15 Factors That Affect a Woman’s Fertility

Trouble getting pregnant? Here are some possible causes of female infertility.

fertility opener

Credit: Getty Images

by Amanda MacMillan

Most people know that a woman’s fertility decreases as she gets older, but even during her most fertile (and otherwise healthy) years, lifestyle choices and external factors can affect a woman’s chances of having a healthy baby.

“Women who want to increase their chances of getting pregnant often don’t know the best things to do or what to watch out for,” says Francisco Arredondo, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist in San Antonio, Texas. Here are some of factors that do (or don’t) affect a woman’s fertility, and what you can do about them if you are trying to conceive.

Next: Obesity

» View All

Get the latest health, fitness, anti-aging, and nutrition news, plus special offers, insights and updates from Health.com!

Get the latest health, fitness, anti-aging, and nutrition news, plus special offers, insights and more from Health.com!

Advertisement

More Ways to Connect with Health

‘);

google_ad_client = ‘ca-timeinc-health-bah'; // substitute your client_id

google_ad_output = ‘js';

google_max_num_ads = ‘3’;

google_ad_channel = ‘article';

google_language = ‘en';

google_ad_type = ‘text'; // type of ads to display

//google_page_url = ‘http://www.example.com';

google_encoding = ‘utf8′;

google_safe = ‘high';

google_hints = “fertility, pregnancy, infertility, fertility problems, getting pregnant, conception, conceiving,”;

google_adtest = ‘off';

// —

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20918587,00.html

Menopause Causes Cholesterol Jump, Study Shows

menopause-cholesterol

Getty Images

FRIDAY, Dec. 11, 2009 (Health.com) — Doctors have known for years that a woman’s risk of developing heart disease rises after menopause, but they weren’t exactly sure why. It wasn’t clear whether the increased risk is due to the hormonal changes associated with menopause, to aging itself, or to some combination of the two.

Now, we have at least part of the answer: A new study shows beyond a doubt that menopause, not the natural aging process, is responsible for a sharp increase in cholesterol levels.

This seems to be true of all women, regardless of ethnicity, according to the study, which will be published next week in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“As they approach menopause, many, many women show a very striking increase in cholesterol levels, which in turn increases risk for later heart disease,” says the lead author of the study, Karen A. Matthews, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Over a 10-year period, Matthews and her colleagues followed 1,054 U.S. women as they went through menopause. Each year the researchers tested study participants for cholesterol, blood pressure, and other heart disease risk factors such as blood glucose and insulin.

In nearly every woman, the study found, cholesterol levels jumped around the time of menopause. (Menopause usually occurs around age 50 but can happen naturally as early as 40 and as late as 60.)

In the two-year window surrounding their final menstrual period, the women’s average LDL, or bad cholesterol, rose by about 10.5 points, or about 9%. The average total cholesterol level also increased substantially, by about 6.5%.

Other risk factors, such as insulin and systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading), also rose during the study, but they did so at a steady rate, suggesting that the increases—unlike those for cholesterol—were related to aging, not menopause. Of all the risk factors measured in the study, the changes in cholesterol were the most dramatic.

The jumps in cholesterol reported in the study could definitely have an impact on a womans health, says Vera Bittner, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who wrote an editorial accompanying Matthewss study.

“The changes don’t look large, but given that the typical woman lives several decades after menopause, any adverse change becomes cumulative over time,” says Dr. Bittner. “If somebody had cholesterol levels at the lower ranges of normal, the small change may not make a difference. But if somebody’s risk factors were already borderline in several categories, this increase may tip them over the edge and put them in a risk category where treatment may be beneficial.”

In a first, the study did not find any measurable differences in the impact of menopause on cholesterol across ethnic groups.

Experts have been unsure how ethnicity may affect the link between menopause and cardiovascular risk, because most research to date has been conducted in Caucasian women. Matthews and her colleagues were able to explore the role of ethnicity because their research is part of the larger Study of Womens Health Across the Nation (SWAN), which includes substantial numbers of African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American women.

http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20326394,00.html

Menopause Causes Cholesterol Jump, Study Shows

menopause-cholesterol

Getty Images

FRIDAY, Dec. 11, 2009 (Health.com) — Doctors have known for years that a woman’s risk of developing heart disease rises after menopause, but they weren’t exactly sure why. It wasn’t clear whether the increased risk is due to the hormonal changes associated with menopause, to aging itself, or to some combination of the two.

Now, we have at least part of the answer: A new study shows beyond a doubt that menopause, not the natural aging process, is responsible for a sharp increase in cholesterol levels.

This seems to be true of all women, regardless of ethnicity, according to the study, which will be published next week in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“As they approach menopause, many, many women show a very striking increase in cholesterol levels, which in turn increases risk for later heart disease,” says the lead author of the study, Karen A. Matthews, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Over a 10-year period, Matthews and her colleagues followed 1,054 U.S. women as they went through menopause. Each year the researchers tested study participants for cholesterol, blood pressure, and other heart disease risk factors such as blood glucose and insulin.

In nearly every woman, the study found, cholesterol levels jumped around the time of menopause. (Menopause usually occurs around age 50 but can happen naturally as early as 40 and as late as 60.)

In the two-year window surrounding their final menstrual period, the women’s average LDL, or bad cholesterol, rose by about 10.5 points, or about 9%. The average total cholesterol level also increased substantially, by about 6.5%.

Other risk factors, such as insulin and systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading), also rose during the study, but they did so at a steady rate, suggesting that the increases—unlike those for cholesterol—were related to aging, not menopause. Of all the risk factors measured in the study, the changes in cholesterol were the most dramatic.

The jumps in cholesterol reported in the study could definitely have an impact on a womans health, says Vera Bittner, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who wrote an editorial accompanying Matthewss study.

“The changes don’t look large, but given that the typical woman lives several decades after menopause, any adverse change becomes cumulative over time,” says Dr. Bittner. “If somebody had cholesterol levels at the lower ranges of normal, the small change may not make a difference. But if somebody’s risk factors were already borderline in several categories, this increase may tip them over the edge and put them in a risk category where treatment may be beneficial.”

In a first, the study did not find any measurable differences in the impact of menopause on cholesterol across ethnic groups.

Experts have been unsure how ethnicity may affect the link between menopause and cardiovascular risk, because most research to date has been conducted in Caucasian women. Matthews and her colleagues were able to explore the role of ethnicity because their research is part of the larger Study of Womens Health Across the Nation (SWAN), which includes substantial numbers of African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American women.

http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20326394,00.html

15 Foods That Help You Poop

Feeling constipated? These foods will help get things moving.

constipation

Credit: Getty Images

by Jessica Migala

Constipation isn’t the most glamorous of topics—but having it sure isn’t fun. For one, it’s extremely common, afflicting 42 million people in the United States. Each of us has different bathroom habits, but most experts say that three or fewer bowel movements per week could indicate a problem. And although constipation can be caused by medical conditions (hypothyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease), medications (painkillers, antidepressants), and other factors that may be out of your control, for most of us, it’s caused by what we’re eating—or, rather, not eating, says Elizabeth Blaney, MD, gastroenterologist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. The average American gets just 15 grams of fiber a day, though experts recommend at least 25. Most of us don’t drink enough water, either, which also contributes to constipation. Get things moving again with the 15 foods that follow.

RELATED: 13 Surprising Causes of Constipation

Next: Prunes

» View All

Get the latest health, fitness, anti-aging, and nutrition news, plus special offers, insights and updates from Health.com!

Get the latest health, fitness, anti-aging, and nutrition news, plus special offers, insights and more from Health.com!

Advertisement

More Ways to Connect with Health

‘);

google_ad_client = ‘ca-timeinc-health-bah'; // substitute your client_id

google_ad_output = ‘js';

google_max_num_ads = ‘3’;

google_ad_channel = ‘article';

google_language = ‘en';

google_ad_type = ‘text'; // type of ads to display

//google_page_url = ‘http://www.example.com';

google_encoding = ‘utf8′;

google_safe = ‘high';

google_hints = “constipation, foods to help your poop, constipation relief, constipated, bathroom, bowel health, bowel movement, bowel, gut health, GI tract, fiber”;

google_adtest = ‘off';

// —

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20920856,00.html

Fats You Can—and Should—Eat

can-eat-fat

Getty Images

It’s just not fair: Fat got a bad rap decades ago because scientists assumed, based on the misinterpretation of a couple of large studies, that eating foods containing fat would lead directly to obesity and heart disease. Fatty foods were made out to be our sole dietary vice, responsible for raising our cholesterol levels, clogging our arteries, and causing us to get, well, fat.

And that made a kind of intuitive sense—why wouldn’t the fat you consume wind up as the fat you see on your butt and thighs? But “the low-fat diet backfired,” says Frank Hu, MD, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. “America’s obesity epidemic skyrocketed even while our fat intake went down.” So experts are getting off the “fat is evil” bandwagon these days—and we should, too.

The upside of eating fat

Like carbohydrates and protein, fat is an essential nutrient. This means that your body requires it for key functions, such as absorbing the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. “Fat is also an important energy source and is vital for keeping your skin and hair healthy and smooth,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, author of Read It Before You Eat It.

Even more surprising: Research is revealing that eating the right fats can actually lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and improve your cholesterol levels. That’s because all fats are not created equal, Dr. Hu points out. It’s not the total amount of fat in your diet that affects how much you weigh or whether you’re at risk for heart disease, according to rigorous studies from the past decade. What matters is the type of fats you choose (and, when it comes to dropping pounds, the total number of calories you eat). Here’s a breakdown.

Good fats

Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)

Found in plant foods like nuts, avocados, olive oil, and canola oil, and in poultry

MUFAs can actually lower cholesterol levels, and, in doing so, your risk of heart disease. In fact, a Journal of the American Medical Association study showed that replacing a carb-rich diet with one high in monounsaturated fats can do both, and reduce blood pressure, too.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)

Found in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, and corn and soybean oils

Like MUFAs, PUFAs have been shown to improve cholesterol levels and reduce heart disease risk. One type is the omega-3 fatty acid, which is plentiful in some kinds of fish—not to be confused with omega-6 fatty acids, found in meats, corn oil, and soybean oil. Some research finds that Americans eat about 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3; we should be aiming to get closer to four times as much. To do so, Dr. Hu says, sub in fish for meat when you can.

Ok-in-moderation fat

Saturated fat

Found in meat and dairy products such as cheese, butter, and milk

We’ve been warned for decades to eat less saturated fat—after all, it raises “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels, and thus, it was assumed, ups your risk of heart attack and stroke. Lately, though, research has begun to vindicate it. For instance, a 2010 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition review of 21 studies was unable to find a link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease or stroke. Some types have been entirely exonerated: “Stearic acid, found in dark chocolate, is clearly non-harmful,” says David L. Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. The same may be true of lauric acid, a type of saturated fat abundant in coconut oil, but there’s not enough evidence to say for sure, Dr. Katz says.

While some experts, like Dr. Katz, say there’s no downside to cutting out saturated fats, others believe keeping them in the mix helps us avoid getting too many bad-for-you refined carbohydrates instead. Bottom line: You don’t need to ban them. Just make sure most of your fat intake is unsaturated, eat red meat only once or twice a week, and use olive oil instead of butter when possible.

http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20582466,00.html

12 Mouthwatering Meatless Meals

ravioli

Credit: Leigh Beisch

Looking for a way to save money? Meatless meals are less expensive, and plant-based diets may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. These 12 vegetarian recipes will wow your taste buds without hurting your wallet.

Ravioli With Tomatoes, White Beans, and Escarole

This recipe combines Mediterranean spices and white beans to get a protein-packed pasta.

Ingredients: Four-cheese ravioli, great Northern beans, diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, red pepper, fresh escarole or spinach, grated Asiago cheese

Calories: 329

Try this recipe: Ravioli With Tomatoes, White Beans, and Escarole

Next: Smoked Cheddar and Lentil Burgers

» View All

Get the latest health, fitness, anti-aging, and nutrition news, plus special offers, insights and updates from Health.com!

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20345806,00.html

12 Mouthwatering Meatless Meals

ravioli

Credit: Leigh Beisch

Looking for a way to save money? Meatless meals are less expensive, and plant-based diets may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. These 12 vegetarian recipes will wow your taste buds without hurting your wallet.

Ravioli With Tomatoes, White Beans, and Escarole

This recipe combines Mediterranean spices and white beans to get a protein-packed pasta.

Ingredients: Four-cheese ravioli, great Northern beans, diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, red pepper, fresh escarole or spinach, grated Asiago cheese

Calories: 329

Try this recipe: Ravioli With Tomatoes, White Beans, and Escarole

Next: Smoked Cheddar and Lentil Burgers

» View All

Get the latest health, fitness, anti-aging, and nutrition news, plus special offers, insights and updates from Health.com!

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20345806,00.html

6 Ways Your Mobile Devices Are Hurting Your Body

Just ask your neck, shoulders and back. But with a few adjustments, you won’t have to give up emojis or binge-watching.

tech-style-hurting-you

Credit: Getty Images

by Leslie Barrie

From Health magazine

You stare at them every day. Probably for more hours than you gaze at your own kids, partner or dog. We’re talking screens, and “all that hunching to look at them can put serious strain on your body,” says Kenneth K. Hansraj, MD, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehab in New York City. See if your go-to position is a doctor’s worst nightmare–and how to fix it for fewer aches and pains.

Next: The text hunch

» View All

Get the latest health, fitness, anti-aging, and nutrition news, plus special offers, insights and updates from Health.com!

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20911530,00.html

20 Foods You Should Always Have in Your Kitchen

Cooking healthy meals and choosing smart snacks is easy when you keep your pantry stocked with these healthy staples.

foods-pantry

Credit: Getty Images

by Jessica Migala

A well-stocked kitchen allows you to throw together a fast, flavorful meal after a long day. And, when you wake up and have to dash out the door for work, it pays to have grab-and-go breakfast and snack options on hand. We tapped registered dietitians, personal chefs, and bloggers for their must-have foods to always keep in their kitchens. (And yes, they’re all good for you, too.) Some you probably already have, while others you’ll want to add to your list.

Next: Extra-virgin olive oil

» View All

Get the latest health, fitness, anti-aging, and nutrition news, plus special offers, insights and updates from Health.com!

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20817450,00.html