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Vol. LXI, No. 16
August 7, 2009

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ORWH Seminar Looks at Diabetes, Sleep Apnea, Hypertension

Attendees at the recent ORWH seminar included (from l) Dr. Judith Fradkin, Dr. Andrea Dunaif, Dr. David Ehrmann, ORWH director Dr. Vivian Pinn, Dr. Kathryn Sandberg.
Attendees at the recent ORWH seminar included (from l) Dr. Judith Fradkin, Dr. Andrea Dunaif, Dr. David Ehrmann, ORWH director Dr. Vivian Pinn, Dr. Kathryn Sandberg..

Four perspectives on metabolic dysfunction in women were presented at the recent Office of Research on Women’s Health seminar “Sex and Gender Research: Metabolic Dysfunction.” Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors linked to overweight and obesity that increase the chance for heart disease and other health problems such as diabetes and stroke.

Dr. Judith Fradkin of NIDDK discussed obesity trends and the worldwide diabetes epidemic and emphasized the need for education and prevention programs. “The rising tide of diabetes strikes just as we confront the health care crisis in this country with rising health care costs,” she said.

Because intrauterine exposure to diabetes is associated with diabetes and obesity in offspring, NIDDK is reaching out to women at risk for gestational diabetes to make them aware of the importance of a healthy lifestyle for themselves and their children.

Dr. Andrea Dunaif of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University presented her research that has led the way in redefining polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common endocrine condition, as a major metabolic disorder that is a leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

“We know that insulin, in addition to being a sugar-regulating hormone, is also a reproductive hormone and that lowering insulin levels can improve PCOS,” said Dunaif. “It’s now being recognized that high androgen levels contribute to the disorder and are also responsible for an independent risk for metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.”

Dr. David Ehrmann of the University of Chicago Medical Center talked about the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and the metabolic disturbances of PCOS.

“PCOS represents a unique and important model in which to examine the causal relationships between OSA and metabolic dysfunction,” he said. “While it is true that men tend to have a higher prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea, PCOS is a model to look at this gender-based difference. As it turns out, obstructive sleep apnea has metabolic consequences and is connected to androgen levels, obesity and insulin resistance and PCOS.”

Dr. Kathryn Sandberg of Georgetown University discussed sex differences in hypertension and associated cardiovascular and renal disease and why premenopausal females are protected from renal-cardiovascular disease compared to men and postmenopausal women. Her studies suggest that sex differences in gonadal steroid regulation contribute to the differences in male and female susceptibility to hypertension and renal disease progression.

The ORWH Women’s Health Seminar Series features leaders in women’s health research who present the latest information on topics important to women’s health; the talks are free and open to the public. The next seminar, “The Interaction of Depression with Other Diseases,” will be held Sept. 10. NIHRecord Icon

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