Want a cheat sheet for healthy living? Our expert serves up her pointers.
Let’s face it, ladies: Doctor visits are short. And they’re getting shorter. What if your doctor had more time? She might tell you the same things that OB-GYN Alyssa Dweck, MD, co-author of V Is for Vagina, wants you to know.
Consider Dweck’s tips your prescription for a lifetime of wellness.
1. Zap your stress.
“The biggest issue I see in most of my patients is that they have too much on their plates and want to juggle it all. Stress can have significant health consequences, from infertility to higher risks of depression, anxiety, and heart disease. Find the stress-reduction method that works for you and stick with it.”
2. Stop dieting.
“Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to forgo your favorite glass of wine or a piece of chocolate cake now and then. The key is moderation. Get a mix of lean proteins, healthy fats, smart carbs, and fiber.”
3. Don’t “OD” on calcium.
“Too much absorbed calcium can increase the risk of kidney stones and may even increase the risk of heart disease. If you’re under 50, shoot for 1,000 milligrams per day, while over-50 women should be getting 1,200 milligrams per day mainly through diet — about three servings of calcium-rich foods such as milk, salmon, and almonds.”
4. Do more than cardio.
“Women need a mix of cardio and resistance or weight-bearing exercise at least three to five times a week to help prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Exercise also promotes good self-image, which is really important to a woman’s mental health.”
5. Think about fertility.
“While many women have no problem getting pregnant in their late 30s and even into their early 40s, a woman’s fertility may start to decline as early as 32. So if you want to have kids, talk to your doctor about options, like freezing your eggs.”
6. Appreciate birth control.
“Birth control gets a bad rap, but not only can it keep you from getting pregnant before you’re ready, studies show it can lower the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer as well as regulate your cycle.”
7. See your doctor every year.
Make sure you get a Pap test to check for cervical cancer every 3 years if you are 21 or older. If you are 30-65, you can get both a Pap test and HPV test every 5 years. Older than that, you may be able to stop testing if your doctor says you are low risk. If you are sexually active and have a higher risk for STDs, get tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis yearly. Take an HIV test at least once, more frequently if you’re at risk. Don’t skip your yearly checkup. Your doctor needs to annually assess many other issues such as potential infection, your need for contraception, and sexual complaints.”
8. Have good sex.
“Sex reduces stress and may lower the risk of chronic disease — but only if you enjoy it. If anything prevents you from sexual fulfillment, such as dryness or pain, talk to your doctor to find a solution.”
9. Get more sleep.
“Sleep needs differ, but if you have trouble getting out of bed, tire easily, or have trouble concentrating, you likely aren’t getting enough. Recent studies suggest this can put you at greater risk of heart disease and psychological problems.”
10. Consider genetic testing.
“Doctors can now screen people with a family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and chronic diseases to assess their risk — and then consider preventive measures. Talk to your doctor.”