Posts Tagged ‘women's health’

Medical Testing At Age 50-This Is Test You Can’t Afford to Fail

January 20, 2013

Most men and women do not need the services of the medical profession between the time they leave their pediatricians around age 18-20 until age 50. The exception is women who see their obstetrician for perinatal care and deliverying their children. Around age 50 you should start making regular visists to your doctor. This article will discuss the routine tests that you should consider when you reach middle age.

When you go for your annual physical, make sure your doctor performs or recommends these simple tests that may save your health — and your life — later. (Note that your doctor may recommend additional tests based on your personal health profile.)

Thyroid hormone test. Your thyroid, that innocuous looking gland in your neck, is the body’s powerhouse, producing hormones needed for metabolism. Aging (and an erratic immune system) can wreak havoc causing a variety of problems, especially in women. That’s why women should get a thyroid test at age 50 and then every 5 years.
The rectal exam. Dread it; hate it; joke with your friends about it: Just make sure you get one — every year. Along with other tests your doctor may recommend, it may give clues to treatable problems in your colon (think colon cancer) or prostate for men. Screening colonoscopy is recommended for everyone at 50 years old.
Stepping on the scales. This is the age when most people start gaining weight. Watch this weight gain carefully, and fight back with healthier eating and exercise. Being overweight puts you at high risk for developing a number of diseases — and studies show that weight loss can improve your odds.
Blood pressure. Untreated high blood pressure is an equal opportunity killer: It kills your heart, your brain, your eyes, and your kidneys. Don’t let hypertension sneak up on you. Get the test. It’s simple; it’s cheap; and it’s quick.
Cholesterol profile. Do you have high cholesterol? Find out — at least once every 5 years (more if you’re at risk for a heart attack). Controlling your cholesterol can add years to your life.
Blood sugar. Untreated diabetes can destroy your health, causing heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness. Don’t let it. Get a fasting blood sugar test at least once every 3 years and take control of diabetes early.
For women only: Pelvic exam and Pap smear. You may think you have suffered enough — at least 20 years of pelvic exams and Paps! But you still need these — especially if you’re sexually active. Ten minutes of mild discomfort once every 1 to 3 years pays big dividends in protecting you from cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.
For women only: Breast exam and mammogram. At this age, don’t ever let a year go by without getting a mammogram and having your doctor examine your breasts for any changes. Early detection of breast cancer can save your breast and your life.
Looking for moles: Love your skin. Check your skin monthly for any unusual spots or moles. Be sure to ask your doctor to check your skin once a year, as well.
Protecting your eyes. Vision-robbing diseases become more common as you age. Be sure to get your eyes examined regularly — every 2 years until age 60 and then yearly after that. Go more often if you have vision problems or risk factors for eye problems.
Checking your immunizations. People over age 50 should get a flu shot every year. And don’t forget, even healthy people need a tetanus booster shot every 10 years, and one of those should contain the pertussis vaccine for whooping cough. Be sure to ask your doctor to update any immunizations that you might need. Consider Hepatitis A and B vaccines if you haven’t already had them.

Use your birthday as a gentle reminder to schedule a visit to your dentist, and call your doctor to see if there are important tests you should take. By investing an hour or two now, you may be able to add years to your life.

Bottom Line: When you go for your annual physical, make sure your doctor performs or recommends these simple tests that may save your health — and your life — later. Remember of you don’t take time for your health, you won’t have time to enjoy life in your senior years.

For more information on women’s health, I suggest my new book, What’s Going On Down There-Everything You Need To KnowAbout Your Pelvic Health. the book is available from Amazon.com

New book on women's health

New book on women’s health

Cancer Prevention For Women-Listen To Your Body

February 23, 2012

Your body may be the best detective for discovering cancer This blog will provide tenant signs and symptoms that may help you discover cancer in the early stages when treatment is most likely to be successful.

Breast changes
If you feel a lump in your breast, you shouldn’t ignore it even if your mammogram is normal. If your nipple develops scaling and flaking, that could indicate a disease of the nipple, which is associated with underlying cancer in nearly 95% of cases. Also any milky or bloody discharge should also be checked out.

Irregular menstrual bleeding
Any postmenopausal bleeding is a warning sign. Spotting outside of your normal menstrual cycle or heavier periods should be investigated.

Rectal bleeding
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in women. One of the hallmarks is rectal bleeding. Your doctor will likely order a colonscopy.

Vaginal discharge
A foul or smelly vaginal discharge could be a sign of cervical cancer. And examination is necessary to determine if the discharge is due to an infection or something more serious.

Bloating
Ovarian cancer is the #1 killer of all reproductive organ cancers. The 4 most frequent signs of ovarian cancer are bloating, feeling that you’re getting full earlier than you typically would when eating, changing bowel or bladder habits such as urinating more frequently, and low back or pelvic pain. You can expect a pelvic exam, transvaginal sonogram, and perhaps a CA-125 blood test to check for cancerous cells.

Unexplained weight gain or loss
Weight gain can occur with accumulation of fluid in the abdomen from ovarian cancer. Unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more may be the first sign of cancer. Weight loss in women can also be due to an overactive thyroid gland.

Persistence cough
Any cough that lasts 2 or 3 weeks and is not due to an allergy or upper respiratory infection or a cough that has blood in the sputum needs to be checked. Also, smoking is the number one cancer killer in women.

Change in lymph nodes
If you feel lymph nodes in your neck or under your arm, you should be seen by your doctor. Swollen, firm lymph nodes are often the result of an infection. However, lymphoma or lung, breast, head or neck cancer that has spread can also show up as an enlarged lymph node.

Fatigue
Extreme tiredness that does not get better with rest should warrant an appointment with your doctor. Leukemia, colon, or stomach cancer-which can cause blood loss-can result in fatigue.

Skin Changes
Any sores irritated skin the vaginal area, or a non-healing vulvar lesion can be a sign of vulvar cancer.
Bottom Line: If you notice something different about your body, get it checked out. Most likely it’s not cancer, but if it is, cancer is treatable and often curable.

Vitamins and Supplements May Not Be The Panacea To Good Health For Women

October 23, 2011

50% of Americans take vitamins and supplements. In 2003, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that roughly half of Americans reported taking at least one dietary supplement, creating nearly $20 billion in annual industry profits. And dietary supplement use becomes more common as people get older. The numbers of women who reported taking supplements increased over time — from 63 percent in 1986, to 75 percent in 1997 and 85 percent in 2004.
A recent study shows that for some women, especially older women, were at a slightly increased risk of death and increased risk of developing cancer. For the nutrient conscious, a daily capsule of vitamins and minerals might seem like a sure way to get all the necessary nutrients you could miss in your diet. But a new study from the Annals of Internal Medicine reports that those supplements may not be helpful, and in some cases, could even be harmful for older women.
The study looked at more than 38,000 women age 55 and older who participated in the study since the mid-1980s. The researchers found that when it came to reducing the risk of death, most supplements had no effect on women’s health.
In fact, women who took certain kinds of dietary supplements — vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron and multivitamins — faced a slightly higher risk of death than women who did not. Only women who took supplemental calcium showed any reduction in their risk of death.
The findings add to a growing collection of research showing that people who take dietary supplements are getting few health benefits in return. I would conclude that supplements are not protective against chronic diseases.
Experts noted that supplements are beneficial for people who have some kind of nutritional deficiency, like anemia or osteoporosis. But many people who take dietary supplements are healthy and just want to be healthier.
Bottom Line: Based on this new study, people should be even a little more cautious now about taking these supplements. Before starting on a course of vitamins and supplements, speak to your doctor. The best way to ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need is still to eat a well-balanced diet.

Water, Wet and Wonderful

May 3, 2010

Water is one of life’s best elixirs; there are few things as available, inexpensive and health-giving —so drink up.

Even though it is readily available, tasteless and free, most Americans do not drink enough water. And water remains one of nature’s most perfect medications. In fact, water is the most essential component of your diet.

While you can live for several weeks without food, you can live only a few days without water. Water loss of three percent of the body weight or approximately two quarts without replacement can result in weakness and lethargy. A 15-20 percent water loss can be fatal.

Nearly half the total body weight consists of water. To ensure good health, the average person requires two to three quarts of water per day because this is the volume that is lost in perspiration, urine, feces and breath. Nearly half of the food we eat consists of water.

Water is necessary for nearly all bodily functions such as digestion, circulation, excretion, nutrient transmission and temperature regulation.

More specifically, there are thirteen ways that water works in the human body:

  1. Water quenches thirst. There is no better liquid to quench your thirst than water. Many people are incorrectly informed that you only need to drink water in hot weather. The truth is large volumes of water are lost through your breath in cold, dry weather. Although you can substitute other beverages such as colas, coffee and electrolyte drinks, there is no other drink that contains fewer calories and more nutrients than water. In fact, affricated beverages can act as diuretics and cause the body to excrete water and important chemicals like potassium.
  2. Water aids digestion. Water dilutes the acidity in the stomach and causes the release of enzymes necessary for digestion. Water is also a natural laxative and relieves constipation.
  3. Water cools the body during exercise. As the body heats up during exercise, the internal thermostat promotes perspiration. Internal body temperature can be decreased with the consumption of cold water. Cold water is best because it is absorbed into the circulation more quickly than warm water.
  4. Water promotes waste excretion. The kidneys are the paired organs used to remove metabolic bodily water material. Water is essential for these incredible filters to do their work and flush out the body’s waste products.
  5. Water carries nutrients to the cells. All of the body’s cells are bathed in a saltwater solution.  Blood moves nutrients to the cells and removes the waste products to the kidneys and liver. Water is necessary to maintain the blood volume to carry out these vital functions
  6. Water reduces kidney stones. If too much calcium, oxalate or uric acid is excreted in the urine, crystals will form and start the growth of kidney stones. The best treatment to reduce kidney stones is to drink enough water to keep the particles from hitting one another and starting the crystallization process
  7. Water lubricates the joints. The bones glide against one another with minimal friction because of a lubricant called synovial fluid. Drinking plenty of water increases the synovial fluid and reduces the wear and tear on the joints
  8. Water promotes good skin tone. Skin elasticity is maintained when the body is well hydrated.  Chronic fluid loss leads to dry, wrinkled skin.
  9. Water dilutes alcohol and relieves headaches. There is no better remedy for a hangover than several glasses of water. Water dilutes the alcohol content in the blood stream and decreases its effect on the brain and central nervous system alleviating headache and hangover associated with excessive alcohol consumption.
  10. Water decreases pre-menstrual fluid retention. Some women experience salt retention during their menstrual periods. This leads to excess water retention as well. Diuretics or water pills only offer a temporary solution. Paradoxically, you can promote salt excretion by drinking more water. As the water is passed through the kidneys, it excretes the excess salt as well as the excess water.
  11. Water is a diet aid. Drinking a glass of water before each meal leads to a sensation of fullness before you sit down to the table, thus acting as a natural appetite suppressant. Water helps the body metabolize stored fat. If there is not adequate water to rid the body of waste through the kidneys, then the liver must be called in to do the kidney’s work. If the liver is doing the kidney’s work, it cannot metabolize body fat and weight loss is slowed or stopped.
  12. Water is a natural relaxer. Water is an excellent way to wash away tension. Swimming induces a feeling of calmness and exhilarates the body, similar to a jogger’s high.
  13. Water aids pregnant women. A pregnant woman should be especially conscious of getting eight to ten glasses of water a day. Water will clear her system of added metabolic body waste contributed by the fetus. It will also help prevent dehydration that may result from morning sickness.

How much water is enough? The time-honored advice of drinking eight to ten glasses of water a day still holds true. However, the more you exercise, the more you need to drink. A good rule of thumb is to drink approximately one quart of water for each hour of exercise.

Drinking too much water is rarely a problem. Too much water, more than six quarts a day, can dilute body minerals and electrolytes producing lethargy, confusion and if not corrected, convulsions and coma. The treatment is simple: Decrease the water intake and allow the kidneys to flush out the excess.

Bottom Line: Water is truly the elixir of life.  So enjoy one of life’s greatest medicines and it’s free.  Drink up!

You Don’t Have to Be Wet When You Exercise

March 28, 2010

Stress urinary incontinence refers to the leakage of urine that occurs during physical activities, such as coughing, sneezing, walking and lifting.  It is not surprising that many women lose urine during exercise given the impact exercise may have on the bladder, the urethra or the tube that allows urine to exit the body, and the pelvis.  If women have urinary incontinence during exercise, it is not uncommon for many women to give up exercising entirely because of the social embarrassment associated with this condition.  One-fifth of women who exercised recreationally stopped exercising because of the incontinence.

Nearly one-third of recreational athletes have some urinary incontinence during exercise.  Exercises that involved repetitive bouncing, such as aerobics or running, are most likely to provoke urinary incontinence.

Loss of urine during exercise is not only limited to middle-aged women who have had children.  Over 25% of young college varsity athletes or physical education majors who had not had any children reported some leakage while participating in their sport.  Nearly 2\3 of gymnasts reported some leakage, but only 10% of the swimmers had loss of urine.  This is not surprising since swimming is a much lower impact activity.  Another study compared incontinence in physical education majors which was nearly three times more common than in students studying nutrition.  Both of these groups of women were just as likely to have occasional incontinence in other activities of daily life, regardless of whether they were athletes or not.  This suggests that exercise alone does not cause incontinence but that the high intensity of exercise raises the pressure in the bladder and exceeds the woman’s continence threshold.  The continence threshold is the amount of pressure that the urethra is able to withstand before loss of urine occurs.  This threshold may be decreased from such factors as childbirth which stretches the tissues in the vagina and weakens the muscles and connective tissue in the pelvis.  Other conditions decreasing the continence threshold include certain medications such as alpha blockers, estrogen deficiency as seen in post-menopausal women, obesity, chronic coughing, and nerve disorders as occasionally seen in women with diabetes.

High impact exercising also predispose women to leak.  With jumping or running, the bladder has to accept over 25 pounds of force from the abdominal organs slamming down against the bladder and the urethra which can exceed the continence threshold and result in incontinence.

There is also evidence that loss of collagen in the connective tissues may be responsible for the loss of urine in women who lose urine during exercise.  As women get older there is a loss of collagen and this may be responsible for some of the incontinence that occurs in women during exercise.

Are women who exercise at risk for clinically significant incontinence later in life?  Probably not.  A study that questioned female Olympians who competed 20-30 years ago, found that those who participated in high impact sports (gymnastics and track and field) were not more likely to have more severe incontinence today than women who competed in lower impact exercises such as swimming.

Solutions to exercise incontinence

Most importantly, women should not stop exercising.  This is especially important as a women reaches middle age and can easily become overweight.  Being overweight is definitely associated with urinary incontinence so women can get into a vicious cycle if they stop exercising as they can become more overweight and have even more incontinence.   Some women may cope with the use of pads used during exercise, others can change from high-impact to lower impact exercises such as swimming.  There are also pelvic muscle strengthening drills that can stop or cut down leakage during exercises.  Now there are inserts containing a small, single use liquid covered with silicone that can be inserted into the urethra and conforms to the urethra creating a seal and preventing the loss of urine during exercise.  The insert is removed during regular bathroom visits where it is discarded and replaced with a fresh insert.  Finally, for women whose quality of life is impaired by the incontinence, surgery can alleviate incontinence in most women.

Bottom line:  Help is available for those who suffer from incontinence during exercise.  If you want to explore the various treatment options you should discuss them with your doctor

Choosing a Doctor – Finding Doctor Right

March 21, 2010

After selecting your spouse\significant other and your vocation, the next most important decision you may make is finding the right physician who will take care of you in sickness and in health.  You may have limited choices as your insurance plan will give you a menu of doctsors to choose from.   These doctors have signed contracts with the insurance company and have discounted their fees in order to attract patients to their practices.  As a result, these doctors are part of a network and you will pay less if you use them. However, most plans will allow you to “go out of network” and select another physician, and this will usually raise your co-pays or the percent of the fee that you will be responsible for. You can ask doctors you know, medical societies, friends, family, and coworkers to recommend doctors. You may also contact hospitals and referral services about doctors in your area.

Now you need to do a little homework.  First, call the potential new doctor and make sure they are accepting new patients. Here’s how to check doctors out:

  • Ask plans and medical offices for information on their doctors’ training and experience.
  • Look up basic information about doctors.  There are a number of medical directories on the Internet.  One of the most robust is on the WebMD website.  (http://doctor.webmd.com/physician_finder/) The WebMD ‘Physician Directory’ is provided by WebMD for use by the general public as a quick reference of information about physicians.
  • Use “AMA Physician Select,” which is the American Medical Association’s free service on the Internet for information about physicians (http://www.ama-assn.org/aps/amahg.htm).

You may also want to find out:

  • Is the doctor board certified? Although all doctors must be licensed to practice medicine, some also are board certified. This means the doctor has completed several years of training in a specialty and passed an exam. Visit the American Board of Medical Specialties at http://www.abms.org/. The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), a not-for-profit organization, assists 24 approved medical specialty boards in the development and use of standards in the ongoing evaluation and certification of physicians. ABMS, recognized as the “gold standard” in physician certification, believes higher standards for physicians means better care for patients.
  • Have complaints been registered or disciplinary actions taken against the doctor? To find out, call your State Medical Licensing Board.
  • Have complaints been registered with your State department of insurance?   You can also visit Healthgrades.com and find out about the malpractice issues associated with your doctor.

Once you have narrowed your search to a few doctors, you may want to set up “get acquainted” appointments with them. Ask what charge there might be for these visits, if any. Most physicians who are seeking new patients would welcome a visit and an interview.  Prepare the questions you would like to ask the doctor about his\her philosophy of care.  Questions you might consider are:

How long does it take to make an appointment for new problem that is not an emergency?

Can I be seen immediately if I have an urgent or emergency problem?

How soon can I expect a call back from you or your nurse if I call with a question?

What is your philosophy on prescription refills?

Will I be seen by the physician or a physician assistant or nurse practioner?

What are your fees for an office visit, emergency room visit, and a phone call?

I have a certain medical problem, do you take care of patients with this problem?

Bottom Line:  There is no better way to find the right fit for you and your family than to take a little time and do a background check on your physician and then make an initial visit to see if you will be comfortable having him\her provide you with medical care.

Cystitis-How To Leave Home Without It

March 11, 2010

What does sex, bubble bath and thongs have in common?  Answer: They may all be causes of cystitis.  If you are a woman who has ever suffered from cystitis then you will know just how debilitating and miserable it can be, you you can perhaps take comfort from the fact that you are far from alone.  It seems that at last 20% of women have had an attack at some point in their lives, and 20% of those will get more than one episode a year.

There is certainly no mistaking the feeling it brings, which usually starts with a strong sensation of needing to urinate.  When you try to go, it either burns horribly, or nothing seems to come out.  You may have a full, uncomfortable sensation in the bladder, plus an aching back and stomach and a general feeling of being unwell.  The most common cause is an infection caused by bacteria.  It isn’t only a female problem but far more common in women than men.  The reason is that the internal plumbing of women is much shorter than in a man and the relationship of the rectum which is usually the source of the bacteria is closer to the urinary tract in women than in men.

A bacteria called E. Coli is usually the culprit.  Since E. Coli coming from the rectum can reside in the vagina and then can have easy access to the urethra or the tube that transmits urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.  This is why it is beneficial for women to wipe from front to back when they use the restroom.  If you swipe the wrong way, you can move the bugs from the rectum into the vagina and then into the urethra.  Another recommendation is to switch from nylon or synthetic underwear to the cooler cotton briefs which discourage the growth of bacteria.  Also, thongs and G strings may be very sexy but they are bad news for cystitis sufferers as the string is an effective way for bacteria to hitch a ride from your bottom to your bladder. Another suggestion is to change the bacterial flora of the gastrointestinal tract.  This can be accomplished by regularly eating yoghurt which contains the good bacteria lactobacillus or acidophilus.

It is also crucial to drink large quantities of water to flush away any bacteria.  Also, it is recommended that sufferers of frequent cystitis go the toilet when you first feel the urge.  The longer you hold in urine, the fuller your bladder is, with more potential for bacteria to grow and proliferate.  Using bubble baths or irritating soaps around the vagina should also be avoided as these agents can upset the delicate balance of acidity and alkalinity in your skin so that bacteria can flourish.

It also appears that sexual intercourse, promotes moving bacteria from the vagina into the urethra.  This then starts the process of bacterial multiplication in the bladder and creates the symptoms of cystitis.  Therefore, it is important for women who get cystitis after intercourse to urinate frequently after sexual intimacy to wash the bacteria out of the urethra so they don’t become permanent residents and create an infection.

For years doctors have recommended cranberries of a method to reduce the attacks of recurrent cystitis.  Initially, it was thought that the cranberries were a source of acid and this prevented cystitis.  Now research has shown that the cranberries contain chemicals that help stop the bacteria from sticking onto the bladder wall.  Because cranberry juice can be quite high in sugar, you might prefer to take one of the cranberry supplements that are available.

Beating back an attack

The first practical step is to consume 2 glasses of water every 20 minutes for the first three hours.  This will help you ladder to flush itself out, and sometimes is enough on it s own to prevent further problems.  If not, gulp down a few glasses of cranberry juice.  Sipping a glass of water with a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda stirred into it may help the burning sensation when you urinate.

If these simple measures don’t relieve your symptoms in a day or two, you may need to see your doctor and take a short course of antibiotics.  Failure to treat the infection can result in a much more serious kidney infection.  Also, if you have more than 3-4 infections in a 12 month period you will want to see your doctor to be sure there isn’t something else more ominous causing these infection.