Global life expectancy for both men and women increased from 65.3 years in 1990 to 71.5 years in 2013. Women made marginally greater gains than men, as female life expectancy at birth increased by 6.6 years. Women have unique health issues, including pregnancy, menopause and conditions that affect female organs. Some health issues that affect both men and women can affect women in a different manner. Women are more likely to die following a heart attack than men. Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a "man's disease," approximately the same number of women die from it as men in the United States. It is one of the leading causes of death for women, killing 289,758 women in 2013. This equates to one in every four female deaths. For both men and women, cancer is the second leading cause of death after heart disease; 21.6% of female deaths in 2014 were a result of cancer.
In this column, we review recent studies that suggest simple and effective ways to enhance women's health – with particular focus on natural interventions for heart disease, cancer, and stroke, as they are the leading causes of death among women today.
Amino Acids Assist Arterial Health
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, key components of muscle and tissue throughout the body. Amy Jennings, from the University of East Anglia (United Kingdom), and colleagues studied 1898 female twins, ages 18 to 75 years, surveying for their intake of seven amino acids associated with cardioprotective activity. The team conducted diagnostics to assess arterial stiffness and atherosclerosis. The analysis revealed that higher intakes of arginine, cysteine, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, leucine, and tyrosine were associated with decreases in central systolic blood pressure, pulse wave velocity, and mean arterial pressure – key markers of arterial health. The study authors write: "These data provide evidence to suggest that intake of several [amino acids] is associated with cardiovascular benefits beyond blood pressure reduction in healthy women."
Jennings A, et al. Amino Acid Intake Is Inversely Associated with Arterial Stiffness and Central Blood Pressure in Women. J Nutr. 2015 Jul 22; pii: jn214700.
Movements involved in fidgeting may counteract the adverse health effects of sitting for extended periods of time. Janet Cade, from the University of Leeds (United Kingdom), and colleagues collected over 14,000 responses from women who were enrolled in the UK Women's Cohort Study and subsequently surveyed for health behaviors, chronic disease, physical activity levels, and fidgeting. Data analysis revealed that an increased risk of mortality from sitting for long periods was only found in those who consider themselves very occasional fidgeters. They found no increased risk of mortality from longer sitting times, compared to more active women, in those who considered themselves as moderately or very fidgety. The researchers submit: "Fidgeting may reduce the risk of all-cause mortality associated with excessive sitting time."
Another more recent study, published in The American Journal of Physiology Heart and Circulatory Physiology, found that lower-body fidgeting may result in enough muscular activity to increase blood flow to the legs. Jaume Padilla, an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri in Columbia, leader of the new study, stated, "We had expected that fidgeting might attenuate" the reduction in blood flow and any subsequent acute changes in vessel health, but the differences in terms of blood flow and subsequent arterial function were much more significant." He went on to state, "The muscular contractions associated with fidgeting are really quite small, but it appears that they are sufficient" to combat some of the unhealthy consequences of sitting.
Hagger-Johnson G, et al. Sitting Time, Fidgeting, and All-Cause Mortality in the UK Women's Cohort Study. Am J Prev Med. 2015 Sep 4; pii: S0749-3797(15)00345-1.
Morishima T, et al. Prolonged sitting-induced leg endothelial dysfunction is prevented by fidgeting. Amer Journal Physiol - Heart and Circulatory Physiology. July 1, 2016;311 (1): H177-H182.
Chili Pepper Compound Curtails Breast Cancer
Research at Bochum, Germany's Ruhr University, led by Dr. Hanns Hatt and Dr. Lea Webero with collaboration by several German institutions, tested the effects of a spicy compound in chili peppers that could aid in slowing cultivated tumor cells of a subtype of breast cancer known as triple-negative breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in women around the entire world regardless of race or ethnicity.
Scientists, through genetic research, have been able to place breast cancer in subtypes which respond in different ways to types of treatment. Triple-negative breast cancer is especially aggressive and has proven to be very difficult to find a treatment for because of the absence of the three receptors that are known to promote breast cancer. Those are estrogen receptors (ER), progesterone receptors (PR), and the growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2).
Breast cancers that test positively for HER2 usually respond well to treatment and some specific drugs. However, the type of cancer that tests negatively for those needed receptors is called triple-negative breast cancer. Since the tumor cells in that cancer lack the three receptors, commonly used treatments such as hormone therapy and drugs that target them are not effective. Using chemotherapy, however, is still effective and usually the only option; and this cancer, in the early stages, may respond better to chemotherapy than other cancers.
Tested was the effect of the active ingredient capsaicin, which is in chili or pepper, on SUM149PT cell culture, a model for triple-negative breast cancer. Capsaicin has been shown to induce the death of cells and to inhibit their growth. The scientists were motivated by other existing research which suggests that some transient receptor potential (TRP) channels have an influence on the growth of cancer cells. TRP channels are membranous channels that conduct sodium and calcium ions, which can be influenced by stimuli including pH changes or temperature.
One TRP channel that plays a significant role in the development of several diseases is TRPV1, an olfactory receptor, to which researchers have given a great deal of attention. In this study, the researchers investigated the TRP channels in a large selection of breast cancer tissue, as well as analyzing how TRPV1 could be utilized in breast cancer therapy. The TRPV1 receptor appeared quite frequently and in the tumor cells of nine different samples taken from breast cancer patients.
The cultivated cells contained several typical olfactory receptors, which are proteins that bind together smell molecules and are located on olfactory receptor cells lining the nose. TRPV1 is typically in the fifth cranial nerve, named the trigeminal nerve. TRPV1 is activated by the spice capsaicin and by helional, a chemical compound with a fresh sea breeze scent. Helional and capsaicin were added to the culture for hours or days, which activated the TRPV1.
As a result of the TRPV1 being activated, the cancer cells divided more slowly, tumor cells died in larger numbers, and the ones remaining were not able to move as quickly. This suggests a reduction in their ability to metastasize. An intake of capsaicin through inhalation or food would not be sufficient to treat triple-negative cancer. However, Dr. Hanns Hatt, the lead study author, said that if the TRPV1 receptor could be switched on with specially designed drugs, it might constitute a new treatment for this type of cancer.
Weber LV, et al. Expression and functionality of TRPV1 in breast cancer cells. Breast Cancer: Targets and Therapy. 13 December 2016 (online). doi: https://doi.org/10.2147/BCTT.S121610
Weighty Concerns for Cancer+
Cancer Research UK warns that obesity puts a woman at 40% increased risk of developing at least seven types of cancer – including bowel, post-menopausal breast, gallbladder, womb, kidney, pancreatic and esophageal cancer. Julie Sharp, of Cancer Research UK, urges: "Lifestyle changes - like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on alcohol - are the big opportunities for us all to personally reduce our cancer risk. Making these changes is not a guarantee against cancer, but it stacks the odds in our favour."
Cancer Research UK. "Overweight and obesity." http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/causes/overweight-obesity-statistics/#by
Vitamin D – Stroke Link
Low vitamin D has been associated in past studies with neurovascular injury (damage to the major blood vessels supplying the brain, brainstem, and upper spinal cord). Nils Henninger, from University of Massachusetts Medical School (Massachusetts, USA), and colleagues studied 96 stroke patients, assessing their blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (a marker of vitamin D status). Stroke patients who had low vitamin D levels (less than 30 ng/mL) showed two-times larger areas of dead tissue resulting from obstruction of the blood supply compared to patients with normal vitamin D levels. Further, for each 10 ng/mL reduction in vitamin D level, the chance for healthy recovery in the three months following stroke decreased by almost half, regardless of the patient's age or initial stroke severity.
Khan MA, et al. Predictors of Outcome in Patients with Acute M2 Occlusion [Abstract #W P107]. Presented at American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2015, Feb. 5, 2015.
To stay updated on the latest breakthroughs in natural approaches for women's health, visit the World Health Network (www.worldhealth.net), the official educational website of the A4M and your one-stop resource for authoritative anti-aging information. Be sure to sign up for the free Longevity Magazine e-Journal, the A4M's award-winning weekly health newsletter featuring wellness, prevention, and biotech advancements in longevity.