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Ten tips to help women feel their best

The Doctors | 11/7/2013, 7 p.m.

USA WEEKEND Health

Keep blood pressure in check. It's the most important lifestyle change you can make to help protect you from a stroke, according to a recent study; researchers found that people with ideal blood pressure had a 60 percent lower risk of future stroke, when compared to those with poor numbers. Nearly half of all adults with high blood pressure are women; after menopause, the chances of developing the condition increase considerably. Left untreated, high blood pressure doubles the risk of heart disease; it can also lead to kidney damage, as well vision and memory loss, among other issues. To help control blood pressure: eat healthy, be active, watch your weight, quit smoking, limit alcohol, manage stress, and take medications as prescribed.

Don't skip breakfast. Foregoing that first meal can impact your mood, memory and energy levels (and not in a good way). You're also more likely to put on pounds--findings from the National Weight Control Registry, a large, long-term study of successful dieters, shows that nearly 80 percent eat breakfast every day. Emerging research now suggests yet another reason to not to pass up breakfast: an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. A small, preliminary study of overweight and obese women found those who didn't eat breakfast experienced insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes. And a larger study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that women who skipped even once a week were 20 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who ate a meal every morning. So when you're prepping tomorrow's breakfast, consider these healthy options: nonfat yogurt with berries, whole wheat toast with peanut butter and fruit, or eggs with low-fat cheese and salsa.

Ask about breast cancer screenings. A new study found that more deaths from breast cancer occur in younger women who don't get regular mammograms--results that sparked discussions about the current government recommendations, which advise women get mammograms every other year starting at age 50. Other research found the incidence of advanced-stage breast cancer to be on the rise in younger women, between the ages of 25 and 39. The American Cancer Society, among other organizations, recommends annual screenings, starting at age 40. Some women may need to test more frequently, others might need to start younger, depending on family history and other factors. Talk to your doctor to determine the best screening schedule for you.

Do skip the nightcap. Sure, it might help you doze off faster, but your sleep will be less restful. That's because as your body starts to metabolize the alcohol in that after-dinner cocktail, it can act as a stimulant, causing you to wake up more frequently during the night. Plus, research has shown that too much alcohol disrupts women's sleep more so than men's, particularly when it comes to feeling tired the next day. You can enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, but don't drink it within three hours of bedtime; instead, find other ways to relax before hitting the sack, like taking a warm bath, meditating or listening to soothing music.

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