nurses4wellness blog.

Nurses’ Health Study Findings May 2012

Dear Fellow Nurse,

Did you know that thanks to over 235,000 female nurses we have gained a greater understanding of the factors that influence women’s health? The Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), which began in 1976 and was expanded (NHS II) in 1989, collects data from dedicated nurse–participants about disease, hormone use, menopause status and lifestyle factors.

Amazingly, response rates to the NHS II questionnaires are at 90% for each two-year cycle. The data collected from these long running studies have provided valuable insights into the prevention of many conditions, including cancer and diabetes. Most importantly, these studies have shown that a healthy diet, physical activity and other lifestyle behaviors can powerfully promote better health.

Check out the NHS website to see a published summary of research highlights. Researchers have used the data collected from the NHS to investigate how alcohol, diet, smoking, oral contraceptives, post-menopausal hormones, activity, and obesity all affect women’s health.

This newsletter will help you discover lifestyle strategies identified in the Nurses’ Health Study as improving health and minimizing disease risk.

Be well,

Janet Fontana, RN, MA

Alcohol Benefits & Risks

For as long as we have been drinking alcohol, we have also been questioning its overall impact on our health. Harvard School of Public Health states that alcohol is both a “tonic and poison” and balancing its benefits and risks is not easy.

Research shows that moderate alcohol consumption by healthy individuals (1 drink/day for women; 2 drinks/day for men) reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cognitive impairment. However, studies also suggest that alcohol increases the risk of cancer, including breast and colon. If you consume alcohol it is important to be aware of your drinking behavior, health status, and family history and to always drink responsibly.

Health Risks & Exercise

NHS data have concluded that exercise not only promotes optimum health and life longevity, but also substantially reduces a woman’s risk of developing a multitude of health conditions including diabetes, stroke, cancer, heart disease, and memory loss. Here are some other key findings linking exercise to women’s health:

~Women who briskly walked for 1 hr/day reduced their risk of breast cancer by 15%

~Women who jogged or cycled for >5 hrs/week doubled their chance of healthy aging

~Women who ran >2 hrs/week reduced their chance of developing psoriasis

Food & Disease Risk

Findings from the NHS remind us of the strong connection between what we eat and our health. Red meat increases risk of premenopausal breast cancer, fish intake reduces risk of stroke, nut and whole grains lower risk of CHD, and green leafy vegetables help protect cognitive functioning.

This week’s data released from the NHS found that a high fiber diet, especially from fruits and vegetables, lowers risk of Crohn’s disease. Nurses who consumed an average of 25 grams fiber/day had a 38 percent lower risk compared to those in the lowest quartile who averaged 11 grams/day. Click here for recommendations on fiber rich foods.


An estimated 18 percent of U.S. nurses smoke – the highest percentage of smokers among all health professionals. Smokers in the NHS were found to have an increased risk of CHD, stroke, colon cancer, hip fractures and eye disease. After 2 – 4 years of smoking cessation, the risk of CHD and stroke were reduced. Nurses who smoke can get help at Tobacco Free Nurses.

Join NHS3!

The Nurses’ Health Study is recruiting 100,000 female RNs, LPNs, and nursing students between the ages of 20-46 to participate in NHS3.

Contribute to groundbreaking research on lifestyle, environment, nurses’ worklife, and women’s health by giving just one hour of your time online a year.

Become part of the next generation of NHS! –Join NHS3! 




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