Thursday, February 23, 2017

During Heart Health Month, the 5 things you can do year-round to protect your health.



We think and talk a lot about how symptoms of heart attacks differ in women, and that is a crucially important topic. As cholesterol medications become more widely used, atherosclerosis is predicted to decrease leading to a decrease in heart attacks. Furthermore, rapid emergency treatment of heart attacks means fewer heart attacks are fatal or debilitating.

On the other hand, we do not devote as much time to discussions of heart failure.  "Almost 6 million Americans are living with heart failure, a condition in which the heart is not able to pump enough blood to support the other organs of the body.  Heart failure appears to strike men to a greater extent than women, but it is still a serious consideration in women", comments Dr. Carole Banka, Associate Project Scientist in the Department of Medicine at UCSD School of Medicine

Did you know that:
  • More American women die of heart disease than of all forms of cancer combined? 
  • Most women do not know that heart disease is the #1 killer of women? 
  • Many of the risk factors for heart disease in women (high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, inactivity and smoking, for example) can be reduced or eliminated?

Even though there are effective medications and life style changes that may slow the progression of heart failure, early detection is important. Heart failure signs and symptoms are similar in men and women, so make sure to discuss any of these with your physician:
  • Shortness of breath during exercise or when you lie down
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Signs of fluid retention including swelling in your legs, ankles and feet; swelling of your abdomen and sudden weight gain from fluid retention
  • Increased need to urinate during the night
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Nagging cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm
  • Nausea and lack of appetite and nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating, decreased alertness or confusion
  • Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus
  • Chest pain if your heart failure is caused by a heart attack

The tips for lowering your risk for heart failure will sound some-what like a broken record-- you have heard them all before; but once again:
  • Eat well 
  • Exercise 
  • Lose weight 
  • Monitor blood pressure and treat it if necessary  
  • QUIT SMOKING!

The tunes of the women and heart health record seem to be making a difference, however! According to "Go Red for Women":
  • Nearly 90% of women have made at least one healthy behavior change.
  • More than one-third of women have lost weight.
  • More than 50% of women have increased their exercise.
  • 6 out of 10 women have changed their diets.
  • More than 40% of women have checked their cholesterol levels.
  • One third of women have talked with their doctors about developing heart health plans.
So keep dancing to the record of heart health and women! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!


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About Carole L. Banka, Ph.D: 

Carole L. Banka, Ph.D is currently Associate Project Scientist in the Department of Medicine at the UCSD School of Medicine.  She received her Ph.D. from UCSF School of Medicine and did postdoctoral training at UCSD School of Medicine and The Scripps Research Institute.  Dr. Banka has received numerous awards for her public speaking on women’s health issues and gender differences in health and disease, including the “BRAVO” Award from the National Association of Women Business Owners and the “Women of Achievement Award” from Soroptimist International. In addition, she has received a Leadership Award from the American Heart Association.


About the Doris A. Howell Foundation:

The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community.

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Sources:  American Heart Association's goredforwomen.org
In Collaboration with Carole Banka, Ph.D

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Proof is in the Pudding… or in the Mousse? The top 6 Benefits (and excuses) of eating DARK Chocolate and 1 Healthy Recipe for Chocolate Mousse.

Photo courtesy of rakratchada torsap- FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Talking about heart health month, it only seems appropriate to talk about CHOCOLATE!  

Though recommended to eat sparingly, the health benefits of dark chocolate are widely known.   The secret of healthy dark chocolate resides in the levels of cocoa.  The higher the amount the better!  To get all the health benefits of dark chocolate, nutritionist recommend chocolate that contains 70% or more of cocoa.

From famous pastry Chef Fran├žois Payard, this Chocolate Tofu Mousse is as healthy as dessert can get!

Ingredients:

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup soy milk
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
10-ounce silken tofu, drained
1/4 cup raspberries
1/4 cup blueberries

Preparation:

  • Place chopped bittersweet chocolate in a bowl. 
  • In a saucepan, combine soy milk and scraped vanilla bean. Bring to a boil; pour over chocolate. Let stand 1 minute. Remove vanilla bean and whisk until smooth. 
  • In a blender, process drained silken tofu until creamy (10 seconds). Add mix; blend until smooth (20-30 seconds). 
  • Spoon into 5 individual bowls; refrigerate until mousse is firm (1 hour). 
  • Before serving, divide 1/4 cup each raspberries and blueberries among bowls.


And while eating this fantastic chocolate mousse,  a reminder of the benefits of dark chocolate:

1.- A healthier heart = loving longer:    Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels,  decreasing your risk for heart attack or stroke from a clot. It is also known for lowering cholesterol levels.

2.- Blood Pressure: Eating dark chocolate reduces blood pressure by helping the lining of the blood vessels expand and contract better to control blood flow more effectively.

3.-  Remembering where you left your keys: Research has shown that increasing blood flow to the brain, dark chocolate can improve and slow down dementia.

4.- Stress and the Blues:  We all know that a bite of dark chocolate makes us feel good INSTANTLY!  Several studies suggest that eating dark chocolate mimics the release of the hormones that make us feel good.  Dark chocolate has been found to improve mood by increasing serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain.  "Psychology Today" even reports pregnant women who eat more chocolate during pregnancy give birth to more stress-free babies.

5.- Gut Health:  Science Daily talks about the latest research of the treat of the Aztec Gods: “Dark chocolate might pack a double positive punch for our health—thanks to the microbes that live in our gut. New research suggests that beneficial bacteria that reside toward the end of our digestive tract ferment both the antioxidants and the fiber in cocoa”.

6.- Loving life while staying young:  Skin is known to be the largest organ in our bodies.  Researchers found that certain components in cocoa may actually help improve the appearance of women's skin - increasing hydration, decreasing skin roughness and scaling, and helping to support the skin's defense against UV damage. Antioxidants found in dark chocolate protect the skin from free radicals in the environment that can cause wrinkles.

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About the Doris A. Howell Foundation:

The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community.

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________________________________________________________

The information herein is not intended to replace the medical advice of your physician. You are advised to consult with your physician with regards to matters relating to your health, and in particular regarding matters that may require diagnosis or medical attention.
(1)  http://www.fasebj.org/content/28/3/1464.abstract
(2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21956956
(3) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070221101326.htm
(4) http://pubs.acs.org/doi/citedby/10.1021/pr900607v
(5)  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140318154725.htm
(6) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/43865.php
Recipe and Photo:  Health Magazine: http://www.health.com/health/recipe/0,,50400000120332,00.html 

Chocolate and Cardiovascular Disease: The "Bitter" Truth


Heart disease is hard to digest.  We all pretty much know by now the facts on women and heart disease: 1 in 3 women will die of heat failure every year; compared to 1 in 31 american women who loose their battle to breast cancer. 

But do we know what steps to take to take care of our heart? 

Join us at our next Howell Luncheon Series "Chocolate and Heart Disease: The Bitter Truth" with Dr. Pam Taud, who will be discussing cardiovascular disease in women, the risk factors for heart disease, preventive measures for heart disease and the story of chocolate. The idea that chocolate has beneficial effects and the mechanisms behind those beneficial effects derive from Dr.Taub's own research. How better to prepare for Valentine's Day than to hear some good news about chocolate (dark chocolate, that is)!

When: Friday, February 3, 2017
Time:  11:30 - Registration and Networking 
            1200 - Presentation and Lunch
Cost:   $50.00
Location:  La Jolla Country Club, 
                  7301 High Avenue, 
                  La Jolla, CA 92037

Register Here


Meet our Speaker: 

Pam R. Taub, MD FACC
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
UCSD School of Medicine

Dr. Pam Taub received her MD at Boston University School of Medicine, her Internal Medicine training at University of Washington and her Cardiology training at UCSD. Dr. Taub is a general cardiologist and devotes much of her patient care to preventive measures believing that prevention is the new frontier in cardiology. Her research extends the search for preventive measures by focusing on the beneficial effects of chocolate.

Her own research—focused on how epicatechin (a compound found in dark chocolate) can improve mitochondrial structure and exercise capacity in patients with heart failure and diabetes—has received funding from the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Cardiology, and has resulted in multiple publications in top journals. She is also developing and testing new biomarkers (blood tests) to predict cardiovascular risk, as well as studying the mechanisms of statin-related muscle complaints and decreases in exercise capacity and using epicatechin to treat them. 

If heat disease in women is 'bitter', Dr. Taub might just as well have given us a smart way to deal with it!  Register today as seating is almost full.  We certainly do hope to see you there; and in the mean time, take a minute to meet our speaker! 




Sources: 
https://www.goredforwomen.org/fight-heart-disease-women-go-red-women-official-site/about-heart-disease-in-women/facts-about-heart-disease/
http://doctors.ucsd.edu/details/11968/pam-taub-cardiology-encinitas-la_jolla

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About the Doris A. Howell Foundation:

The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community.

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Friday, January 13, 2017

The hidden disease that no one talks about: from clutter to dealing with the stigma of hoarding.



Let's face it: how many times, at the beginning of the year, we promise ourselves to clean out the clutter in our closet/garage/storage room/office?  One's new year resolutions might be a bigger problem than we think...  There are a lot of hidden reasons why we clutter, and justify it. Understanding our behavior is only a part of the strategy to tackle the task of decluttering head on.  But at what point does an individual go from clutter to hoarding? How does it affect the life of those around a hoarder? And most importantly, how does the health of a person who is hoarding?

There should't be a way to sugar-coat hoarding. It is as valid a disease as OCD and other anxiety and psychological disorders.  Dr. Sanjaya Saxena, speaker at the Howell Health and Happiness Symposium on January 21st, sheds light on the compulsive behavior called hoarding.  According to Dr. Sanjaya Saxena, (quoted in this article from the Washington Post last year), "Hoarding is 'underdiagnosed and undertreated'.  Though people realize it’s a problem, they never conceive of it as a medical disorder rooted in brain abnormalities.”

His clinical focus is on assessing and treating patients with OCD and obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders with medication and/or cognitive-behavioral therapy. His research examines the fundamental neurobiology and treatment of OCD, hoarding and related disorders, using functional and structural brain imaging technologies to understand how brain circuits mediate their symptoms. The goal is to learn why some treatments are effective and how to predict patients’ responses to different treatment options. Some of his recent research explores ways to more effectively treat hoarding disorder and develop novel treatments for this condition.

There is only a small difference between clutter and hoarding.  According to the article written by Sara Solovich, experts agree that a "hoarding disorder is present when the behavior causes distress to the individual or interferes with emotional, physical, social, financial or legal well-being".

The first step in addressing hoarding is by working towards eliminating the stigma that accompanies it.  No, hoarders are not lazy, or loosers for that matter. Here is what is known so far:
  • Hoarding affects 19 million Americans --around 6% of the population
  • Recent research shows that hoarding can be genetic  
  • Research has also shown that hoarding tendencies start during teenage years
  • Hoarding is more present in men than in women
  • Hoarding typically co-occurs with other mental disorders including depression, bipolar disorder and personality disorders.  Alcholol dependence and obsesive compulsive behaviors exacerbate its treatment
  • Hoarding is inversley proportional to income levels 
  • There is a strong co-relation between hoarding and obesity: hoarders are 3 times more likely to be obese
  • Hoarding is not exclusive to objects; although animal and object hoarding come hand in hand  
  • Hoarders are in general socially withdrawn and are older in age
Why should hoarding concern us? Going beyond the inability to care for oneself due to the exacerbated disorganization that keeps anyone from carrying on with the basic, expected activities and behaviors, it represents a serious health hazard; not only because of the disorder itself, but because of the related risks accompanying it.  Examples include having a fire and not being able to escape it, or not being to move in case of an emergency. But the most devastating part of the disorder is additionally having to deal with social and emotional connections with family and friends.

For those with a family member or friend that shows a hoarding pattern, it is important to realize that unless there is a will to change the behavior, the likelyhood of succeding is, well, not there.  Interventionalist teams that address hoarding typically recommend an approach based on trust and respect.  It is important to ask before getting rid of an item, as ridiculous as the item might be.  Intervention teams that address hoarding typically involve the development of strategies that seek behavioral changes:

  • Developing an 'anti-clutter' plan that involves a licensed clinitian or coach that can work on the entrenched belief of collecting
  • Practicing clutter removal to etablish the habit of getting rid of unnecessary items
  • Joining a support group
  • Avoiding the habit of shopping
  • Engaging in other activities that might help mitigate the anxiety of hoarding, such as exercise or meditation

Depending on wether there is an underlying disorder such as depression and axiety, medication might work.

Hoarding is no laughing matter! Learn more at the Howell Foundation's Health and Happiness Syposium on January 21st. It will provide new strategies and tools to uncover your health in one area that is rarely talked about -- clutter and hoarding; including effective coping skills like meditation and exercise.


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Sources: 

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/real-world-hoarding/
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/01/health/a-clue-to-the-hoarder-s-compulsion-for-clutter.html?_r=0
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/hoarding-is-serious-disorder--and-its-only-getting-worse-in-the-us/2016/04/11/b64a0790-f689-11e5-9804-537defcc3cf6_story.html?utm_term=.4afea6813bb5
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5183092/
http://doctors.ucsd.edu/details/12033/sanjaya-saxena-psychiatry-la_jolla
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15169692
Image by Geoff B Hall - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16393385

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About the Doris A. Howell Foundation:

The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Honoring the Women you love this holiday season!



Have you considered honoring a loved one with a donation to the Howell Foundation?

Why should you?

Because we ARE different, genetically, anatomically and psychologically. So what leads many to believe that women and men should be diagnosed and treated the same when it comes to our health?

The complexity of gender differences and the greater health incidences a women faces --especially in the latter years of her life-- make women’s health research even more necessary than ever.   And by gender differences I mean going beyond the various roles ascribed to us because of our boobs and vaginas.   As best described by Carol Vlassoff, “Gender refers to the array of socially constructed roles and relationships, personality traits, attitudes, behaviors, values, relative power and influence that society ascribes to the two sexes on a differential basis.”

We do not have heart attacks the same way.

We do not face stress the same way.

We do not react to Ambien the same way.

We don’t even get depressed the same way!

But we all do have women in our lives.  What are we doing to keep them healthy?

As with most EVERYTHING in our lives, it does take an act of Congress to get things done.  Seriously.    Women’s activism was partly responsible for the National Institutes of Health’s Revitalization Act in 1993 that mandated –and ensured-- the inclusion of women in clinical trials.  Problem is, it was TWENTY YEARS AGO!  And still today, there continues to be a need for gender-specific research, not only at a social (gender) level, but at the physical (sex…no, not THAT one) level as well.  The NIH has now extended its mandate of inclusion of women in clinical studies to the inclusion of male and female animals and male and female cells in basic research.

So what can we do today to achieve women’s health? The answer should be simple:  it starts with research and ends with education.  Some examples?

We ARE kicking breast cancer’s butt; however, we still need help with ovarian cancer research.

When faced with either having a heart attack, or having night sweats, it DOES come to a point where we would rather die than continue living sleep deprived! Hormone therapy guidelines –specifically the prescription of estrogen between ages 50 and 60 - is becoming acceptable again.   On behalf of men –and of course women all over the world, thank you! New research on hormone therapy, just in the past year, has revealed that it is not as bad as it was once thought to be.

Not to sound like chickens, but advancements in the process of freezing women’s eggs gives many facing cancer the possibility of enjoying motherhood.  Go warriors!

Women’s health, however, can’t just stop at the research level.   Get and STAY informed!  Women’s health depends on the knowledge about our own bodies.  It’s about advocating for our own health by keeping up with the wonderful scientific advances that might affect us.

So as to the ‘why’ we should care about women’s health:   Women’s health is family health:  Healthy women, happy family. Personalized medicine needs to consider gender and sex, which ultimately starts with research at its most basic: the cellular level.  By understanding the physiological, psychological and social differences between men and women:

  • Researchers can keep discovering new cures for disease based on the differences between men and women.
  • Doctors can establish the necessary guidelines to treat illness specific to gender and sex –vs. a ‘one size fits all’ approach. 
  • The pharmaceutical industry can develop targeted medications that effectively treat and cure illness in a specific sex-specific manner.
  • Men and women can be informed and become advocates for their own health, and most importantly, their family’s health.   

Understanding women’s health is a win-win for all of us, don’t you think?




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About the Doris A. Howell Foundation:

The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community.

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Is there an intelligent way of aging? The key research findings that say there is!



The old age question remains:  why do some people live longer than others?  Do some of us REALLY want to live that long?

The 'old old' may hold all the answers to longevity.  In order to understand the spike in longevity, investigators from the University of Southern California embarked in a research project back in 1981.  It started with a 14 page questionnaire which was sent to 18,000 people.  14,000 were returned.   The average age was 73, and two out of three people alive were women. The group of researchers wanted to understand what factors affected their health.

Why is this important? More of half of the children born today are expected to live up to 103 years old! It is expected that by 2050, 3% of the population will be over 90!

The most important findings of the study and how to age intelligently back in the 80's included:

1. Of the most common recommendations to lead a healthy lifestyle,  and as to what activities influence our ability to live longer, the results of the study were quite surprising! The factors associated with longevity show that it really isn't a question of who lives longer, but who lives well; including maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

2. One thing is for sure: of those factors that do increase our longevity, turns out surrounding yourself with loved ones is THE factor to consider if you want to age successfully!  Being social helps to live longer!

3. It is about engaging the brain! Leisure activities that summed up to 8 hours per day made people live longer, and well!

4.- Exercise, exercise, exercise!  As little as 15 minutes a day goes a long way.  In her research, Dr. Kawas mentions that the ideal time to exercise is 45 minutes a day.  And it doesn't have to happen all at once.  You can take a 20 minute walk, and gardening for another 20 minutes later in the day.

Taking it a step further. 


One of the most difficult and dreaded aspects of aging is dementia and Alzheimer's disease.  Dr. Kawas took her study a step farther.  In 2003, throught the University of California at Irvine, she started the '90+ study', and asked people that were over 90 --and those who still today turn 90-- if she could take a look at their brain from a psychological, physiological and functional perspective to see how it all related to their lives-- including PET scans, MRI, DNA tests and blood samples.  The gift of the participants of looking at their brain after they die is what is giving us the insights of how to deal with dementia and Alzheimer's Disease in the latter part of our lives.

Her research findings continue to impact the medical community today, starting with the fact that aging and longevity are truly a women's issue. She has been involved nationally in aging studies for over 30 years now, and up until recently, virtually all aging studies did not consider women. Biologically, of every species in the planet living today, females are the ones living longer.   Further more, by age 95, there  are now 3 (vs. 2) women alive for every men.

After following over 1,600 participants, out of the 40% living in some kind of sheltered living, about 1/3 were living alone with little to no assistance.  Cognition wise, the individuals in the study were pretty much divided the same: 1/3 had relatively normal thinking, 1/3 had some problems in their thinking pattern, but not enough to qualify as having full blown dementia, and a 1/3 with dementia.

Being that Alzheimer's and Dementia tend to be the two most dreaded aspects of aging, Dr. Kawas mentioned that the ONLY way to find out about the risks of developing either after 90 is by understanding the pathologies taking course in their brain.

The two are clearly not the same.  Dementia is the decline of the mental ability that is severe enough to get in the way of doing what one wishes to do.  As a matter of fact, there are more than a hundred causes of dementia, where as in Alzheimer's there is only one:  plaques found between the dying cells in the brain - from the build-up of a protein called beta-amyloid. Read more about Alzheimer's and women here.

If you live past  the age of 90, what is the likelihood of developing  dementia?   The risks are astonishingly high: If you are between 90 and 94 years old, the risk of dementia is 10%; from the ages of 95 to 99, the risk doubles to 20%.  If you are 100+ years of age, the risk of dementia goes up to 40% per year.  But not everyone suffers from dementia in their old age.  Dr. Kawas spoke of a woman who died at 108 that had no signs of dementia!

Even though the risk of developing dementia is high as we age, working on our cognition skills is definitely a strong aging factor, along with others such as genetic suceptibility factors, alcohol and caffeine intake, being social and exercising.

But what are the risk factors of developing dementia as you age?  Dr. Kawas strongly suspects the underlying factors detected prior to being diagnosed with dementia.  Her study revealed that 60% of the patients who had passed that were diagnosed with dementia also had Alzheimer's Disease.  She also discovered that 40% of those with normal thinking had developed Alzheimer's at the time of passing.

But what caught her attention was the fact that, at younger ages, it is very unusual to have an Alzheimer's Disease pathology and stil maintain normal cognition functions, while many older individuals managed to escape the ravagesof the disease.  Finding out how to tolearate the pathology and still have good thinking would be critical at all ages.

Looking at what people had in their brains at the time of death gives her a clue on what it takes to diagnose and prevent dementia or Alzheimer's Disease.  People don't always have just one pathology.  Did you know that if you have microinfarts, you are 4 times more likely to develop dementia? Patients  with hypocampal sclerosis are 10 times more likely, and people with  white matter disease are 13 times more likely to develop cognitive disfuntion and dementia.

"The real heroes of this study are the subjects that so gracefully accepted us to take a look at their brain, especially after they have passed" comments Dr. Kawas.  Her research is making history, and hopefully her findings can help prevent cognitive function illness in the near future!




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About the Doris A. Howell Foundation:

The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community.

                                                                        ###

Howell's Community Engagement Initiative focuses on weight gain prevention and meditation

Jessica Hawks, doctoral candidate and Dr. Hala Madanat


The Howell's CEI holds more than "Fresh 15"... mentoring and leadership skills in a real-world setting are included! 

Dr. Hala Madanat presented the results of Howell's CEI research grant focused on preventing gain weight in women starting college -- also known as 'freshman 15' -- at our last luncheon in November.

But it wasn't only about the ways to prevent weight gain, it was also about providing and being able to train researchers in a 'real world' setting; including an in-depth understanding on leadership and mentorship for the researchers involved.  The project included 3 undergraduate students, 4 master's degree students, and one doctoral student.

The study was divided into 2 arms; one included coaching and nutrition; the other without any kind of intervention at all.  The study would take place during a 12-week period; and participants were tested to identify the markers at the beginning at at the end of the study.  No surprises, really.  Turns out the coached group showed no additional weight gain, reported less stress, and their cholesterol levels where pretty much the same.

Her conclusion?  By establishing proper eating habits and teaching young women the value of nutrition, young women can identify destructive patterns, such as eating due to stress, or eating based on social, environmental or emotional cues.

Dr. Hala Madanat is an associate professor of health promotion at San Diego State University. She is a medical sociologist with a strong interest in the role of culture, traditions, and western influence on health. Her research focuses on the impact of westernization on diet and nutrition, with an emphasis on US immigrant populations. She is currently working on developing nutrition education programs for US immigrant populations in San Diego, especially with those from the Middle East.

As SDPRC’s Deputy Director, Dr. Madanat is involved in developing and giving trainings to public health professionals both locally and across California. She also leads the organization and development of the annual training conference for community health workers/promotoras, community organization staff, and academics on obesity prevention in Latino communities.

The "fresh 15" are no more! The Student Health Services Program at SDSU is asking that this project become an established program that continues to train incoming freshmen women howto stay healthy trough nutrition.

Not only did attendees to our November Luncheon learn about the results of last year's CEI Grant, but had an opportunity to meet this year's recipient and a little of the work she will be focusing on.  



Meet Dr. Mary Barger, this year's Howell CEI recipient. She will be working with underserved women and meditation techniques to reduce stress with her research project title "Reducing Insomnia in Homeless Women with the Mantram Repetition Program"

The fastest-growing segment of the homeless population are women, and families headed by women. The Mantram Repetition Program (MantramRP), a portable meditation-based program, teaches the frequent, silent, intermittent repetition of a self-selected word. The portability of the MantramRP allows women to use the intervention anywhere and anytime. Improving insomnia and physiological and psychological stress symptoms could improve overall health, potentially lowering use of costly care. The ease of teaching the intervention allow for its incorporation into existing homeless program nationally.

Dr. Barger has an extensive career in women's health.  From USD's website, Mary Barger is an Associate Professor of Nursing in the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science. She completed her doctoral education in epidemiology from Boston University’s School of Public Health. Her focus is perinatal epidemiology and she completed her dissertation on cesarean births and their complications on mothers and their infants. She received her Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in maternal and child health and nurse-midwifery and her Bachelor of Science in nursing from Stanford University.

Dr. Barger has been the Director of two nurse-midwifery education programs: the UCSF/UCSD Intercampus Graduate Studies Program and the Boston University Nurse-Midwifery Program. In these positions, she has educated nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners, medical students, and residents. During her teaching career, she has practiced full scope clinical nurse-midwifery. In addition to teaching nurse-midwifery students at Boston University, she also taught maternal and child health and community needs assessment to public health students.  Most recently, she taught quantitative research methods to doctoral nursing students and midwifery coursework to masters nursing students at the University of California Sana Francisco.

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About the Doris A. Howell Foundation: 
The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community. 

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