Thank You, Nurses
If anyone knows the importance of research and clinical trials, it's nurses. In the 1976 and again in 1989, more than 250,000 LPNs and RNs ages 20-46 were asked to participate in one of the largest clinical investigation - the Nurses' Health Studies - that would help researchers find important insights on women's health, including cancer prevention, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Most importantly, these studies showed diet, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors can powerfully promote better health. Here are some highlights from the Nurses' Health Study web site
- There is no relation with past or current smoking.
- More than 5 years of estrogen plus progestins increases risk. More than 10 years of estrogen alone increases risk.
- Obesity increases risk among postmenopausal women. Weight loss after menopause is associated with reduced risk.
- One or more drinks of alcohol per day increases risk.
- Higher intake of red meat increases risk of premenopausal breast cancer.
- Physical activity (>3 hours/ week) reduces risk.
- Family history of breast cancer, high breast density, high circulating hormone levels, and shift work all increase risk.
Coronary Heart Disease/Stroke
- Smoking causes a strong positive association of with CHD and stroke; risk reduced within 2-4 years of smoking cessation.
- Current use of oral contraceptives increases risk. Past use there is no association.
- Current use of postmenopausal hormones increases risk of stroke.
- Strong positive relationship between weight (BMI) and risk of CHD as well as stroke. Weight gain after age 18 increases risk of stroke and CHD.
- A Mediterranean-type diet reduces risk of incident CHD and stroke. Fish intake reduces risk of stroke. Nut and wholegrain consumption reduces risk of CHD. Refined carbohydrates and trans fats increase risk.
- Snoring is associated with a modest but significantly increased risk of CHD and stroke.
- Oral contraceptives and postmenopausal hormones reduce the risk of colon cancer.
- Two or more drinks per day increases the risk.
- Higher intakes of folate, vitamin B6, calcium and vitamin D reduce risk. High intake of red and processed meats increases risk.
- Aspirin reduces risk after 10 years of use. Family history increases risk up to fourfold for women younger than 50.
But researchers want to find out more. Now, they are recruiting another 100,000 nurses and nursing students to join the long-running Nurses' Health Study and expand its landmark research on women's health. Female RNs, LPN, and nursing students between the ages of 20 and 46 who live in the U.S. or Canada are eligible to join the study. More than 25,000 have signed up already, and recruitment will stay open until the goal of 100,000 participants is reached.
In the 2012 study, technology will play a larger role in collecting and compiling the date. To help participants play a role in this research, they can join online and complete the study's surveys at http://www.nhs3.org/. Research will closely look at health issues related to lifestyle, fertility/pregnancy, environment and nursing exposures.
So what makes nurses the ideal cohort to study?
"Nurses were originally recruited for their expertise in accurately reporting health data," explains Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, MPH, the study's lead researcher and chair of the Nutrition Department at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. "Their involvement has been invaluable, and their dedication is remarkable - an astounding 90 percent of them are still enrolled [even] decades later. The new group, NHS3, will allow us understand how today's lifestyle and environment affect a woman's health in the future."
Nurses enrolled in the earlier studies are encouraging their daughters and younger colleagues to join. "My mom started filling out surveys when the study began," one nurse recently commented on the NHS3 Facebook page (www.facebook.com/NHS3.org). "I am so proud to be part of this study and see what it has done."