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Heart health declines rapidly after menopause, study finds

Many women experience a steep rise in the risk of heart problems after menopause, researchers have discovered

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Women’s cardiovascular risk can rise sharply after menopause, quickly catching up to men of a similar age and health profile, new research has shown.

The findings, researchers said, underscore the importance of recognising and addressing early warning signs of heart disease risk in women as they lose the protective effects of oestrogen after menopause.

“This is a unique study cohort of only post-menopausal statin users that signals that post-menopausal women may have risk of heart disease that is on par with males,” said Dr Ella Ishaaya, an internal medicine physician at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, and the study’s lead author.

“Women are underscreened and undertreated, especially post-menopausal women, who have a barrage of new risk factors that many are not aware of.

“This study raises awareness of what those risk factors are and opens the door to indicating the importance of increased screening for coronary artery calcium (CAC).”

In the study, post-menopausal women underwent heart scans to assess their CAC score, a measure of plaque buildup—fat, calcium and other substances—in the heart’s arteries.

CAC levels are assessed with a quick, non-invasive scan similar to an X-ray. A higher CAC score indicates a higher risk of a heart attack or other cardiac events.

Researchers analysed data from 579 post-menopausal women who were taking statins to control their cholesterol and had undergone two CAC scans at least one year apart. Participants did not have heart disease at the time of the first scan.

To compare CAC changes in men and women, each female participant was matched with a male of a similar profile in terms of age, race, statin use, blood pressure and diabetes status.

Researchers divided the participants into three groups with CAC levels of 1–99, 100–399, and 400 or higher at baseline. Between their first and second heart scan, women with baseline CAC of 1–99 saw their CAC rise by a median of eight points, double the median of four seen in their male counterparts.

Similarly, women with baseline CAC of 100–399 saw their CAC rise by a median of 31 points, about double the median of 16 seen in males. There was no significant difference between sexes for those with baseline CAC of 400 or higher.

The findings suggested plaque buildup is accelerated in post-menopausal women compared to men, indicating that many women experience a steep rise in the risk of heart problems.

Ishaaya said this is likely related to the drop in oestrogen that women experience during menopause. Oestrogen has long been known to have a protective effect on heart health, but researchers said many women and even many clinicians are not aware of what it means to lose that protection during menopause.

“After menopause, women have much less oestrogen and shift to a more testosterone-heavy profile,” Ishaaya explained.

“This affects the way your body stores fat, where it stores fat and the way it processes fat; it even affects the way your blood clots. And all of those [changes] increase your risk for developing heart disease.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women, but women’s cardiovascular risk has traditionally been undertreated because women tend to develop heart disease at an older age than men and may experience different and sometimes more subtle symptoms.

Based on these results, researchers suggested post-menopausal women should talk to their doctor about heart disease risk factors and follow up on any recommended tests or monitoring. More women may benefit from heart scans when compared to the number of women currently receiving them, Ishaaya said.

Since all the women in the study were taking statins but many still saw a substantial rise in CAC, she said the results may also indicate that statins are not sufficient to keep plaque buildup in check for this population.

“Future studies could investigate the effectiveness of statins or other therapies in reducing plaque burden in post-menopausal women,” the researcher added.

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Canadian insurer launches partnership to support women’s health

Members of the Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross will have access to a dedicated women’s health platform

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Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving

The Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross (MBC) has partnered with the virtual health platform sanoLiving to support women on their menopause journey.

Currently, more than 10 million Canadian women are navigating menopause, often with little support and misinformation about treatments.

With sanoMidLife, sanoLiving’s online menopause platform, Medavie Blue Cross members will have access to a national women’s health platform tailored to provide care and services for women going through the menopause.

The service includes personalised assessments, access to clinicians, treatments, educational content, peer support and AI assistance.

“Many women lack support for their menopause transition due to the misunderstandings of what is ‘normal’ and misinformation about treatments,” said Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving.

“Women are seeking solutions that allow them to thrive during midlife. We are thrilled about our alliance with Medavie Blue Cross, and our shared commitment to providing access to care that empowers women.”

Anita Swamy, senior vice president operations at Medavie Blue Cross, added: “We’ve heard first-hand from our members about the need for more menopause-related services.

“Our partnership with sanoLiving creates an innovative way to increase access to care for our members as we continue to focus on the support women need to navigate their benefits and provide forward-thinking options to support their health.”

Studies report one in 10 women exit the workforce due to unmanaged symptoms. Early onset of menopause and symptoms before age 45 can elevate the risk of health issues like heart disease, diabetes, dementia and osteoporosis.

With this new service, Medavie Blue Cross and sanoLiving are aiming to open up the conversation around menopause, reduce stigma and work towards giving women the access to the care they need.

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US start-up raises US$2.32m to address pelvic health concerns

The Flyte intravaginal device aims to treat stress urinary incontinence and strengthen pelvic floor muscles

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The US women’s health start-up Pelvital has raised US$2.32m in funding to address “unanswered” pelvic health issues.

Minnesota-based Pelvital aims to restore pelvic health with its first product Flyte, an FDA-cleared intravaginal treatment for stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and weakened pelvic floor muscles.

The device, originally developed by physicians from the Arctic University of Norway, uses mechanotherapy, a treatment modality that when paired with an active pelvic floor contraction stimulates tissue regeneration and the creation of neuromuscular memory.

The company will use the funding to speed up the commercialisation of Flyte and raise awareness of pelvic health issues.

“Completing this round is an important step in continuing Pelvital’s unwavering dedication to provide women with innovative solutions for pelvic health, including the treatment of SUI,” said Lydia Zeller, president and CEO of Pelvital.

“This funding will play a crucial role in accelerating our commercialisation of Flyte with a strong emphasis on expanding payor coverage and enhancing clinical education and clinician awareness.”

With this final close, Zeller said, Pelvital would welcome new investors including Pier 70 Ventures, Life Science Angels, Tech Coast Angels Orange County, and Blue Pacific Fund.

Preetha Ram, managing partner at Pier 70 Ventures, would join the Pelvital board of directors.

“Joining Pelvital’s board alongside this investment round is truly an honour,” Ram shared.

“Pier 70 and I are thrilled to be part of this transformational opportunity, as Pelvital’s mission aligns beautifully with our dedication to support disruptive technologies that shake up the status quo in healthcare.

“Pelvital’s pioneering work is shaping a future where women’s health receives the attention and innovation it deserves with novel medical devices like Flyte.”

Oscar Moralez, founder and managing partner of Boomerang Ventures who led the investment round, said: “We are thrilled for the successful completion of this round as we aim to tackle the most pressing healthcare challenges.

“Our participation aims to address the chronic underfunding in women’s healthcare. Investing in Flyte, a truly groundbreaking treatment, addresses underserved pelvic health issues like SUI and contributes to raising vital awareness.”

Two published clinical trials have validated Flyte’s safety, efficacy and durability of treatment effect for women with SUI.

Most recently Pelvital published a paper in Therapeutic Advances in Urology, showing that 71 per cent of study participants achieved dry or near dry conditions as evidenced by a reduction in 24-hour pad weight after using Flyte for between two and 12 weeks.

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Cleveland Clinic launches new women’s health and research center

The programme aims to address women’s unique health needs during midlife and beyond

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From left: Cleveland Clinic CEO and president Dr Tom Mihaljevic, Maria Shriver and Dr Beri Ridgeway / Source: clevelandclinic.org

Cleveland Clinic has launched its new Women’s Comprehensive Health and Research Center, an initiative dedicated to helping women during midlife.

The center, which will focus on access, connectivity, education and research and innovation, aims to empower women to navigate their health journey with confidence and clarity.

Maria Shriver, founder of The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention and Research Center at Cleveland Clinic, will serve as chief visionary and strategic advisor.

“I’ve always believed our nation needed a first-class comprehensive women’s health center, and now we have one,” said Shriver.

“Over the past several years, I’ve been honoured to work alongside so many talented and passionate doctors at Cleveland Clinic to bring this vision to life. This is a place for women at every stage of life where they will feel seen, will get the research they need, and the care they deserve, from their brains to their bones.

“I am thrilled that today the WAM Prevention and Research Center expands, as it deserves to.”

Dr Tom Mihaljevic, Cleveland Clinic CEO and president, said: “Maria’s unwavering commitment to raising awareness and driving meaningful change aligns perfectly with the mission of our new center.

“Her passion for advancing the quality of care for women is remarkable and will help us transform how we deliver care for women today and into the future.”

The population of women in midlife and in need of healthcare continues to grow. According to US Census Bureau 2020 data, more than 63 million women in the US are 50 years of age or older, and approximately 6,000 women enter menopause each day.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 80 per cent of women aged 55 and older have at least one chronic condition, such as arthritis, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes, which strengthens the need for more comprehensive medical care for women in this stage of life.

The new Women’s Comprehensive Health and Research Center will bring together specialty care in various areas, including behavioural health, breast health, cardiovascular care, center for infant and maternal health, endocrinology, menopause, osteoporosis and metabolic bone density, wellness and disease prevention.

Through initiatives focused on streamlining appointment processes, enhancing outreach programmes and prioritising health equity, the center will seek to ensure that all women can readily access the care they need.

“Midlife is an important milestone and a time to empower women to address health issues and focus on future health,” said Dr Beri Ridgeway, chief of staff at Cleveland Clinic.

“Taking a holistic approach, including menopausal and hormonal health, reproductive health, mental health, chronic conditions and preventive care, is critical to optimise health outcomes.

“Our priority is to help women in this stage of life make educated decisions about their health and have access to the services they need to thrive, while also feeling seen, heard and supported.”

The center, Ridgeway said, will offer support groups and resources to help address health disparities, reach diverse communities and bridge gaps in health literacy.

The institution’s ultimate mission, she explained, is to advance research and innovation specific to women during midlife.

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