Breakthroughs in Women’s Health

As the medical community has belatedly acknowledged, women experience many diseases differently than men—and they are more prone to a number of ailments. Fortunately, Chicago today stands at the epicenter of women’s health research. In the following pages, we examine the latest developments on a wide range of medical fronts that have particular urgency for women

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SLEEP DISORDERS

Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from insomnia, which is often associated with depression. They are less likely to get sleep apnea—but that changes once they hit menopause. When estrogen levels go down, sleep apnea levels go up. When women receive hormone replacement therapy (either estrogen or estrogen plus progesterone), they sleep better.

In a study published in the October issue of Sleep Medicine, Northwestern University researchers found that aerobic exercise caused the most dramatic nondrug improvement in the quality of sleep of insomnia patients (primarily women). Participants also reported fewer depressive symptoms, more vitality, and less daytime sleepiness.

Sleep-deprived adults also risk gaining weight. “Most studies have shown that sleep deprivation is associated with increased appetite and a craving for carbohydrates,” says Dr. Eve Van Cauter, the director of the sleep research center at the U. of C. Medical Center. “Sleep is the window of opportunity to release growth hormone, which partly controls the relative amount of muscle versus fat.”

Sleep problems are nothing to yawn about. Among other things, they can be a sign of thyroid disorder or anemia. “Certainly trouble sleeping at night can be the canary in the coal mine for a variety of reasons,” says Dr. James Wyatt, the director of the Sleep Disorders Service and Research Center at Rush University Medical Center.

HEART DISEASE | FERTILITY | PREGNANCY | BREAST AND OVARIAN CANCER
CERVICAL AND ENDOMETRIAL CANCER | OSTEOPOROSIS
HEADACHES, MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS, AND OTHER NEUROLOGIC DISORDERS | DEPRESSION
EATING DISORDERS | INCONTINENCE | IMMUNE DISORDERS | SLEEP DISORDERS

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