All Entries For women's health
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 ›
Want to make your workouts even better? Get a sports bra that'll keep you comfortable, cool, and dry. Here, Maureen Stabnau, senior vice president of merchandising at barenecessities.com, shares tips for finding a perfect-fitting bra, plus our favorite styles.
What Makes a Good Sports Bra?
Choose a sports bra that says "Moisture Wicking" on its tag. This lets you know that the fabric will remove sweat from your skin, keeping you cool and dry.
A sports bra with a hook and eye closure offers two big advantages: It adjusts to your size, and it's easier to undo post-workout—no more pulling hot, sweaty bras over your head!
Bras with U-backs, T-backs, and crisscross straps offer the most comfort and will help keep straps from slipping when you're working out.
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 ›
One of the most concerning physical changes that occurs in postmenopausal women is an accelerated loss in bone mineral density within the first several years after menopause. The rate of postmenopausal bone loss can vary for each woman, and factors such as her bone mineral density prior to menopause, diet, exercise level and genetics all influence her rate of bone loss.
All types of exercise are great for your health, but to build strong bones, weight-bearing exercises like running, stair climbing, walking and strength training are increasingly shown to help prevent bone loss in postmenopausal women.
Recent studies have found that combining weight bearing exercises like walking or running or even jump roping with higher-intensity, lower-repetition strength training three times a week was more beneficial for bone mineral density (bone mineral density) than just doing the cardio exercise alone.
One of the key findings from bone mineral density research is that only the areas of the body that are loaded by the force of muscle movement are stimulated to rebuild and increase in bone mineral density. For example, if you're a postmenopausal runner who doesn't do any upper body strength training, you may have bone loss in the bones of your upper body. Just like the saying about tooth health and flossing, “only floss the teeth you want to save” you need to think about your whole skeletal system when developing an exercise program, and include exercises that'll target your entire body.
What helps maintain and even increase bone mineral density in postmenopausal women?
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Editor's Note (Nicole Nichols): I've had the pleasure of competing against Laurah Turner in multiple local races (and by "competing" I mean "watching her leave me in the dust"). I always found her athletic achievements admirable, her sheer speed enviable, and her personality contagious. Recently, I learned Laurah, an amazingly talented endurance athlete who appears to be the epitome of health and fitness, is a two-time breast cancer survivor—and she's only 29. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I asked Laurah to share her inspiring story of how breast cancer changed her and inspired both her career and her fitness goals.
I grew up a type A personally. I tended toward routine, was obnoxiously punctual and saw the entire world through Excel spreadsheets and lists. In fact, I was so married to my routines that I even developed the quickest and most efficient way to prepare the perfect pot of coffee. Every morning, I woke up and immediately dove for my coffee pot. I employed a specific set of procedures which resulted in the first bold, sweet, creamy sip of caffeinated heaven rushing over my palate within 3 minutes and 40 seconds, and never deviated from this ritual.
July 25, 2004 was no different than any other morning, but somehow during my distribution of six leveled scoops of Folgers into the coffee filter, my fingertips found themselves palpating a large lump on my right breast instead of steadying the canister of grounds as they usually would. Was it that? I didn’t have this lump yesterday. Suddenly a wave of panic engulfed my body. Had the lump been there yesterday? A week ago? Read More ›
Think popping a calcium supplement is all you need to ward of osteoporosis? Think again. Check out what exercises you should add to your routine to help build better bones.
In Your 30s: Must-Do Moves
For fitness, the more "good" stress you put on your skeleton, the stronger it becomes. Try these moves from Ellen Barrett, a personal trainer and member of the Family Circle Health Advisory Board, with the heaviest weights you can manage.
Canoe Move: Strengthens your entire lower body
Starting position: Stand upright with feet together, holding one 5- to 8-pound weight in each hand at your left hip. Read More ›
For more than 25 years, October has been recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness month. This is the time of year when the familiar pink ribbons and, in more recent years, pink in general becomes more prevalent in our communities and in the media. Why does breast cancer awareness get so much attention?
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in females worldwide. In the United States, breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in women (after skin cancer) and is the #1 cause of death in women ages 40-59. In Hispanic women, it is the #1 cause of death from cancer. What this means for you is that most of you either know someone directly or indirectly affected by this potentially life-threatening disease. In fact, 1 in 6 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, according to government statistics. In 2007 in the United States, there were 202,964 new cases diagnosed and 40,598 deaths related to the disease. (Editor's note: Some of you questioned Dr. Birdie's statistics, and she welcomes the debate. These statistics refer to cancer-related deaths, not diagnoses, and these numbers come directly from the CDC.)
The Importance of Early DetectionBefore we learn about what you can do to protect yourself against breast cancer, I want to stress the importance of early detection. How to prevent breast cancer will be the focus of many discussions regarding breast cancer this month, but despite your best intentions and lifestyle modifications, you or a loved one may still develop the disease.
Many of the most significant risk factors for developing breast cancer are not in your control: family history, sex and age. I want you to understand that if you have these risk factors you are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer but that the presence of risk factors will not predict if you will get breast cancer. So, the best weapon that we have in this fight so far is early detection.
Thanks to early detection, many women go on to live long lives. Do monthly self-exams and get your screening mammograms. Screening mammograms typically start at age 50, but some women may need to start earlier based on medical or family history. Please check with your physician by age 40 to determine your screening requirements, as it will be different for every woman. Early detection is crucial to survival. In my opinion, every discussion about breast cancer needs to start with this critical reminder.
Now that we have some very important business out of the way (early detection, self-exams, mammograms!) we can discuss some of the risk factors from breast cancer and what you can do to modify your risk of developing the disease. Read More ›
One of the most serious problems associated with menopause is the increased risk of bone loss as a result of hormonal shifts. This is the first of series of four blogs I'll be writing on bone health, and in this blog I'll cover information on osteoporosis risk factors and diagnostic measures for determining bone density.
It's important for women to understand what their risk of osteoporosis is, and the ways they can reduce their chances of a bone fracture later in life. Most women don't think about their bone strength the same way they think about muscle strength. We can see our muscles become more defined with use or atrophied when an injury immobilizes a limb. In contrast, our bones are hidden and we don't worry about their strength until a fracture from weak bone structure occurs. Like our muscles, our bones are constantly being broken down and rebuilt. The degree of building for both muscle and bone is dependent on several factors such as nutrition, stress/ stimuli effect (ie., how weight training stresses the muscles in a positive way that stimulates stronger rebuilding of tissue) and genetics.
The breakdown and rebuilding of bone is a necessary part of keeping bone strong, but when either part of the process slows, bones can become weakened. Bones are composed of a hard outer layer, called the cortical bone, and the inner, honeycombed like portion called the trabecular bone. The outer portion provides the bone structure, but it's the inner portion that provides the majority of a bone's strength. As we age, the ability of our bones to maintain mass and normal structure is reduced as bone starts to be reabsorbed faster than it can be laid down.
The continued net loss can cause bones to lose their strength and increase the risk of fracture. We all start losing bone mass after 30 years of age, but whether the bone loss leads to fracture risk depends on a variety of influences. For example, a woman that starts out with thicker bones will not develop menopause related weakness as quickly as women who didn't get enough bone building nutrients in their formative bone-building years.
After menopause there is an acceleration of bone loss, so it's important for women to get a baseline assessment of their bone mass when they reach menopause. There are several tests used to measure bone mineral density (BMD), but the most accurate test is dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). It uses a very low level X-ray to detect bone mineral levels and can diagnose whether a person has osteopenia (a precursor to osteoporosis) or osteoporosis. The earlier osteopenia or osteoporosis is diagnosed, the better your chances are of slowing bone loss through lifestyle changes and medication. Many healthcare providers are suggesting that their female patients have the DEXA test done earlier than the prior guideline of 65 years, as by that age the degree of bone loss can be substantial.
Along with having a DEXA scan, you can see if you are at risk of bone weakness by determining whether you have risk factors associated with increased bone loss. The following are risk factors that can be reduced with lifestyle changes: Read More ›
Editor's Note: Cathy Cram, M.S., is the resident maternal fitness expert on our sister site, BabyFit.com. She writes a monthly series on menopause health and fitness.
One of the most visible changes you may notice during the menopausal period is the look of your skin. What may start out as a subtle increase in fine lines and dryness can quickly accelerate as estrogen wanes to crepey, uneven texture and deep wrinkles. Although the aging process plays a role in skin changes, the hormonal shifts of menopause hastens the appearance of pigmented and wrinkled skin, especially in women who smoke, eat a poor diet and are sedentary. The good news is you can improve the health and appearance of your skin by making some positive lifestyle changes and adding a few “silver bullets” to your skincare routine.
The leading causes of poor skin health are:
- Chronic alcohol use
- Rollercoaster weight gain/loss
- Poor diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Sun exposure
We took a Spin class last week with fellow FITNESS editors, which made us wonder what beauty goods they tote along with them. Here’s the one product that never leaves these FITNESS ladies’ gym bags:
“Lip balm! My lips tend to get dry during my workout, so lip balm keeps them kissable. I love Burt’s Bees Replenishing Lip Balm with Pomegranate Oil- it smells delicious!” —Theresa K. Brady, editorial intern
“La Fresh Instant Body Soother Wipes—they’re the perfect way to cool off and freshen up right after a workout. I wipe one over my neck, face, and shoulders for a quick pick-me-up, and keep a stash in my purse for sticky summer days.”—Colleen Moody, web editor
“Neutrogena Deep Clean Sport On-the-Go Cleansing Wipes take up no space in my gym bag, thanks to individual packets. I use one wipe before and one after my workouts.”—Amanda Downs, beauty intern
- “Face moisturizer—gyms usually have body lotion, but not the good stuff for your face! It also helps with clearing off any leftover eyeliner if the shower didn’t do the trick.”—Mary Anderson, deputy editor