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Women: Taking Charge of Your Health

September 24, 2008

By ADEGBOYEGA ADEJANA For The Maryland Gazette

As a woman, you are always on the move. But what most women don’t realize is that your body is moving as well. As a natural caregiver, women are always worried about how to take care of their family, friends and pets. While caring for everyone else in their home, many women often forget to take charge of their own bodies.

The complexity of a woman’s body is a fascinating system that can’t be ignored. As aging occurs, a woman’s body continues to go through changes. Beginning in the early teens with menstruation until menopause happens later in life, these constant transformations leave women of all ages with questions to be answered. There are several important things a woman can do to take charge of her health.

Receive regular health screenings. Women should receive pap tests regularly to help protect against cervical cancer. A pap test looks for abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix before the cells become precancerous or cancerous. Women should receive pap tests every year if sexually active, or once they have reached age 21. To help prevent breast cancer, women over the age of 40 should get a mammogram every year.

The mammogram is used to look for lumps in the breasts or other abnormalities that are too small to be felt during a physical exam.

Perform regular breast self-exams. Take your health into your own hands by examining your breasts once a month, three to five days after your menstrual period ends. Studies show women who perform regular breast self-exams find 90 percent of all breast masses.

Eat a healthy diet. Women should cut down on foods containing high sodium, caffeine, sugar, fats and cholesterol, as well as limit alcohol consumption and smoking. Instead, women should up their intake of calcium, fiber, iron and water.

Exercise regularly. A minimum of 30 minutes of exercise at least three to five days per week will lead to better overall health. Exercise not only gives your body more energy, it also decreases symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), as well as aids in the prevention of disease.

Reduce stress. Stress can take a damaging toll on your health. Studies indicate stress reduction has an effect on fertility. Stress also can lead to a decrease in sleep.

While caring for your family’s health is a top priority, it can’t be done unless you are in control of your own health first. Take charge before it takes charge of you.

Adegboyega Adejana, M.D., is an expert obstetrician/gynecologist at Harbor Hospital. He is hosting a Women’s Health Open Forum on Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m. in Harbor Hospital’s LifeResource Center. Call 410-350-2563 or visit www.harborhospital.org/classes to register. {Corrections:} {Status:}

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