All Entries For women's health
What’s the best way to stay in shape during your pregnancy—and beyond? Get in the best shape of your life before you get pregnant! Here are my top six exercise recommendations for preparing your body for a strong and healthy pregnancy and postpartum recovery. Read More ›
Have you ever heard a woman say, "I can't lift weights. I don't want to get bulky." Or how about, "I don't want to gain muscle. I just want to tone the muscle I already have."
These are just a couple of the common responses I hear when I suggest strength training to women who are interested in getting in better shape. Sadly, there are many myths that women believe about muscles and strength training.
Although we've seen a bit of a paradigm shift happening the past few years in which more women are making their way into the weight room, there are still just a few myths that won't die, and I'm going to bust them now. Read More ›
Hormones have a bad reputation. Feeling bloated? Cranky? Craving carbs? Blame it on that time of the month. But hormones provide a host of health benefits and can help you lose weight, sleep better and stay sharp. Click through to learn five ways they can help you be your best—and how to harness their positive power. Read More ›
I grew up playing school sports and taking phys ed class, so I've been in my share of locker rooms. But now that I'm an adult, the only locker room I encounter is at the gym. And to be perfectly honest, I'm really—I mean REALLY—uncomfortable changing in the women's locker room. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm the odd woman out or if I'm normal after all. Read More ›
Editor's Note: February is Heart Health month, aimed at bringing awareness to the #1 killer in America. Today we're sharing an interview with Dr. Patrice Desvigne-Nickens on behalf of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and The Heart Truth®. Dr. Desvigne-Nickens answered our questions via email.
DailySpark: How early should women start to take steps to protect their heart health?
Dr. Desvigne-Nickens: Women need to take steps at every age to protect their heart health. Heart disease can begin early, even in the teen years, and it is important for women and girls at all ages to know about heart disease and follow a healthy lifestyle. Women in their 20s and 30s should take action to reduce their risk of developing heart disease.
DailySpark: What are the top lifestyle changes women can make to ensure their hearts stay healthy?
Dr. Desvigne-Nickens: Most heart disease risk factors are preventable or controllable by making healthy lifestyle changes, including: stopping smoking, being physically active, following a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. Additional risk factors that you can prevent and control include: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and high blood sugar or diabetes. These conditions are silent (that is you don’t have any symptoms) so you must talk with your physician and know your numbers. High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and high blood sugar are often treatable with healthy lifestyle but may require medical prescriptions.
DailySpark: Which habits harm our hearts the most?
Dr. Desvigne-Nickens: Smoking, letting high blood pressure and high cholesterol go untreated, being overweight or obese, not being physically active, and not managing diabetes all can contribute to increasing a person’s risk for heart disease.
It is especially important to understand that that having more than one risk factor or condition multiplies your risk of developing heart disease. Having one risk factor doubles your risk for disease; having two risks quadruples your risk for developing disease; having three risks increases risk by tenfold. Don’t choose among risk factors, take charge and control your risks. You can reduce your risk for heart disease by over 80% by controlling risk factors and a healthy lifestyle.
DailySpark: How much impact does weight have on heart health?
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Editor's Note: We're passionate about saving lives and preventing heart disease! Please share this blog post with other women in your life. Click the buttons above to share it on social media sites or send via email.
Happy American Heart Month!
February's best-known day is Valentine’s Day, and what with all the heart-shaped things associated with that occasion, it is the perfect month to highlight heart health and share with you what you can do to protect your most precious asset. Your heart will be there for you during all of your life’s adventures, but heart disease is a big threat to all of us! Heart disease is America’s number one cause of death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- 1 in 3 deaths in the US is from heart disease and stroke
- That's equal to 2,200 deaths per day.
- 2 million heart attacks and strokes occur each year
- 80,000,000 adults are affected by heart disease
- Heart disease & stroke cost the nation $444 billion/year in health care costs and lost economic productivity.
In the not too distant past, heart disease was erroneously labeled as a "man’s" disease. The seemingly healthy father that suddenly dies of a heart attack leaving young children and a wife behind is a stereotypical nightmare scenario. Views like this have placed too much emphasis on men in heart-health research, and, as a result, both treatment guidelines and public health initiatives are skewed toward men.
But are you aware of the prevalence of heart disease in women? More than 42 million women are currently living with some form of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in America!
To change America’s perception that heart disease is a "man’s disease," the American Heart Association in 2004 created the campaign Go Red for Women to bring awareness to this largely preventative disease. Efforts such as Go Red for Women Day work because studies show that when women are aware of their risk for heart disease they are much more likely to make the effort to make the necessary lifestyle changes.
The same simple, lasting changes you're implementing as a way to lose weight will also help you keep your heart healthy: eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, don't smoke (or quit if you do), and limit your alcohol intake.
So, as women, what can we do specifically to improve our heart health? What should we be doing to keep our ticker ticking?
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Jennifer Hodges, 41
Before: 369 lb
Now: 157 lb
I began gaining weight in sixth grade soon after my parents opened a pizza place. I wasn't active and ate poorly. To deal with being heavy, I was the "funny fat girl" in high school and made jokes about my weight. At 23, I was 250 pounds. People always said, "You have such a pretty face, if you'd just lose weight, you'd be a knockout."
In October of 2008, I fell in the yard and twisted my ankle while playing with my three kids (who were all under the age of 4). At 350 pounds, I was too big for my husband to lift, so he had to get a blanket, roll me onto it and drag me inside. I was humiliated and terrified. What if I had been home alone? I knew I had to make big changes. Read More ›
I always assumed that when I was ready to start a family, it would be fairly simple and I could get pregnant without any trouble. I had a healthy diet, exercised regularly, didn’t have a weight problem and had no history of medical problems. When I talked to my doctor about it, he said “You’re a little bit on the thin side, so gaining a few pounds might help.” It took almost a year, but I finally got pregnant with my first child. I never thought my weight would make a difference, but I think gaining a few pounds helped. New research shows that having a high or low BMI can both affect your chances of getting pregnant and carrying a child to term. Read More ›
If you're a post-menopausal woman, you might have noticed that your forehead has grown higher all of a sudden. Or maybe the part in your hair has gotten wider, and you can see your scalp when the light hits it just right. But don't worry; you're not alone. Up to 10% of pre-menopausal women experience some androgenetic alopecia (decreased hair diameter with a normal growth pattern), and the rate jumps considerably to 50-75% of women 65 and older.
The cause of this type of hair loss isn't fully understood, but some studies point to factors such as hormonal imbalances, iron deficiency, rapid weight loss, medication side-effects and some disease states. For any woman who is experiencing hair loss, the first step is to consult with a healthcare professional who can rule out any physical conditions that may be contributing to the hair loss, followed by a proper treatment plan. Read More ›
Let's face it: Nobody wants to talk about incontinence. However, many women have some degree of it. There is no reason why anyone should have to feel embarrassed about or continue to suffer from this problem, but it continues to be a common chronic health condition that diminishes quality of life.
Many women experience urinary incontinence for the first time during or after pregnancy. The physical changes of pregnancy, along with the stresses put on the pelvic floor, can cause urine leakage with exertion, coughing or sneezing. For many women, this problem resolves within several months postpartum. However, without treatment, some women may continue to have a chronic incontinence issues for life.
There are two main types of urinary incontinence, listed below. Some women develop a mix of the two. Read More ›
June 23, 2012 marked the 40th anniversary of the signing of national legislation known as Title IX that sought to create equal rights for boys and girls. Because of this legislation, countless women including myself have taken advantage of the ability to participate in a myriad of athletic opportunities that extend to all levels of competition and have reached far beyond the United States.
The proof of Title IX's impact lies far beyond any statistics regarding the number of girls that have participated in organizes athletics. Several weeks ago, the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Track and Field Championships took place at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at The Ohio State University in Columbus Ohio. You may have heard about the teen runner that helped carry her competitor as she struggled to finish the long race. As a four-time competitor in that state meet (as a high jumper), I loved reading about the great example of sportsmanship at such a high level of competition. Watching it was even better!
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Being healthy is about far more than the number on your scale. Just because you lost weight and look fabulous does not guarantee you're healthy on the inside. As a physician, I have seen many people who are thin and look healthy, but are actually sicker than many overweight and obese people.
The best way to stay healthy for years to come is to prevent illness. Focusing on diet and exercise is an important part of being healthy and preventing illness, but there are other aspects of your health that can't be managed with diet and exercise alone. Some areas of your health require regular visits to a qualified medical professional, especially for women.
So, women of SparkPeople, when was the last time you visited your gynecologist?
Can I see a show of hands? Do you know how often you are supposed to get a Pap smear? How about a mammogram? You are probably thinking I’m trying to trap you into the wrong answer.
Of course, I am! Most of you probably said you need to get an annual Pap smear and an annual mammogram starting at age 40. Right? Not anymore.
The rules we've all heard have changed, and I'm here to explain the new recommendations for Pap smears, mammograms, and more.
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I read an interview recently with Kathy Ireland, whom many of us know best as the Sports Illustrated cover model. Ireland is now 48 and a successful entrepreneur worth more than an estimated $300 million. I didn't know that about Ireland, so I read a few more articles about her online.
A few years ago, Ireland realized she had put on 25 pounds in as many years--without really noticing. I was not making enough time to take care of me," she told People magazine after successfully and safely losing the weight in 2009.
At first I was surprised. Twenty-five pounds is a good deal of weight--that's the size of a toddler! How could you not notice? But then I thought back to my own weight gain of almost 50 pounds, and I understood exactly what she meant. If you gained 25 pounds overnight, you would notice, but when it creeps on slowly, we tend not to notice.
I didn't gain 50 pounds overnight. I gained 10 my first year of college, yo-yoed another 10 until graduation, then another 10 the year after college, and 20 in less than a year after that. I didn't really think about the weight gain until those last 20 piled on. I was working second shift at the newspaper, going out with friends most nights, eating takeout (and huge portions!) for dinner on a regular basis, and not exercising. Moderation was not in my vocabulary.
If you've never gained weight, it's easy to doubt how people can seem oblivious to their gain. But if you've been there, you can relate--and a recent study bolstered those claims. A study of 466 women over 36 months found that 1 in 3 didn't notice a gain of 4.5 pounds in 6 months, while 25% didn't notice a 9-pound increase during the same time period.
And in 2010, a study found that 4 in 10 overweight women believe themselves to be of normal weight.
These studies certainly flout the stereotypes that most women are hyper-aware of their weight and that most of us believe we're fat.
What do you think? Do you have trouble perceiving your true size? Read More ›
Vitamin D is a hot topic in nutrition, and one that's become a focus in menopausal bone health. There are two forms of the vitamin, D2 and D3 (cholecalciferol), with D3 the form best metabolized by the body. Vitamin D is found in foods such as fish, eggs, fortified milk and the old remedy, cod liver oil.
Although this nutrient is found in foods, the greatest source for obtaining vitamin D is through the skin. When bare skin is exposed to ultraviolet light, it synthesizes vitamin D3 that is then stored in the liver. You only need 10-15 minutes of sun exposure during peak sun hours (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in most locations) during the summer months to produce up to 10,000 IUs of the nutrient. After that short exposure you can continue with safe sun habits and slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
How much vitamin D do you need? According to SparkPeople's resident dietitian, Becky Hand: In the last few years, many experts and health organizations urged the Institute of Medicine to revisit the DRI set for vitamin D and re-evaluate the latest research. After a thorough review, the recommendations for vitamin D did go up by two or threefold in some age groups. The current Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D (as of November 2010) is:
- Ages 1-70: 600 IU (International Units) daily
- Ages 71 and older: 800 IU daily
- Tolerable Upper Intake Level: ages 9 and up: 4000 IU daily
Read more: How to Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D
Current research on vitamin D and its role in health suggests that there may be a correlation between low blood levels of this nutrient and the development of diseases such as osteoporosis, some cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and even obesity and depression. There are estimates that up to one half of all Americans are deficient in this vitamin, with an increased risk of deficiency in people who have one or more of these risk factors: Read More ›
We're in the thick of the holiday season, and for many women it can be a time when the mainstays of our healthy habits take a back seat to preparations for seasonal celebrations. For those who struggle with weight issues, the holidays can be a minefield of cookies, festive meals and lots and lots of favorite treats. In addition, stressful pace of this season can derail the most faithful of exercisers, and add snow, ice and cold to the mix and you have even more fitness dropouts.
So what's a gal to do? The first and most important step is to start now with a contingency plan for keeping your diet healthy and your fitness routine alive by proactively having positive alternatives to the usual things that sideline your good habits this time of year.
Most people have several holiday parties that provide a tempting array of fatty appetizers and desserts. You can take part in those events, enjoy the food and not overindulge if you just think ahead and make a plan for negotiating the holiday fare. I've found the following tips can make a big difference in how well your maneuver through the holiday eating season. Read More ›