Healthy Tips for Women

January 13, 2009 10:10:49 AM PST
While hopes for successful New Year's resolutions always run high, it is unlikely that you'll lose pounds in 2 months, quit smoking, give up sweets forever, get to the gym 7 days a week, and never drink a glass of wine again. Unrealistic resolutions are commonplace, with statistics showing that 90% of Americans make annual resolutions and 30% are broken within one month. To combat stress in a shaky economic environment and take steps towards being healthy and happy in 2009, gynecologist Dr. Seema Venkatachalam of Northwestern Specialists for Women offers 10 realistic and everyday health resolutions for women to consider:

1. Build Strong Bones

Osteoporosis is a health threat for 44 million Americans, but with vitamins and diet you can build strong, healthy bones. Increase calcium in your diet with three servings of dairy a day, such as skim milk, low-fat cheeses, and yogurt. Nondairy options include canned salmon with bones, dark green vegetables, dried beans and calcium-fortified juices and cereals.

Recommended Calcium Amounts:

  • From age 11 to 24, between 1,200 and 1,500 milligrams daily
  • From age 25 to 50, 1,000 milligrams daily
  • For postmenopausal women 1500 milligrams daily, 1200 mg if on menopausal hormone therapy
  • For pregnant and breastfeeding women, 1,200-1,500 milligrams daily
  • 2. Dose Up on D

    Without the proper amount of Vitamin D, calcium absorption is reduced. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, fish liver oil and dairy products fortified with vitamin D. The recommended amount for adults is 200-600 international units a day. Vitamin D is also great for combating symptoms of winter depression during the long and dreary Chicago winters.

    3. Get Checked Out

    Take a trip to the doctor and do the recommended tests to solidify a clean bill of health.

  • Osteoporosis - screenings recommended for women 65+
  • Annual Mammograms - should begin at 40
  • Annual Pap Smears - should begin at 21
  • Colorectal Cancer - start screening at 50
  • Skin cancer - screenings should begin at 50
  • Blood and cholesterol tests - should be taken every 5 years, starting at 20
  • *begin testing earlier if you are predisposed or have a family history with a health risk

    4. Get Active & Make Fitness Fun

    Get your body moving and your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes a day, 3-5 times per week. Not only does regular exercise reduce stress, your energy and metabolism levels will increase. So, take the stairs and explore different sports to see what you enjoy most. If fitness isn't your favorite activity, consider something different like belly dancing classes, yoga, pilates, pole dancing, aerobics, self defense and more. A tip for the early birds: working out in the morning is best because keeps your metabolism high all day!

    5. Drop Sizes Safely

    Weight loss goals are safest for the body when achieved slowly over time. Losing 1-2 lbs. per week is a healthy, realistic goal. Of course, you may lose weight and stay the same on the scale -- keep in mind that muscle weights three times as much as fat!

    6. Portion Control

    Denying yourself every food you crave will simply make you desire more. Instead, allow yourself to eat meals and snacks in moderation and appropriate size portions while avoiding seconds. For example, one serving of meat (3 oz.) should be about the size of a deck of cards, while one serving of pasta (1/2 cup) is the size of a tennis ball.

    7. Make Sense of Nutrition

    It is hard to change your body without understanding what you should be putting in it. Start reading the labels of your products and research the recommended amounts of each food group. Over time, things will start to make sense. For those looking to learn quickly, consult a nutritionist or research online.

    8. Curb Caffeine and Hydrate

    Over 50% of Americans above the age of 18 drink 3.1 cups of coffee per day, while soda consumption is now reported to be growing even more rapidly. Not only do these beverages add chemicals to the body, they also dehydrate. Cut down on caffeine and increase your water consumption. Easy tip: before every cup of coffee or soda, drink a glass of water first.

    9. Cut Back on Alcohol and Cigarettes

    Quitting smoking isn't easy, but if you adopt a healthier lifestyle you will find your cravings will lessen. With strength and will power, they can go away for good. All changes are gradual, so if you slowly decrease your intake of both, you will find that you don't need them like you thought you did. To achieve optimal health or if you are trying to conceive, you should not smoke at all and limit alcohol intake to the equivalent of one unit per day.

    10. Guard against Stress

    With family, the house, friends and an economy in chaos, it is easy for the stress-o-meter to hit the red zone. It is imperative to take steps to de-stress; without doing so your job, relationships, happiness and overall health will suffer. Pamper yourself with a massage, warm bath, or a quiet night in at least once a month, if not more.

    For more information: visit these websites:

    About Dr. Seema Venkatachalam, Physician with Northwestern Specialists for Women

    Dr. Venkatachalam graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Biology and French Literature. She received her Masters in Public Health from the George Washington University in Washington D.C., specializing in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. After earning her MD from the University of Tennessee, Memphis, she completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at New York University.

    Dr. Venkatachalam is a Junior Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a member of the Association of Professors of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She has spent time abroad providing prenatal care in developing countries. She is fluent in Spanish and proficient in French.

    Prior to joining Obstetric and Gynecologic Specialists of Northwestern in 2007, she served on faculty at Emory University, acting as a residency coordinator in addition to providing outstanding patient care. She is currently a Clinical Instructor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University's affiliate medical school, The Feinberg School of Medicine.

    While interested in all aspects of general obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. Venkatachalam's particular obstetrical interest is in high risk pregnancies, particularly those complicated by diabetes, hypertensive, cardiac, and hematological disorders, and has presented research at the regional and national levels. She is also adept at minimally invasive surgery, particularly in new modalities to treat abnormal uterine bleeding, fibroids, and providing permanent sterilization.