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Cardiovascular Medicine, Health and Fitness, Public Health, Research, Women's Health

Even moderate exercise appears to provide heart-health benefits to middle-aged women

Even moderate exercise appears to provide heart-health benefits to middle-aged women

woman on bike

It’s no secret that exercise offers a plethora of health benefits; tons of research has established that. But I was still heartened to read about a new study showing that physically active middle-aged women had lower risks of heart disease, stroke and blood clots than did their inactive counterparts. (I read about the work on my phone as I walked home from a barre class last night, which made me feel especially happy about having had just worked out.)

Researchers from University of Oxford looked at data from 1.1 million women in the United Kingdom, who were followed for an average of nine years. From an American Heart Association release:

In the study:

  • Women who performed strenuous physical activity— enough to cause sweating or a faster heart beat — two to three times per week were about 20 percent less likely to develop heart disease, strokes or blood clots compared to participants who reported little or no activity.
  • Among active women, there was little evidence of further risk reductions with more frequent activity.

Physical activities associated with reduced risk included walking, gardening, and cycling.

Lead author Miranda Armstrong, MPhil, PhD, commented that “inactive middle-aged women should try to do some activity regularly,” but then noted that the results suggest that “to prevent heart disease, stroke and blood clots, our results suggest that women don’t need to do very frequent activity.” That’s good news, ladies!

The study appears in the journal Circulation.

Previously: Lack of exercise shown to have largest impact on heart disease risk for women over 30, Exercise is valuable in preventing sedentary death, Study shows regular physical activity, even modest amounts, can add years to your life, CDC report shows exercise becoming a popular prescription among doctors and Brisk walking reduces stroke risk among women
Image by Thomas Hawk

Scope Announcements

Scope will return tomorrow

Scope will return tomorrow

Our offices are closed for Presidents’ Day; Scope will resume its regular publication schedule tomorrow.

Research, Science

Love on Scope: A look back

Love on Scope: A look back

heart in sky

Love is in the air. And in honor of the Valentine’s Day holiday, here are some of our favorite love-themed posts of the past.

Love blocks pain, Stanford study shows: According to a 2010 study, intense, passionate feelings of love can block pain in ways similar to painkillers or illicit drugs like cocaine.

Scientist pens love letter to stem cells, calls them “irresistible”: “While you frustrated me to no end, I found you irresistible,” wrote a scientist-turned-blogger about stem cells.

“Love hormone” may mediate wider range of relationships than previously thought: There’s more to oxytocin, the so-called love hormone, than arousal and bonding, said Stanford scientists in 2013.

A study of people’s ability to love: Check out the “love competition” put on by a group of Stanford neuroscientists (with the help of an fMRI machine).

Valentine’s Day advice from “lovestruck scientists”: Looking for some science-based dating tips “that could boost your chances on Valentine’s Day?” This is the post for you.

Photo by Mrs Airwolfhound

Cancer, Stanford News

For this doctor couple, the Super Bowl was about way more than football

For this doctor couple, the Super Bowl was about way more than football

Paul and Lucy at Super Bowl - smallEarlier this month, football fans across the world watched as the New England Patriots shocked the Seattle Seahawks with a very dramatic last-minute win. While the game itself was a thrill, equally as exciting for two people in the seats at University of Phoenix Stadium was what had gotten them there. Neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, MD, and his wife, Lucy, had won a trip to the big game by raising money for lung-cancer research and winning the Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge, sponsored by the Chris Draft Family Foundation.

Kalanithi had attended Stanford as an undergrad in the 90s, the same time as did Draft, a former professional football player who later started his foundation and whose wife, Keasha, died of lung cancer in late 2011. Kalanithi received a diagnosis of lung cancer in 2013 and re-connected with Draft not long after.

“The foundation is putting a new face on the disease,” Lucy Kalanithi, MD, a clinical instructor in general medical disciplines at Stanford, told me during a recent conversation. Team Draft, an initiative of the foundation, puts the spotlight on, and brings together, young lung-cancer patients such as Paul Kalanithi, with the aim of getting out the message that anyone can get lung cancer. It’s also working to stop the smoking stigma from negatively impacting research funding for lung cancer.

Paul at Super Bowl - small“Even though Paul and I are both physicians, prior to his diagnosis, neither of us was fully aware of the global toll of lung cancer and the major gap in federal and private funding due to the anti-smoking stigma,” Lucy Kalanithi said. “More people die from lung cancer than from breast, colon and prostate cancers combined: It’s the top cancer killer.”

I asked if her husband had ever experienced the sense of judgment or blame that can come with a lung-cancer diagnosis. “Paul’s never had the experience – common among lung-cancer patients – of being asked, ‘Did you smoke?’ Kalanithi said, noting that her husband was never a smoker. “But everyone with lung cancer is affected by the anti-smoking stigma, because it means that much, much less money goes to lung cancer research compared with other cancers. And survival rates for all cancers are directly related to research funding. When people think of breast cancer, they think of a sympathetic character like a young mom. But when people think of lung cancer, they don’t think of a vibrant young dad like Paul.”

Through the foundation, the Kalanithis connected with other young families affected by lung cancer (“There’s a lot of camaraderie and optimism,” Kalanithi told me), and when they learned of the Super Bowl Challenge, a friendly fundraising competition among lung-cancer survivors, they jumped at the chance to compete. There was an “overwhelming response from Paul’s friends, family and colleagues – including many from Stanford,” Kalanithi said, which led to a call from Draft on New Year’s Day. They had won the challenge, Draft told the couple, and they would be attending not only the Super Bowl but also Taste of the NFL, a fundraiser attended by former NFL players and renowned chefs from around the country, and an exclusive pre-game stadium tour. As icing on the cake: Their (too-cute-for-words) seven-month-old daughter, Cady, would be making the trip with them.

Kalanithis at Super Bowl - smallWhen I asked Kalanithi for a sampling of the moments etched in her mind from the weekend, she offered two: lying on the Super Bowl field and getting a photo taken with her husband and baby daughter forty-eight hours before the game (“It was surreal”) and watching Paul, a huge football fan, “jump up and down” in their incredible seats on the Seahawks’ 50-yard line. (For the record, they were rooting for the Seahawks. And next year, “we hope to see [Stanford alum] Andrew Luck out there.”)

Despite the excitement of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, the Kalanithis’ relationship with Team Draft seemingly extends far beyond the football field. Kalanithi has noted that the foundation has “helped boost our family’s spirits during this challenging time,” and she sounds eager to partner with Draft on other initiatives. “Helping raise awareness and research funds impacts families everywhere, and it gives me hope,” she said.

Previously: Tackling the stigma of lung cancer – and showing the real faces of the disease, A neurosurgeon’s journey from doctor to cancer patient“Stop skipping dessert:” A Stanford neurosurgeon and cancer patient discusses facing terminal illness and A Stanford physician’s take on cancer prognoses – including his own
Photos courtesy of Lucy Kalanithi

Cardiovascular Medicine, Stanford News, Videos

C’mon, be heart healthy

C'mon, be heart healthy

Is your heart healthy? Are you at risk for heart disease? In recognition of American Heart Month, Stanford Health Care has launched a campaign to help people find the answers to those questions. The interactive video above, and this Q&A on preventing heart disease, are good places to start.

Previously: Lack of exercise shown to have largest impact on heart disease risk for women over 30, Mysteries of the heart: Stanford Medicine magazine answers cardiovascular questions, Ask Stanford Med: Answers to your questions about heart health and cardiovascular research, Either you’re a woman or you know one: Help spread the message of women’s heart health and Why some healthy-looking young adults may still be at risk for heart disease

Grand Roundup

Grand Roundup: Top posts of January

Grand Roundup: Top posts of January

The five most-read stories this month on Scope were:

Eating for good blood: Tips for boosting iron levels and hemoglobin: This entry discusses hemoglobin levels and offers ways to boost levels prior to blood donation.

In human defenses against disease, environment beats heredity, study of twins shows: A Stanford study involving twins shows that our environment, more than our heredity, plays the starring role in determining the state of our immune system.

Screening for diseases doesn’t necessarily save lives, study shows: According to new research led by Stanford epidemiologist John Ioannidis, MD, DSc, “screening for diseases that can lead to death typically does not prolong life substantially.”

The art of healing: As part of Scope’s Inspire series, a patient shares how art therapy helped her to express and understand her emotions about living with a chronic disease.

Intel’s Rosalind Hudnell kicks off Dean’s Lecture Series on diversity: Diversity is the initial focus of the newly launched Dean’s Lecture Series, and Rosalind Hudnell, chief diversity officer and global director of education and external relations at Intel, was the featured speaker at the Jan. 23 lecture.

Our most-shared story of the month:

In human defenses against disease, environment beats heredity, study of twins shows

And still going strong – the most popular post from the past:

What are the consequences of sleep deprivation?: Brandon Peters, MD, an adjunct clinical faculty member at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, explains how lack of sleep can negatively affect a person’s well-being in this Huffington Post piece.

Scope Announcements

Introducing the Scope magazine on Flipboard

Introducing the Scope magazine on Flipboard

Are you a Flipboard user? The mobile app allows readers to collect content from the web and view it in a beautiful magazine-style format. We recently created a Scope magazine on Flipboard (it’s essentially an RSS feed, but displayed differently), and you can “flip” through it here. And good news: Even if you’re not a user of the app, you can still view our magazine on the web. Just bookmark it and return often.

Previously: Introducing the @ScopeMedBlog Twitter feed

Scope Announcements

Scope will return tomorrow

Scope will return tomorrow

MLK statue2

Our office is closed today in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Scope will resume publishing tomorrow.

Photo by Zach Frailey

Medicine and Society, Mental Health, Stanford News

Helping those in academic medicine to both “work and live well”

Helping those in academic medicine to both "work and live well"

stethoscope with blue backgroundOne of the perks of working for a university is that I get, like a regular ol’ student, a nice long winter break. I was off work for more than two weeks in late December and early January, and I used the time wisely (if I do say so myself) – by working out a lot, playing lots of games and doing lots of crafts with my young daughters, cleaning out my ridiculously packed garage, and even settling down with a 278-page book I had found the time to check out from my local library. The title (a rather ironic one given that I felt, during those glorious days off, as if I had all the time in the world)? Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time.

The book was penned by journalist Brigid Schulte and published last March, and I quite enjoyed reading Schulte’s take on, and the science behind, the work-life demands of hard-working professionals (especially ones with kids) and “our addiction to the daily grind.” And while many of her stories – like how she once stopped doing housework in favor of eating soup and watching the rain with her kids – resonated with me personally (ah, the importance of slowing down and savoring life’s little pleasures!), I was also happy to see a shout-out to my place of work.

In a section on workplaces that have been remade to help their employees both “work and live well,” Schulte described how Stanford’s medical school is:

seeking to ‘rewire’ [the beliefs that success in academic medicine only comes from working 24/7] by changing the narrative of success. They have ambitious plans to remake their culture, to provide career counseling and multiple paths to success at various speeds. And they’re starting by showcasing a different kind of role model, in prominent displays along corridors and on the university website, focusing on those who have achieved excellence at work and have a rich life outside of it.

Schulte briefly discussed the work of Hannah Valantine, MD, former senior associate dean for leadership and diversity and now the first chief officer for scientific workforce diversity at NIH, who alongside Stanford colleagues had been working to change the workplace culture in academic medicine. Valantine and pediatrician Christy Sandborg, MD, co-created a pilot program called Academic Biomedical Career Customization (ABCC) in an effort to help faculty achieve balance; the program, which ran from 2012-14 and is described in an excellent 2013 article from the Clayman Institute for Gender Research, encouraged “faculty to address work-life issues by varying their workloads and responsibilities over the course of their careers” and included “a ‘time banking’ system, where faculty earn credits they can cash in for help with certain tasks at work or at home.”

Schulte quoted Valantine as saying, “We decided to include the housework benefits, because when [molecular biologist] Carol Greider got the news that she’d won the Nobel Prize in Medicine, she was doing the laundry.”

While grant funding for the ABCC program ended last year, folks at the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity told me that Stanford is applying the lessons and successes of the program into new work-life and work-flexibility initiatives throughout the School of Medicine.

Previously: Program for residents reflects “massive change” in surgeon mentality, NIH selects Hannah Valantine as first chief officer for scientific workforce diversity, Amplifying the physician-mother voice and Hannah Valantine: Leading the way in diversifying medicine
Photo by Michael Tam

In the News, Medical Education, Stanford News, Surgery

Program for residents reflects “massive change” in surgeon mentality

Program for residents reflects "massive change" in surgeon mentality

Black Read, M.D, Cara Liebert, M.D, Micaela Esquivel, M.D, and Julia Park , M.D. all are  Stanford School of Medicine surgery resident taking part in the ropes course on Tuesday, September 9, 2014, as a  team-building exercise on the Li Ka Shing Center lawn on Stanford University campus. ( Norbert von der Groeben/ Stanford School of Medicine )

“The old-school surgeon mentality is that surgery is your life. The very existence of the program is an acknowledgment that a cultural shift is occurring.” Those are the thoughts of Lyen Huang, MD, a fourth-year resident, about Balance in Life, a Stanford Medicine program designed to offer support to its surgical residents. We’ve written about it on Scope before, and the current issue of San Francisco Magazine now also provides a look.

Explaining that surgical residents are “under enormous pressure to learn quickly and produce good patient outcomes—all while working 80-hour weeks on little sleep,” writer Elise Craig outlines Balance in Life’s offerings for residents: a fridge filled with healthy snacks, happy hours and team-building events, mentorships and friendly nudges to go to the dentist or doctor. And, she writes:

If having surgical residents take time away from the operating room for lawn games sounds a little juvenile, consider this: Recent surveys conducted by the American College of Surgeons found that 40 percent of surgeons reported burnout, 30 percent screened positive for depression, and almost half did not want their children to follow in their professional footsteps.

Some snacks and an afternoon ropes course might not sound like much, but [Ralph Greco, MD, the professor of surgery who helped build the program] and his residents argue that the unique program reflects a massive change.

Previously: New surgeons take time out for mental health, Using mindfulness interventions to help reduce physician burnout and A closer look at depression and distress among medical students
Photo, from a Fall 2014 team-building activity, by Norbert von der Groeben

Stanford Medicine Resources: