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Chief of surgery, Neurologic & Orthopedic Hospital of Chicago; assistant professor of neurosurgery, Rush Medical College
Dr. Rosseau makes a point of scheduling personal time to keep from burning out. During her 45-minute commute to work she listens to books on tape; she especially likes political science. "I need to read for my own mental health," says the 52-year-old neurosurgeon. "It keeps my brain sharp to stay abreast of the broad sweeps of thought, not just live in a medical bubble with nothing new to talk about when I go on rounds at the hospital."Her Advice
"Stay mentally engaged. It's the best way to keep your edge. Brain exercises are the latest fad, but anything that challenges you cognitively will help: Play Scrabble or chess, join a bridge or book club, or take classes."
"Eat for your brain: Dark-colored vegetables --kale, spinach, beets -- and bright-colored fruits like berries, prunes, and red grapes. I keep tangerines in my desk."
"Don't ignore persistent headaches. Most aren't serious, but occasionally they can signal an aneurysm or brain tumor. Three danger signs to check out promptly: Headaches are worse in the morning, they come on suddenly like a blinding thunderbolt, or you feel nauseated."
"Don't automatically reach for a headache pill. To avoid taking too much medicine I recommend nondrug strategies first, such as exercise, yoga, even meditation. If pain persists, try an OTC remedy before a prescription."Latest Breakthrough
"Recently scientists at Johns Hopkins identified a gene that puts people at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer's disease. This could lead to new therapies."
Director of the Revlon/UCLA Breast Center and the Gonda/UCLA Breast Cancer Research Laboratory
Dr. Chang, 60, knows that feeling of dread when you suddenly find a lump in your breast: It happened to her. Because she worked at a hospital she was able to get a biopsy within 24 hours, and it was fortunately benign. But even 14 years later the surgeon and mom of two still knows better than most how it feels to fear the worst.Her Advice
"Do a breast self-exam once a month, three to five days after your period ends. Though some research suggests that self-exams might not ultimately save lives, I still think we all should be familiar with our own breasts."
"Have regular mammograms, starting at age 40, or younger if you have a family history of breast cancer. Digital mammography is better if your breasts are dense; centers in most major cities offer it. If you're at high risk, ask your doctor whether you should get an MRI."
"Keep your weight down, especially after menopause. Obesity and piling on pounds as you get older make you more susceptible to breast cancer. I also warn that more than two drinks a day significantly ups risks."
"Get moving. Exercising regularly after breast-cancer treatment lowers your risk of dying from the disease."Latest Breakthrough
"A new drug called Avastin that works by starving tumors of their blood supply may help women with HER2 negative breast cancer (which doesn't respond to Herceptin). Researchers are also testing breast-cancer vaccines. Although none is ready for prime time, when one is it will be amazing news for treatment and prevention."
Director of the John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and associate professor of nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University
Dr. Nelson, 49, author of the best-selling Strong Women book series, practices what she preaches. "I cook from scratch, mainly using locally grown ingredients," she says. She stops at the farmers' market almost every day and eats organic meat only occasionally. That may be why she feels such a kinship to Michael Pollan, the writer who has famously argued that it's okay to eat meat -- just a lot less of it. She even keeps a copy of his book The Omnivore's Dilemma on her night stand. "We both believe we've lost track of the goodness of real food," she says.Her Advice
"Forget about popping lots of vitamins and supplements. Healthy adults who take multivitamins don't get any benefits. I've never taken a multivitamin except when I was pregnant or about to be. Aside from when you're pregnant, the only supplements you should consider are vitamin D and calcium."
"Watch your intake of processed and refined foods -- I do. They have way too much sugar, which adds unnecessary calories. Sugar is touted as being somehow more 'natural' than sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup. This is ridiculous."
"To lose weight, cut calories. It doesn't matter what type of diet you're on -- low carbs, high fat and protein, or low fat."Latest Breakthrough
"A new science called epigenetics is showing how genes can be influenced by environment. For example, a child's genetic likelihood of getting diabetes, heart disease, and obesity is affected by what her mother ate during pregnancy. If a pregnant woman can eat well and gain the right amount of weight, she could keep her baby from being born predisposed to these illnesses later in life."
Vice Chair, Obstetrics, Gynecology & Women's Health Institute; director, Center for Menstrual Disorders, Fibroids and Hysteroscopic Services, Cleveland Clinic
A firm believer that gynecological health is tied to exercise, nutrition, and a sane attitude about aging, Dr. Bradley, 54, worries about women whose body image undermines their happiness and sexuality. "I have patients who are so depressed about who they've become that they're trying to turn back the clock, getting nipped and tucked," she says. "My attitude is, this is my body as a 50-plus-year-old woman, and I love me. My daughter is 21 and I tell her to enjoy it while she has it and embrace maturity when it comes."Her Advice
"Get your daughter vaccinated against cervical cancer. Gardasil is approved for girls and women between 9 and 26 and protects against four types of HPV [human papillomavirus], which causes most cervical cancer."
"Be conscientious about using contraceptives. Unfortunately, 85 percent of pregnancies in this country are unplanned. With today's options we should have none."
"Opt for an alternative if you have trouble remembering to take a pill every day -- many women do. Good choices range from once-a-week hormonal patches or rings you insert inside the vagina to IUDs. All are equally effective and FDA-approved."
"Regular exercise is the magic bullet that prevents chronic diseases, helps sleep, relieves stress, and improves your sex life."Latest Breakthrough
"There's proof that the new DNA test for the cervical cancer virus is truly better than a Pap smear. Right now patients should take both tests -- I do -- but this tool will supplant the Pap. Also, a blood test, now in trials, finds ovarian cancer about two years earlier than we can now, which could give us a much better chance to cure it."
Founder and director of the Women's Program in Psychiatry at Columbia University
The first member of her family to attend college, Dr. Spinelli spent nearly 15 years as an obstetrical nurse in low-income neighborhoods. She entered medical school as a 36-year-old divorced mother of two boys and used her life experience and that training to become a leading expert on postpartum depression and women's mental health. Now 61 and remarried, she and her film-editor husband do yogic breathing exercises for half an hour every night. "If I have any anxious moments during the day," she says, "yoga releases them."Her Advice
"Find ways to ease the tensions in your life, whether it's through doing breathing exercises, meditation, having deep-tissue massage, or using other forms of relaxation. Chronic stress can make you more prone to anxiety disorders, depression, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and even metastatic cancer."
"Don't let the blues drag on too long if you're deep in the dumps. Depression can change your brain chemistry and make it more difficult for you to recover. Get help."
"Don't rule out talk therapy. Drugs aren't the only effective antidotes to depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy, which emphasizes how the way you think shapes the way you feel, can also trigger changes in brain chemistry and make you feel better."
"Try light therapy -- in which you sit in front of a light box for specified periods, soaking up artificial sunshine -- to help relieve some types of depression, especially seasonal mood changes. You have to use specialized lights under the direction of a mental health provider."Latest Breakthrough
"Advances in imaging techniques have helped us to detect the brain regions and chemicals that underlie mood disorders. This will help us find new ways to treat these problems -- and to measure how effectively potential therapies reach the brain regions we're targeting."
Director of the Women's Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in Los AngelesHer Advice
"Work out. Half an hour a day, five days a week cuts heart risk by 30 percent. Don't stress about yardsticks like body mass index. They're just crude measures of fitness. Find ways to get moving however you can."
"Make stress relief part of your daily routine. I spend time with my family to chill out. Stress takes a bigger toll on women's hearts than men's. Find a way to reduce it and you can drop your risk of hypertension, obesity, high blood sugar, and high triglycerides."
"See your dentist regularly. Gum inflammation triggers your body to produce higher levels of C-reactive protein, which can thicken arterial walls. I go twice a year."
"Think about having an ultrasound of your carotid arteries if you're considering paying for a screening test because of a family history of heart disease. Called an IMT test, it's better than cardiac calcium scoring or a coronary CT scan at spotting the subtle thickening of the artery walls that characterizes heart disease in women. It's also superior at finding microvascular syndrome, in which big heart arteries look fine but your tiniest ones are dysfunctional. An IMT is also less expensive and doesn't expose you to breast radiation."Latest Breakthrough
"The newer types of hormonal contraceptives -- pills, patches and vaginal rings -- may actually protect your heart: They seem to lower blood pressure, which may reduce your chances of developing heart disease."
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, September 2009.