10 Things I Wish Every Woman Knew About Health

Integrative Medicine Doctor By Amy Shah, M.D.
Integrative Medicine Doctor
Dr. Amy Shah is a double board certified MD with training from Cornell, Columbia and Harvard Universities. She was named one of mindbodygreen's Top 100 Women In Wellness to Watch in 2015 and has been a guest on many national and local media shows.

I promised myself this year that I would share some transformational health truths with all the women in my life — including you.

Why? I have a mom, young daughter, so many female family and friends I care so deeply about, and I really felt that I have a duty to give back and share the most important points all women should know about their health (in my opinion, of course).

Who am I? I don't claim to be the worlds expert on women's health but wanted to share my experience in the medical field. I think my thinking has changed, molded and (sometimes flipped) through the education in medical school, hospital training and real world and I am simply sharing that with you.

These are the 10 things I want every woman to know:

1. Taking time for self-care is not selfish.

Self care means taking a little time out in the day to exercise or meditate or schedule a health screening, a massage or even just getting much-needed sleep.

Women are still, by and large, the caregivers in our society and overload themselves with responsibilities and duties. They often feel guilty taking time for their own health. Treat yourself as you would treat your closest loved one.

2. You have choices beyond the birth control pill.

Changing your hormonal balance with a pill is really something you should be using as last resort. If nothing else, get educated on the health effects of the oral contraceptive pill before you start using them.

Too often, the pill as a first line treatment for a host of symptoms, but it is actually masking the underlying problem. What's more, many people are unaware of some of the risks of birth control. It's too important not to be informed.

3. Your body will never be the same after puberty, pregnancy and menopause — but that's OK.

I don't only mean that your body changes physically - of course it will. But, in addition, your body chemistry changes and health conditions emerge or disappear.

For example, two conditions I treat all the time (asthma and skin allergies) often change with those hormone transitions. Most women are shocked to know how much their bodies change during those hormonal transitions, and often it's scary. It's always important to pay attention to the changes, but remember that many of them are normal.

4. Health is never a number.

It's not the number on the blood pressure cuff, or on the lab work, and of course it's not the number on the dreaded SCALE.

In our society, we have a placed a premium on relying on numbers — especially weight. Because of the obsession with losing weight, and thinness — many women feel that food is an enemy and that thinner is always better. The emotional and physical toll of starvation and food obsession is just never worth it.

5. All those things that you think make you "pretty" can also harm your body.

Women spend $426 billion per year on beauty products! I cringe when I see my 4-year-old vying for my lipstick. Even worse than the money, many cosmetics contain toxic and unidentified ingredients!

6. Heart attacks are still the number one killer of women.

Heart attacks kill more women than every cancer combined. In the US, heart attacks kill nearly 300,000 women annually.

We often think of heart disease as a "male" problem, since more men than women have heart attacks. But when a woman has a heart attack, she's more likely to die from it.

There are some symptoms of heart attack that may present differently in women, such as jaw pain or shortness of breath. So even if it's not chest pain, it's best to check it out.

7. You are especially prone to depression, anxiety and insomnia — so change your outlook now.

Women are twice as likely than men to suffer from depression, and are particularly vulnerable to depression and other mood disorders during hormonal transitions

While family history and other genetic factors play a large role in these diseases, finding purpose, improving your outlook and doing meditation are all vital preventive strategies.

8. Learn the easy ways to prevent cancer.

Although the obvious one is not smoking, cutting back on alcohol can also be helpful. The risk of various types of cancer — including breast and liver — increases with the amount of alcohol you drink and the length of time you've been drinking regularly.

Another is going to regular cancer screenings. I'm a huge believer in avoiding doctors and hospitals at all costs EXCEPT when it comes to cancer screenings and emergency care.

Another big one is to have safe sex.

Finally, knowing your family history of cancer and practicing good skin health (say no to tanning beds!) are also key.

9. You are living EVEN longer than men today, so live it well!

Over the last 50 years the life expectancy gap has actually widened to five years! You're living longer, so make sure you take care of your health now.

10. Food is stronger than any medicine you take.

There's no better way to optimal health than improving your diet and lifestyle. With your diet, you can heal yourself from illness or prepare yourself for pregnancy.

I'm dedicating my life to educating everyone I come into contact with about the beauty of healing through food. I'm a believer in an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, and recommend an anti-inflammatory plan to all my patients and friends.

If we do nothing else in health in the next 50 years but update our practices on diet, we would reverse most common diseases such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, and heart disease.

So, what do you think? Do you agree with the above? Let me know!

Amy Shah, M.D.
Amy Shah, M.D.
Dr. Amy Shah is a double board certified MD with training from Cornell, Columbia and Harvard...
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Amy Shah, M.D.
Amy Shah, M.D.
Dr. Amy Shah is a double board certified MD with training from...
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