their interactive heart health calculator and watch their promotional video on the Mayo Clinic’s Facebook page.

A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that a Mediterranean-style diet, long heralded as a means of reducing risk of heart disease among non-Hispanic Whites, also reduces heart disease risk among Black and Hispanic individuals.  Study participants who ate a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils (such as olive oil) were less likely to suffer from certain kinds of heart disease, regardless of their ethnicity. 

For more information on women and heart disease, click here!

In the News

Walmart Makes Healthy Choices Easier, Faster with “Great for You” Label

On February 7th, this country’s largest grocery store chain, Walmart, unveiled its new “Great for You” label that will appear on the front of packaged and fresh foods that meet specific nutritional guidelines.  Walmart created the “Great for You” label to help shoppers quickly and easily determine which products are healthy for their families.  Senior vice president of sustainability, Andrea Thomas, says “Our ‘Great For You’ icon provides customers with an easy way to quickly identify healthier food choices. As they continue to balance busy schedules and tight budgets, this simple tool encourages families to have a healthier diet.” 

Several public health figures have stated their support for the new logo.  First Lady Michelle Obama, who launched the Let’s Move! campaign to raise healthier kids, says “Giving parents the information they need to make healthy choices is a key piece of solving childhood obesity.”  Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, says “Walmart’s criteria are pretty strict,” noting that Walmart has not put the new “Great for You” label on sugary cereals, which have been decorated with front of packaging health claims according to other rubrics.

It remains to be seen whether the new “Great for You” label will truly encourage shoppers to make healthier choices and whether those healthier choices will result in lower rates of obesity. 

Heartburn Medication Can Increase Hip Fracture Risk in Postmenopausal Women

According to a new study led by Hamed Khalili of Massachusetts General Hospital, women who use proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for at least two years are at greater risk of hip fracture than women who do not use PPIs.  The risk is greatly increased for women who also smoke.

Using data from the Nurses’ Health Study, Khalili found that postmenopausal women who regularly used proton pump inhibitors for at least two years are 35% more likely to suffer a hip fracture than postmenopausal women who have not used PPIs.  The longer a patient used proton pump inhibitors, the greater her risk of fracture.  Current and former smokers who regularly used proton pump inhibitors for more than two years are 50% more likely to suffer a hip fracture than women who have not used PPIs.   These effects held constant even after adjusting for other risk factors, such as physical activity level and calcium intake.    

Khalili states that proton pump inhibitors may increase risk of fracture by means of several different biological pathways, such as by inhibiting calcium absorption or interfering with osteoclast functioning. 

Proton pump inhibitors are one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States.  Women who take proton pump inhibitors should speak to their doctor about long-term use.

For the original study, click here!

Rotating Night Shift Work Linked to Type 2 Diabetes in Women

Working on a rotating shift schedule is positively associated with an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes in women, according to a study by An Pan and colleagues that recently appeared in the online peer-reviewed journal PLoS Medicine.  The data showed that the longer the women engaged in rotational night shift work, the more likely they were to suffer from Type 2 Diabetes.  The data also showed that women engaged in rotational shift work for a long time were more likely to have gained weight compared to women who did not engage in any rotational shift work.  

The researchers defined “rotating night shift schedule” as working at least three nights and nineteen days or evenings each month; this style of scheduling is becoming increasingly common.  The researchers speculate that this work schedule interrupts the body’s natural rhythms, thereby making individuals more susceptible to health problems, such as glucose dysregulation and metabolic syndrome.

The researchers suggest that “proper screening and intervention strategies” be established to help prevent Type 2 Diabetes among rotating night shift workers. 

For the original study, click here!


Fun Heart Health Resources

There are a lot of fun resources available this month to help women assess their risk of heart disease and stroke.  Check out the Mayo Clinic’s Facebook page to use their interactive heart disease risk calculator.  While you are there, you can also view their catchy “Know your numbers” video!  You can also try out the American Heart Association’s “My Life Check” heart health calculator here.    Finally, for a video that uses comedy to make women aware of their heart disease risk, check out the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women video starring Elizabeth Banks here.  Take care of your heart!

Insurance Resources for Individuals with Pre-existing Conditions

Do you know of an individual who cannot afford insurance because of a pre-existing condition?  Arizona has a federally-administered Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) program that can help individuals get the comprehensive insurance they need.  In order to qualify for the PCIP program, an individual must meet the following requirements:

-          Suffer from a pre-existing condition

-          Be a United States citizen or legal resident

-          Have gone without health insurance coverage for at least 6 months

For more information, click here!  To apply online for PCIP, click here!

Interactive Screening Chart Available

Everyone has heard that preventive screening can save lives by catching health problems early.  But do you know what kind of preventive screenings you should ask your doctor about?  Do you know at what age you should start those preventive screenings and how often you should get re-screened? 

Don’t worry about it!  The Office on Women’s Health (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) has an easy-to-use screening chart available on their website.  This toll informs users of the screening tests they might need and how often they should be screened.  All recommendations are based on the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force screening guidelines.  

Events and Trainings


Women's Health 2012: The 20th Annual Congress
: March 16, 2012
Presented by: Journal of Women's Health and VCU Institute for Women's Health
Location:  Grand Hyatt, Washington, DC
Details: Registration is now open
Contact: womenshealth2012@liebertpub.co
Website: http://www.bioconferences.com/Conferences/WomensHealth/index.aspx

New Frontiers in Global Health Leadership Forum

Dates: March 28 – April 1, 2012

Presented by: The University of Arizona, Arizona Center for Rural Health

Location: Tohono O’odham Nation and The University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, Tucson, AZ

Details: registration ends March 15th

Website: http://crh.arizona.edu/calendar/287



Annual Rural Health Conference

Date: April 17-20, 2012

Presented by: National Rural Health Association

Location: Denver, CO

Details:  early registration is now open

Website: http://www.ruralhealthweb.org/annual


Annual Women’s Mental Health Symposium

Date: April 21, 2012

Presented by:  The University of Arizona, College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry

Location: Memorial Ballroom, Student Union Memorial Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Details: early bird registration through March 31, 2012

Website: http://www.wmh.arizona.edu/ 


AzPHA Annual Spring Conference: Mental Illness Stigma: Let’s Overcome It!

Date: April 27, 2012

Presented by: Community Partnership of Southern Arizona

Location: 2502 N. Dodge Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85716

Details: Registration is now open

Website: http://www.azpha.org/get-involved/conferences 


Observances -

National Endometriosis Awareness Month

Date: March 1 -31

Website: www.endocenter.org  


National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Date: March 10

Website: http://www.womenshealth.gov/nwghaad/ 


American Diabetes Alert Day

Date: March 27

Website: http://www.diabetes.org/in-my-community/programs/alert-day/

Funding Opportunities

Office on Violence against Women Enhanced Training and Services to End Violence Against and Abuse of Women Later in Life Program

Registration deadline: March 8, 2012

Deadline: March 29, 2012

Purpose: The Enhanced Training and Services to End Violence Against and Abuse of Women Later in Life Program provides or enhances training and services to address elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, including sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking, involving victims who are 50 years of age or older. Applicants are limited to States, units of local government, Indian Tribal governments or Tribal organizations, and nonprofit and nongovernmental victim services organizations with demonstrated experience in assisting elderly women or demonstrated experience in addressing sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

Amount: $3,000,000 total - $400,000 award ceiling

Information: http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/docs/enhanced-training-services-sol.pdf and http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/open-solicitations.htm

Editor’s Note

The Arizona Rural Women’s Health Initiative (AzRWHI) is a project of the Rural Health Office of The University of Ari-zona’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

Jennifer Peters,  Coordinator (520) 626-2254, petersjs@u.arizona.edu

Jessica Hersh-Ballering, Graduate Assistant, hershballering@email.arizona.edu