Healthy Choices Now for your Future
Interview of Grace Eng, M.D.
Dr. Grace Eng: My name is Grace Eng. I'm a physician on staff with Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, both at the Summit campus and the Ashby campus and I'm in private practice as a diabetes and endocrine specialist in Oakland.
I think that many young women take their health for granted and I think also so many young women are in denial about their health in general. The rates of diabetes are getting higher and higher and the onset is getting younger and younger. Healthy choices, I think settle around future health of women, especially if you're talking about women in their twenties and thirties. For the most part most women in their twenties and thirties are pretty healthy. But as women get older, I think that many women are concerned about breast cancer, which everyone should be concerned about. However, the leading cause of death in women is actually heart disease. So when you look at what can you do to prevent heart disease, there are many things you can do to try and prevent it. It's not out of your hands. Things like being aware of whether or not you have diabetes or preventing diabetes, maintaining a good blood pressure, exercising regularly, and I think those are some of the concerns to be focused on. There are some educational programs provided by the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center through community programs, Women and Heart Disease, Maintaining Healthy Lifestyles, Smoking Prevention programs as well, Quitting Smoking programs.
Some of the healthy choices are based on trying to maintain that healthy lifestyle and maintain the health that they currently have. Trying to keep their blood pressure normal, exercising regularly, avoiding habits that would contribute to heart disease such as smoking, or quitting if they already do smoke, keeping an eye on their cholesterol and a lot of these are somewhat weight based. While we don't promote excessive weight loss or being too thin, it's a matter of maintaining.
Obese women are more likely to have diabetes and if you have -- if a woman is obese and has a family history, they're a very high risk of developing diabetes during their lifetime. It is important to keep in mind that many ethnic minorities - Latinas, Asians, Native Americans - are more likely to develop diabetes at a lower weight threshold. Many times they are women who do not appear to be overweight, but because of their family history or risk factors may actually have some diabetes.
Unfortunately, many of the warning signs of diabetes are not early at all. The only major warning that many women have is their family history and sometimes a window during pregnancy. The symptoms of diabetes that people read about, fatigue, urinating frequently, feeling very thirsty, having frequent infections, that's usually when diabetes has been going on for quite some time and has become somewhat advanced. For early diabetes where it's easiest to manage and easiest to prevent its progression, you have to just be simply testing for it.
The women at highest risks are those with family members with diabetes. Many women have parents or brothers or sisters with diabetes as well. Also a lot of women will develop gestational diabetes during their pregnancy and this is a warning sign for developing diabetes in the future as well. Just because you've been tested once doesn't mean it's not going to come back or that it may develop in the future.
There is a very interesting study about prevention of diabetes in my own field. Looking at people who have a family history of diabetes and who have pre-diabetes, which is mildly elevated sugars that suggest someone might develop diabetes in their future. And using certain medications versus exercise, the people who exercise did twice as well as the ones who took the medications, further emphasizing the need for exercise, trying to maintain a healthy weight and keeping their weight in a healthy place.
One of the changes that I wish I could see was more -- or more women having regular checkups, not just for their pap smears, but just making sure their blood pressure, their cholesterol and their health is okay and especially before they try and get pregnant because a lot of times many women, the health of a woman doesn't come into question until they try and get pregnant and they usually don't show up to their physician's office until after they're pregnant. The things that can go wrong during pregnancy may be just mildly off before pregnancy and if those would have been known beforehand, things may have been managed in a slightly different way. I think also women who are on chronic medications of any sort where they're getting a regular prescription medication need to have it evaluated by their physician before they try and get pregnant.
Many women feel very healthy and they are and even if young women are taking medications, it doesn't mean that they're sick, but it does mean that those things should be evaluated before they try and get pregnant.
(Recording Ends)- INTERVIEW CONCLUDED -
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