Regular medical care is important to maintaining good health. Especially in an emergency, it is reassuring to be able to call someone who knows you and your medical history. Whether you belong to an HMO or other health plan, or you receive medical care through a clinic, Downstate Family Practitioners Eve Faber, MD, and Daisy Arce, MD, recommend identifying one person with whom you feel comfortable, and keep going back. Here are some tips:

A yearly exam with extensive tests may not be necessary if you are healthy. But do have periodic checkups, including a chest x-ray and tests for heart function and colon cancer.

Discuss with your doctor how often you should be seen—Especially if you smoke or have a family history of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer or other serious disorder.

Keep all regularly scheduled appointments. Children and infants should see a doctor or nurse practitioner regularly to ensure that they meet growth and development milestones and receive all necessary vaccinations. There are now 20 diseases against which children can be inoculated. Be aware that children with asthma and HIV are at special risk.

Children who are depressed or have a serious behavior problem could have an underlying medical condition; schedule an appointment with a doctor and/or psychologist.

Teenage girls should see a gynecologist or family practitioner for checkups and counseling around the passage into womanhood.

Pregnant women and those contemplating pregnancy should get regular medical care and counseling, and take a vitamin supplement including folic acid.

All women need a pap smear every one to three years to test for cervical cancer—puberty through the senior years; and blood pressure should be checked at least yearly.

Women in their 40s and early 50s should have a mammogram every two years to check for breast cancer. After age 50, this should be done yearly.

Women 65 and older should receive annually one immunization against pneumonia, plus flu shot and professional breast exam.

Any woman who is depressed, extremely stressed, or experiencing pronounced mood swings linked to her menstrual cycle, should seek the counsel of a sympathetic doctor or psychologist.


Most people understand that obesity (being more than 30 percent over your ideal body weight) is a major threat to health. But being even somewhat overweight (20 to 30 pounds, depending on your height and body build) can also increase your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Women concerned about this may be able to get back to a healthier weight just by changing old habits. Concentrate on exercising and cutting back fat and calories.
If serious dieting is in order, don’t try to go it alone, and don’t fall into the "fad diet" trap, advises Downstate Family Practitioner Daisy Arce, MD. Get help from a well- established weight-loss program, such as Weight Watchers, and the supervision of a physician. For major obesity, there are now good drugs that a doctor can prescribe.

Weight Loss Tips

Don’t lose weight too quickly; be patient. Weight lost through crash diets is almost invariably regained. It probably took you a long time to get where you are; it will take time to get back. Don’t be discouraged.

Keep a food diary. Learn about calories and fat (from a doctor, a book, or a weight control program), along with what foods contain how much. Determine where you have to cut back. Read food labels. Keep track of your daily intake, and adjust quantities accordingly.

Be realistic. Losing 1-1/2 to 2 pounds weekly is an achievable goal. The quick weight-loss claimed by fad diets is often comprised primarily of fluid—not fat. Set a weight-loss schedule based on monthly and yearly targets.

Change habits. Drink water and eat vegetables to fill up. Start and maintain an exercise routine. Don’t eat a large meal or snack close to bedtime—calories consumed earlier in the day are more likely to be burned up.

Seek support from others, and give yourself credit for your accomplishments. "Smile," Dr. Arce says.

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