The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 5, 2012

Speaking of Health: Women: Become a healthier you

Amy Brien, M.D.
Mayo Clinic Health System

— Busy lives get in the way of many things, and personal health is no exception. Driving kids to soccer practice, staying late at work or grabbing a bite to eat on the road have become commonplace for many women. This juggling act can decrease the time needed to take care of your own health. But with a little more time focused on positive lifestyle changes, you can create a healthier, happier you.

1. Eating right is key. Your meal choices have a major effect on your weight and overall well-being. Skip foods that are high in saturated fat, sodium and sugar. These foods slow you down, pack on extra pounds and can lead to serious health issues.

Instead, include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein into your daily fare. A proper diet leaves you feeling energized and focused. Additionally, nutritious meals help you lose weight, prevent certain diseases and lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

2. It’s important to get moving. Moderate exercise is an ideal way to stay healthy. Health experts recommend 30 minutes of exercise each day. This aids in maintaining a healthy weight, as well as protecting against many leading health problems, such as heart disease, obesity and stroke. The benefits of exercise are not only physical; exercise helps reduce stress and improve mood as well.

3. Don’t smoke. Smoking leads to heart disease, cancer and stroke, all of which are major causes of death in women. In fact, lung cancer kills more women than any other type of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It’s important to avoid smoking and, if you do smoke, speak with your health care provider about ways to quit. There are also free resources available such as and 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

4. Be breast-health conscious. It’s always important to monitor breast health, and since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, now is the perfect time to learn more. According to the CDC, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the fifth leading cause of death among women.

Warning signs of breast cancer may include:

Regular mammograms are the best way to identify breast cancer and early detection is essential. Speak with your health care provider if you have any concerns about breast cancer and ask when it would be appropriate to schedule a mammogram..

5. Manage chronic conditions. If you have chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, it’s important to follow your health care provider’s recommendations. You can also find valuable information about chronic conditions on

6. Moderate alcohol intake. You’re at a greater risk for various types of cancer, including breast, colon, kidney, lung and liver, if you drink alcohol in excess. Only consume alcohol in moderation, if at all.

7. Embrace preventative care. Flu season is upon us, so wash your hands frequently and schedule your flu vaccine. Adults 65 years of age or older should ask their health care provider if a pneumonia vaccine is also recommended.

Throughout the busy fall season, remember to keep your health in mind. It’s not only important for you – your loved ones will appreciate it, too.

Amy Brien, M.D., is a Mayo Clinic Health System OB/GYN physician.

For more information, please go to

Health & Fitness coverage is supported by Mayo Clinic Health System, preserving the health and well-being of southern Minnesota communities.