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Begin your healthy future today. (Lifestyle Corner).

Undoubtedly, there'll be more findings to sift through from time to time, as ongoing HRT studies are released. Don't wait for more studies on HRT though. Take a close look at your lifestyle now.

Begin by examining everything from what you eat to how often you exercise to how you cope with stress. Making changes in these areas can go a long way toward protecting your heart, bone and mental faculties, as well as relieving menopausal symptoms. Make these important lifestyle changes:

* Walk. A study published in the September 2002 New England Journal of Medicine found that women could avoid heart disease simply by walking briskly (three miles an hour or more) 30 minutes a day. Walking also helps maintain bone and prevent osteoporosis.

* Remake your diet. Start with soy. Aim for about 25 grams of soy protein a day, found to lower cholesterol in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle and a diet low in saturated and trans-fatty acids. Recent studies also suggest that a high-fat diet may increase your risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Then make sure you get nine--yes, nine--servings of fruits and vegetables. Good sources of phyroestrogens (plant-based chemicals, such as lutein, anthocyanin, ellagic acid and lignans), they're a veritable medicine cabinet" for menopausal women. Spinach, green beans, broccoli, figs, kale and bok choi are good sources of calcium. But, to get enough calcium from your diet, you'll probably need to include low-fat dairy products and calcium-fortified foods and beverages or take a calcium supplement. The American Medical Association also recommends taking a daily multivitamin; some brands contain calcium, while others don't. Be sure to read the label.

* Stay active. Not just physically, but mentally. A groundbreaking study at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University Medical School published in March 2001 found that the more mentally and physically active healthy adults were between the ages of 40 and 60, the lower their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

* Cool yourself down. To help be prepared for hot flashes and reduce their intensity, dress in layers using light, all natural fabrics, no matter what the weather. Peel off, as necessary. At night, turn the air conditioner on high and point a portable fan at your bed. Also, avoid hot flash triggers, such as alcohol and spicy foods.

* Learn to relax. Stress hormones can make everything worse, including hot flashes. Try bubble baths, pedicures (the foot massaging effects of a pedicure are heavenly), chamomile tea and scented candles. Spend 10 minutes a day in a stress-free zone in your house stocked with soothing music and a few items of beauty and meaning to you.

Dr. Peeke is a Pew Foundation Scholar in Nutrition and Metabolism, and Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. She writes about health and lifestyle issues important to all women.
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Author:Peeke, Pamela
Publication:National Women's Health Report
Date:Oct 1, 2002
Previous Article:Common questions about HRT. (Ask the Expert).
Next Article:Women's health screening guidelines.

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