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Ten tips to help women feel their best

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

Practice Kegel exercises. They target pelvic floor muscles, and their purpose is to help prevent and treat urinary incontinence, an unintentional leak which women experience twice as often as men and is often prompted by something physical, like coughing, laughing or running. First, find the right muscles--they're the ones you'd use to stop your pee midstream. Trying not to tighten your stomach, legs or buttocks (and making sure to breathe normally), squeeze your pelvic muscles for a count of three seconds, then relax for three. Work up to three sets of 10. Start kegel exercises lying down; when your muscles get stronger, do them while sitting or standing (working against gravity is like adding more weight). The added bonus: kegels help you reach better orgasm.

Wear sunscreen daily. You know doing so helps protect against sunburn and lower your risk of skin cancer; new science suggests it can also slow or even prevent skin aging. Researchers in Australia measured photoaging in about 900 study participants under the age of 55; photoaging describes skin damage caused by exposure to the sun, including wrinkles, sunspots, skin roughness and more. The study was designed in part to compare regular use of sunscreen to occasional use. After four years, participants who used sunscreen every day showed 24 percent less skin aging than those in the occasional group, no matter what their age. To help keep your skin young and healthy looking, choose a SPF 30, broad-spectrum sunscreen (many moisturizers have sunscreen built in) and slather it on--sun, rain or snow.

Eat fatty fish. Salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna and sardines are good choices--their omega-3s are thought to reduce inflammation, which evidence has shown can help lower the risk of heart disease. New studies suggest the fatty acids in these oily fish may also offer some protection against breast cancer as well as rheumatoid arthritis. Plus, sardines and canned salmon contain calcium and vitamin D to help keep bones strong. How many servings of fatty fish should you eat? About one or two per week.

Consider non-hormonal therapies to ease hot flashes. Though estrogen is the most effective treatment, it's not the safest choice for every woman. Recently the FDA approved the first non-hormonal therapy to treat moderate to severe hot flashes; it's called Brisdelle and it contains paroxetine, an antidepressant sold under the brand name Paxil. Doctors have prescribed paroxetine off-label for hot flashes for years; the newly approved product, however, will be a lower dose. Brisdelle is scheduled to hit pharmacy shelves in November; ask your doctor about side effects and if it's a good option for you. What else might work for hot flashes: Rhythmic breathing. Research showed women who paced their breathing at 6 breaths per minute for 15 minutes experienced fewer and less severe hot flashes. (The women who had the most relief practiced twice a day.) What likely won't work: Exercise. Though there are many (many) proven benefits of working out, a new study indicates easing hot flashes is not among them.