Pregnancy complications can raise heart disease riskCertain complications of pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and preeclampsia are an indication for higher risk of cardiovascular disease later in life and should be discussed with your physician, UT Southwestern Medical Center cardiologists say.

Studies show that women who have one of these three complications are overall about twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease in upcoming years, says UT Southwestern cardiologist Dr. Monika Sanghavi, who focuses on women’s cardiovascular health.

Women who have preeclampsia, for example, are four times as likely to subsequently develop high blood pressure as those without the condition. Women who have gestational diabetes are about 50 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the subsequent 10 years. Women with these conditions have an opportunity to make lifestyle changes that can help lower their risk, Dr. Sanghavi says.

 “Talk to your primary care physician. Say, ‘I heard that women with gestational diabetes have an increased risk of heart disease. Should I change my diet? Do I have any other risk factors for heart disease?  Would I benefit from seeing a cardiologist?’ ” Dr. Sanghavi says.

Media Contact: [email protected]

Too little, too much calcium can pose competing risksWomen who take calcium supplements for bone health should get in the habit of reading labels on food and calcium supplements to ensure they do not get too little – or too much, UT Southwestern Medical Center mineral metabolism specialists warn.

Too little calcium can lead to osteoporosis, a dangerous thinning of bones that leads to an increased risk of fractures. Too much calcium carries potential increased risk of kidney stone formation and heart problems, although studies have shown conflicting results regarding heart issues, says Dr. Naim Maalouf of UT Southwestern’s Charles and Jane Pak Center for Mineral Metabolism and Clinical Research.

“Fifty percent of the patients in my practice are not getting enough calcium and only about 5 percent are going overboard,” he says.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium is 1,000 milligrams per day and should not exceed 2,500 milligrams per day for women ages 19-50. Women ages 51-70 should consume 1,200 milligrams per day, and no more than 2,000 milligrams per day, the IOM recommends.

Check labels for the amount of calcium. Packaged food labels often present calcium levels in percent of RDA. Add a zero to the percentage to determine how many milligrams it includes. For example, if a package says a serving supplies 15 percent of the recommended daily allowance, it has 150 milligrams. Also remember to calculate how many servings you are eating.

Dr. Maalouf says it’s best to get calcium from foods such as milk; cheese; and dark green, leafy vegetables. If you use tablets, choose calcium citrate tablets, which are better absorbed, but do not exceed 500 milligrams at a time.

Media Contact: [email protected]

Limit screen time for kidsVideo games and television can be a handy “baby sitter” for parents and caregivers, so it is important to pay attention to how much time your kids are spending glued to a tube, according to UT Southwestern Medical Center child psychiatrist Dr. Alice Ann Holland.

“Too much time online with video games or watching television can interfere with developing social interaction, conflict resolution, non-verbal and verbal communication, all of which are so socially based,” says Dr. Holland, who specializes in neurodevelopmental disorders.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours per day of video, gaming, texting, or computer time for children ages 3 to 18, and no screen time at all for kids under age 3.

“You could argue that it’s educational TV, but there are so many other ways to learn,” Dr. Holland says. “Of course, it’s easier to never give something than it is to take it away.”

Media contact: [email protected]

Pap smear needed even with HPV vaccineHPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines that are often recommended to help prevent infections related to cervical and other cancers should not discourage women from also getting a Pap smear, UT Southwestern Medical Center cancer experts say.

“Women should continue to be screened even if they have undergone HPV vaccination. The vaccine does not target all types of HPV that cause cancer. It is intended to reduce the risk of cancer, but has not been proven to eliminate the need for screening,” explains UT Southwestern gynecologic oncologist Dr. Jayanthi Lea.

Unless the patient has a history of precancerous lesions, cancer, immune deficiency, or other risks, testing every three years between age 21 and 65 is sufficient, Dr. Lea says. “There is also the option of combining a Pap test with HPV testing for women over 30 years. Screening this way is typically performed every five years.”

Media Contact: [email protected]

About UT Southwestern Medical CenterUT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty includes many distinguished members, including six who have been awarded Nobel Prizes since 1985. Numbering approximately 2,800, the faculty is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide medical care in 40 specialties to about 92,000 hospitalized patients and oversee approximately 2.1 million outpatient visits a year.