If you’re a woman Veteran, your experience with health conditions may be different than men who served… and your risk for certain diseases may be different from civilian women.
At VA, we’re making health discoveries for women Veterans through the Million Veteran Program (MVP). One in 10 MVP participants are women. If more women join the program, MVP can make more breakthroughs in areas where women deserve specialized care.
Here are four new discoveries about women’s health that were made possible by women Veterans in MVP:
Researchers recently discovered that endometriosis may be linked to mental health conditions and eating disorders in women.
- The study, which used data from approximately 270,000 women, found part of a gene that’s connected to both depression and endometriosis.
- This research indicates that care for endometriosis may be improved by taking a whole health approach, rather than treating just physical symptoms.
“Our findings support that endometriosis is a chronic systemic disease with complex links to women’s mental health rather than a classic gynecological disease,” said Dr. Dora Koller, VA researcher and postdoctoral fellow at Yale School of Medicine who led the study.
What is endometriosis? It’s a condition that affects up to 10% of women between 15 and 44. It happens when part of the inside of the uterus (called the endometrium) grows outside the uterus. Some women with endometriosis may experience infertility or difficulty getting pregnant.
In a 2022 study based on nearly 500,000 people, including Veterans in MVP, researchers found:
- There may be genetic risk factors for osteoarthritis, which could lead to new interventions and treatments for women with osteoarthritis.
- Drugs currently used to treat other conditions may be able to treat osteoarthritis pain. More research is needed to test this.
Osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis that affects joints in the hands, spine, knees, and hips. It is more common in women than men. More than 2 in 5 women Veterans in MVP report having osteoarthritis, making it one of the most common conditions for women in the program.
The rate of suicide among women Veterans is nearly double that of non-Veteran women. MVP is studying ways to better predict and prevent suicide attempts. In a 2022 study, their researchers found:
- Many Veterans who report a suicide attempt also experience severe sleep problems, like insomnia.
- Veterans who attempted suicide had a harder time absorbing oxytocin, a natural hormone that helps us with feelings of bonding and trust.
With this growing body of knowledge, doctors may be able to better screen Veterans for suicide risk based on these risk factors.
Suicide prevention is VA’s number one priority. If you or someone you know is in crisis, you are not alone. Dial 988 and press 1.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. MVP is studying heart disease and how it affects Veterans. So far, they’ve found:
- Men and women in MVP who report eating nuts, but not peanut butter, more than 5x per week have a lower risk of coronary artery disease.
- There are three genes that protect against different types of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Make a difference for women Veterans by joining MVP
If more women join MVP, researchers can continue to improve women’s health care at VA. MVP is studying dozens of health conditions that affect Veterans, including:
- Cancers, including breast cancer
- Mental health, including posttraumatic stress disorder and depression
- And more.
Sign up today at https://www.mvp.va.gov/pwa/ or call 866-441-6075 to make an appointment at a participating VA facility. You don’t need to receive your care at VA to participate.