The single most important question every woman needs to ask her doctor is “What do I need to do to be healthy,” says Robin H. Miller, MD, a board certified internist, integrative medicine specialist and co-author of “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife and Beyond”.
When it comes to women’s health the three major areas that are top priority include: heart health, breast health and bone health. It’s important to talk with your doctor or health care professional about what you need to do to stay healthy.
By Robin H. Miller, MD
1. Heart Health
Question to ask: What is my risk for heart attack and stroke and how do I prevent them?
The heart is number one. Heart disease is the number one killer of women. Though most women worry about breast cancer, they should also be concerned about stroke and heart attack. Every woman should know her risk for cardiovascular disease. These include family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, obesity and stress. Your doctor can ask the questions and do the tests needed to outline your risk and help you to prevent disease by controlling those risk factors that can be treated.
2. Breast Health
Question to ask: What is my risk for breast cancer and how do I prevent it?
Although there are no tests that can help prevent breast cancer, there are tests that can detect it early. Every woman should talk to her doctor about her risk for breast cancer. The major risks include a family history of breast cancer, a history of not having children or not breast-feeding, hormone use, and a history of lobular carcinoma in situ* diagnosed on breast biopsy. Your physician can teach her how to do a self-breast exam. Regardless of the latest recommendations calling it worthless, I think that it is important for women to know their breasts. I have had many a patient who has detected her breast cancer early by noting a change in her exam! I recommend it. In addition, your doctor can order a mammogram and further studies such as breast ultrasound and MRI if necessary depending on the schedule they choose to use.
(*situ -it is contained and it is the pathology diagnosis)
3. Bone Health
Question to ask: What is my risk factor for osteoporosis and how do I prevent it?
One out of every two women will break a bone in her lifetime. As we age, it can become a serious problem. Hip fractures have a high mortality.
Fifteen to twenty percent of those with this type of fracture will die within a year. That is why it is so important to know how to care for our bones. Vitamin D and calcium are very important for bone health. Exercise is also important. For screening, a bone density scan is essential. That will allow the doctor to treat bone loss appropriately.
The next time you have your check-up with your doctor, remember to focus on these three areas and talk with your doctor or health care professional about the best ways to stay healthy.
We would love to hear from you. What do you do to stay healthy?
Dr. Robin Miller, in addition to being an experienced Board Certified Internist, is also an Integrative Medicine specialist, having trained with Dr. Andrew Weil as a Fellow at the University of Arizona. She is the founder and medical director of Triune Integrative Medicine, an innovative medical clinic in Medford, Oregon. She is an award winning medical correspondent on regional and national television, radio, and the internet, the author of a health book for children, Kids Ask the Doctor, and a board member of The National Association of Medical Communicators, a society of medical journalists in all media. She is also an Assistant Professor of Medical Informatics at the Oregon Health Sciences University.
Dr. Miller received her B.S. degree from the University of Michigan with High Honors, where she was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, and her M.D. degree from the University of Illinois School of Medicine. After completing her postgraduate residency at the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center, she did a fellowship in Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. While there, she also received a Master of Health Sciences degree at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Hygiene and Public Health, where she was named a Mellon Fellow. After several years on the fulltime faculty at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she published many medical articles on heart disease in women, she relocated to Oregon and practiced as a primary care and urgent care physician, in combination with serving as a member of the county and the State Task Force on Domestic Violence. Before founding and becoming the medical director of Triune Integrative Medicine where she currently works, she completed a fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona School of Medicine. In addition to being a medical columnist for The Daily Courier in Grant’s Pass, Oregon, she currently can be seen as the medical correspondent for KOBI, the NBC affiliate in Southern Oregon and Northern California, and nationally on The Patient Channel and MSNBC.com.