Michelle Flesaker’s Paper on Menopause, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Quality of Life Accepted in the Journal Menopause

Michelle Flesaker, a junior at Smith College, had her manuscript titled “The role of cardiorespiratory fitness on quality of life in midlife women” accepted in the journal Menopause, of the North American Menopause Society. This is an extraordinary achievement for Michelle! 

Midlife is a challenge to women due to what is known as the “squeeze” where many women in this age range are working to advance their careers, taking care of children, caring for aging parents, while experiencing the physiological effects of menopause and health declines due to aging. These midlife experiences may impact a woman’s quality of life.  Therefore, midlife may be a critical window of opportunity to improve quality of life in women. 

Improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) or aerobic exercise capacity, is well known to reduce the risk of disease. Michelle was interested in whether CRF was related to the self-reported perception of quality of life (QOL). Healthy women aged 40-65 completed the Utian Quality of Life questionnaire, a treadmill stress test to measure CRF, a self-reported physical activity questionnaire, and more. Michelle determined that CRF was a significant predictor of women’s overall QOL. Michelle’s paper highlights the importance of CRF for midlife women. The results suggest that healthcare practitioners would benefit from targeting CRF as an important health indicator beyond its ability to predict and reduce disease risk.

Join us in congratulating Michelle on her amazing work!

Sarah Seron Awarded the NEACSM 2020 Undergraduate Research Experience Grant

Sarah Seron, a pre-health student and Ada Comstock Scholar at Smith College, was awarded the NEACSM (New England regional chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine) 2020 Undergraduate Research Experience Grant. The grant is awarded to highlight professional and academic excellence in undergraduate students attending non-R1 institutions in the New England states.

Cardiovascular Disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. The health of the inside of the blood vessels can provide important information about CVD risk. Endothelial Microparticles (EMPs) are fragments of the inside of the blood vessel wall that may help us identify women who may be at higher risk, or how various therapies may reduce CVD risk in women (see figure below).

Art by: Justine Wagaman

Sarah’s research involves improving the evaluation of EMPs with Imaging Flow Cytometry, a method of analysis that may provide a better way to measure EMP compared with traditional flow cytometry. Sarah’s aims are to develop the protocol for EMP evaluation with Imaging Flow Cytometry and compare the two methods. 

Sarah’s work with this grant will facilitate our lab’s research on midlife women’s health. Midlife is a time for women where the risk for CVD increases dramatically. The ability to monitor blood vessel health during this time will help us understand the best ways to mitigate the increase in CVD risk for women.  Her research is paving the way toward a greater understanding of EMPs by creating an improved technique for looking at these fascinating microparticles. 

We are very proud of Sarah’s accomplishment. Congratulations! 

Witkowski Lab Research on Menopause is highlighted in Smith’s Alumnae Quarterly

Our lab has a longitudinal study underway to evaluate the role of physical activity in women who transition into and through menopause.
The research consists of completing an online menopause questionnaire each year for women between the ages of 40-65.
If you are interested, contact molecularcardiolab@gmail.com to participate in our study!
Thank you @SAQ for including us in the fall 2020 magazine!