Published August 24, 2017
A postdoctoral researcher in the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to study healthy aging in postmenopausal women.
Dr. Hailey Banack, is principal investigator on the grant. Her faculty sponsor is Dr. Jean Wactawski-Wende, University at Buffalo’s dean and SUNY Distinguished Professor and professor of epidemiology and environmental health.
Postmenopausal women are a uniquely high-risk group and research is needed to improve researchers’ limited knowledge of the effects of obesity and hormone therapy on cardiovascular disease and mortality in older women, Dr. Banack says. “We don’t fully understand how obesity affects women in these older age groups. It’s a topic that needs investigation based on the changing demographics of the U.S. and the fact that women are living longer,” she said.
The majority of Dr. Banack’s research is focused on understanding the relationships between obesity, chronic disease, and mortality in older women and using novel methodologies to address complex statistical issues in aging research.
For her current project, Dr. Banack is using data from over 160,000 postmenopausal women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a prospective national study focused on strategies for preventing heart disease, cancer and osteoporotic fractures in U.S. postmenopausal women. University at Buffalo serves as the Northeast Regional Center for the WHI.
She will first explore how body weight and body composition change over time in postmenopausal women and how these changes affect risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Next, she’ll use advanced statistical methods and bias analysis techniques to investigate the effect of body weight changes on mortality. She will also examine whether hormone therapy and obesity interact to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in post-menopausal women.
“The results of this research have great public health significance,” Dr. Banack says. “Understanding the effect of obesity in postmenopausal women could help inform treatment guidelines and enable clinician-scientists to develop intervention programs specifically targeting postmenopausal women. These results will directly contribute to our understanding of healthy aging in postmenopausal women.”
Dr. Banack’s research interest in healthy aging and women’s health led her to UB. “The WHI is a very well-known epidemiologic study. It was a great fit to come here and work with Dr. Wactawski-Wende because she is a recognized expert in women’s health and body composition,” she said. “This is an amazing opportunity for me as a young researcher.”
Dr. Banack was also awarded a Banting Fellowship, Canada’s most prestigious award for postdoctoral researchers. The government of Canada awards 70 Banting Fellowships annually; each is worth $70,000 per year over two years.
A native of Toronto, Dr. Banack completed concurrent bachelor of physical education and bachelor of science degrees at Queen’s University and then a master’s degree in kinesiology at McGill University. She received her PhD in epidemiology from McGill University in 2016. She is actively involved in the peer-review process for a number of prominent epidemiology and medical journals.