Today’s Headlines: Heart Disease Risk in Pre-Menopausal Women, How Weight Gain May Affect Your Brain, and Why Surgery May Be Unnecessary in Some Cases

Pre-menopausal women are at a greater risk for heart disease. Doctors have commonly believed that heart disease risk increases in the beginning of menopause, but new research shows that may not be the case. “In the latest research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers say that risk for heart disease actually starts to peak in the years before menopause, and the risk is especially great for African-American women. Among African American women, these risk factors steadily increased in the years prior to menopause at a greater rate than for white women, suggesting that African-American women may be more vulnerable to the changes occurring prior to menopause.” If you are concerned about your heart disease risk, consult your doctor and follow heart-healthy lifestyle tips like managing and monitoring your weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure. (Time)

Extra weight may cause your brain to age faster than normal. A new study compared the decline of white matter in the brain between people who were lean and participants who were overweight. “Those in the overweight group had much less white matter than their thinner counterparts. The difference was only evident from middle-age onwards, suggesting that our brains may be particularly vulnerable during this period of ageing. However there was no difference in how the groups fared in tests of knowledge and understanding, so the researchers say more work is needed to follow people and see who develops conditions such as dementia.” While more research needs to be done, it is unclear whether or not this brain aging can be reduced if people lose weight. (BBC)

Surgery may not always be the best or only solution to your health problem. The New York Times discussed the unnecessary need for having both spine and knee surgery to improve wellbeing. “Take what happened with spinal fusion…The conclusion: Surgery was no better than alternative nonsurgical treatments, like supervised exercise and therapy to help patients deal with their fear of back pain. In both groups, the pain usually diminished or went away…many doctors have been genuinely uncertain about which is better — exercise and physical therapy or surgery. That, in fact, was what led Dr. Katz and his colleagues to conduct a clinical trial comparing surgery with physical therapy in middle-aged people with a torn meniscus and knee pain. The result: The surgery offered little to most who had it. Other studies came to the same conclusion, and so did a meta-analysis published last year of nine clinical trials testing the surgery. Patients tended to report less pain — but patients reported less pain no matter what the treatment, even fake surgery.” If you are considering surgery for a health issue, discuss different therapy and treatment options with your doctor that may improve your quality of life. Changing your lifestyle, exercising, or physical therapy are all examples of alternatives that can be beneficial in a variety of situations. (NYT)