Healthy Women: A Checklist for a Lifetime

Medicines to Prevent Disease

There are a few different medicines that may be helpful in preventing disease. Again, each person's situation is a little different, so talk to your doctor about which of these medications, if any, would be appropriate for you.
  • Hormones (hormone replacement therapy or HRT): According to recent studies, the risks of taking the combined hormones estrogen and progestin after menopause to prevent long-term illnesses tend to outweigh the benefits. Talk to your doctor about whether starting or continuing to take hormones is right for you.
  • Breast cancer drugs: If your mother, sister, or daughter has had breast cancer, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking medicines to prevent breast cancer.
  • Aspirin: Talk to your doctor about taking aspirin to prevent heart disease if you are older than 45 and have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or if you smoke.
  • Immunizations: Stay up to date with your immunizations. Have a flu shot every year starting at age 50. Have a tetanus-diphtheria shot every 10 years. Have a pneumonia shot once at age 65. Ask your doctor whether you need hepatitis B shots.

Practicing Healthy Behaviors

The third way to maintain good health is to practice healthy behaviors throughout your lifetime.
  • Don't smoke: It's best to never begin smoking or using any tobacco products. But if you do smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting. You can take medicine and get counseling to help you quit. Make a plan and set a quit date. Tell your family, friends, and co-workers you are quitting. Ask for their support. If you are pregnant and smoke, quitting now will help you and your baby.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Eat a variety of foods, including fruit, vegetables, grains, and animal or vegetable protein (such as meat, fish, chicken, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, or tempeh). Limit the amount of saturated fat you eat.
  • Be physically active: Walk, dance, ride a bike, rake leaves, or do any other physical activity you enjoy. Start small and work up to a total of 20 to 30 minutes a day on most days of the week.
  • Stay at a healthy weight: Balance the number of calories you eat with the number you burn off by your activities. Remember to watch portion sizes. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about what or how much to eat.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation: If you drink alcohol, one drink a day is safe for women, unless you are pregnant. If you are pregnant, you should avoid alcohol entirely. Since researchers don't know how much alcohol will harm a fetus, it's best not to drink any alcohol while you are pregnant. A standard drink is one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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