Women’s Health Prevention

Prevention

Childhood

Obesity

How can we keep our children from advertising aimed at them, which may promote unhealthy habits?
By always being involved in children's lives, we can discuss how we feel about this advertising with them to let them know that some things they see and hear may not be good for them. By buying only healthy food and encouraging enjoyment of it, we reduce the "pull" of junk food, and at the same time allow children to see that eating well and having strong healthy bodies is better than over-dieting and being too thin. We should also be encouraging exercise as fun and enjoyable (and hopefully pursuing activities together with our children) to make sure that they are physically fit but not over exercising or developing an obsession with an overly thin body image.

How can parents and children together cope with powerful media forces?
Mothers and fathers need to instill a strong sense of self worth into their daughters as they enter school and begin to have a concept of their own bodies. As nutrition and physical fitness are taught, the youngster must have a supportive foundation so she will be comfortable with differences in body size and shape, which become apparent in grade school. Just as girls may be fair or dark, have blue eyes or brown, curly or straight hair; there will be girls who are slight and small and others who are larger in overall size. While boys who are small may be stigmatized, in today's world, larger girls may be teased or feel that they can't wear the latest fashions. They must be encouraged to eat well, exercise and find "the right style."

Obesity begins in childhood all around the country. Without driving girls to inappropriate diets, we can provide early in life correct foods, opportunities for exercise that is fun, and strong adult role models. Good health begins at home and children should be taught to eat moderate quantities of healthy food, keeping junk food to a minimum. We can encourage an appreciation of the flavors of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein sources, moderate quantities of complex carbohydrates, and low saturated fats. We must limit our children's exposure to commercials that promote for high sugar and fat food. Learning how to shop for and prepare food in today's busy world is a worthy goal. Even young girls and boys can begin to participate.

To avoid over-dieting, the goal of avoiding obesity in childhood should be focused entirely on health and not on body size and shape itself. Physical activity is a key component to prevent obesity.

How can playtime be a health intervention?
We hope that our daughters will all grow up with a fondness for physical activity and that it becomes a regular part of their lives. By encouraging physically active playtime activities in young girls and supporting them in efforts to remain physically fit as teenagers, we hope that enjoyment of exercise will persist into adulthood. While leisure activities, which challenge the mind (reading and computer skills) certainly should be encouraged as well, we must make sure that girls (and boys) don't spend too much time with them and allow enough time for physically active fun! Girls should be encouraged to find activities they personally enjoy, and understand that not everyone likes competitive sports. Opportunities for both leisurely solo or group activities, family-centered sports, and competitive sports are available for all girls. It is up to us to make sure that they take advantage of them!

Dangerous health consequences that may pose "unintended" consequences of an obsessive avoidance of obesity may include smoking and drug use.

How can we help our daughters to avoid the pressure to smoke?
Children learn so much by example. Parents should not smoke. If they do, they should point out to their children how dangerous it actually is, and how they themselves may be having trouble trying to quit.

Mothers need to remind their daughters that, not only is smoking not fashionable, it is an unhealthy way to lose weight or reduce appetite. Since smoking may be a peer pressure issue, we must give our children the strength to say no to their friends.

Osteoporosis

You wouldn't think that children need to watch out for endocrine conditions such as bone mass like older women; however, children need to develop a strong foundation as youngsters to help them remain healthy as they grow.

Why should people worry about "diseases of old age" in children?
Bone development occurs all through life. If adequate bone formation does not occur in children, they will not have enough bone mass at the" peak" of life in young adulthood. As we age, bone mass inevitably declines; so if the peak bone mass is not sufficient, there will be less bone to start with and less and less over time. Young girls who don't make enough bone become women with a greater likelihood of fractures.

Adolescence

How does participation in organized sports influence health and endocrine function?
A part of the brain called the hypothalamus is the "computer" that regulates the development and timing of the menstrual cycle. The hypothalamus may be affected by a number of factors: inadequate weight, malnutrition, emotional stress and excessive physical activity. This is called hypothalamic amenorrhea and may occur in girls too young to have ever had a period, and stop periods that have already started. The result of this condition is a lack of estrogen and resultant bone weakening (osteoporosis).

Since this problem may be a result of excess exercise, a girl's activities may need to be evaluated. Exercise should be encouraged but over-exercise leading to loss of periods should be discouraged and discussed. Counseling for eating disorders and/or emotional stress may often be necessary

How can we help teenage girls avoid both anorexia and obesity?
Parents, family members, teachers, coaches and mentors must regularly discuss healthy nutrition, encourage adequate but not excessive exercise and most importantly be supportive of teenage girls having a strong sense of self-worth. We as a society must bear some of the guilt for many of the difficulties experienced by women of this age. While we can't change the world, if we recognize the strong influences on our daughters, we may be able to counteract the dangerous ones.

Teenage sense of immortality

The inability to imagine life in the future may often limit their "buying in" to diet, exercise, or even medication recommendations, not only for endocrine disorders, but also for other common chronic conditions, including asthma, etc.

Risky behavior, including the use of drugs, alcohol, smoking, driving while distracted or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and unprotected sex are all examples of teenagers difficulty in imagining themselves growing old, getting sick, injured or even killed. Adults must encourage teens with firm counsel and kind support to allow them to learn and live healthy lives.

Middle Age

Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance can be improved by careful diet, weight loss and EXERCISE. These important lifestyle factors may make the difference between having a heart attack or stroke or developing diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes

What is the most common threat to middle-aged women that can be strongly influenced by their own behavior?
Type 2 diabetes, which affects as many as 20 million Americans, commonly develops in the 40s or later (although it often develops earlier, especially in the obese). Since the major risk of diabetes is the silent development of complications, including blindness, kidney failure, limb amputation and heart attack, AACE urges all middle-aged women to be tested for diabetes with a simple blood test. All women should be tested by the age of 30 if they are members of a high-risk group due to: non-Caucasian ethnicity, family history, obesity, history of gestational diabetes or large baby, PCOS, hypertension, vascular disease, heart disease, or lipid disorder. Studies have shown that early detection and aggressive control of diabetes can prevent complications later in life.

Likewise, at this time of life, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia should be detected and treated.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism becomes more common with aging, and women are affected with thyroid disease at least 5-10 more times than men. All women should be tested by age 50 and even at a younger age if there is a family history of thyroid disease.

Other problems which are more common in middle age, including arthritis, may limit activities. AACE urges women to remain physically fit in middle age. In fact, studies have shown that 45 minutes of brisk walking every day reduces the chance of a heart attack in middle-aged women.

Osteoporosis

Weight-bearing exercise can help to prevent and treat osteoporosis. Bone density measurements are suggested at the time of menopause (or sooner if there is a medical condition that is known to contribute to bone loss). If bone density is low, tests should be done to make sure that there are no causes other than menopause and aging. Several treatments are available. Women should discuss with their physician, which options are best for them.