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Body Watch : Doctor's Corner


A trip to the doctor's office is usually limited to a discussion of whatever ails you--if you're like most people. Neither doctors nor patients have much time to wax philosophical on other things one might do to promote good health. So we decided to do this for you--for free. We invited top health experts representing various specialties to give us their best tips for healthy living.

Women's Health

Dr. Anita Nelson, obstetrician-gynecologist, Women's Health Care Programs, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance:

* Preconception health is the wave of the future. Make certain you are in optimal health before you become pregnant to ensure the best outcome possible. Achieve appropriate weight, eat a balanced diet, stop smoking and drinking and get a thorough health evaluation before conception. Folic acid supplements are also helpful.

* Health maintenance beyond the childbearing years should include the crucial role that hormone replacement plays in prolonging a woman's life span and in improving the quality of her final years. Hormone replacement reduces osteoporosis, heart attacks, Alzheimer's disease risk, and controls hot flashes and wrinkles.

* Themes throughout the years: Know yourself, participate in your own health care; do breast self-examination; commit to a healthy lifestyle and avoid smoking; exercise and control your weight, but avoid crash diets and excessive exercise; take control; practice safe sex, and don't become a victim of domestic violence.

Men's Health

Dr. Charles E. Shapiro, urologist, Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center, Los Angeles:

* Males in the 15- to 30-year-old category should be aware of their risk for testicular cancer. It can be picked up by doing frequent self-exam--monthly, for example, in the shower. Know what "normal" feels like so that you can detect any changes.

* Good sexual functioning can be maintained throughout the life span. A prescription for good sex function in later ages is to have frequent intercourse when you're younger. You can't wear it out.

* Prostate cancer is extremely common with age. But in older age groups the vast majority of men who are found to have prostate cancer will die with it rather than from it. Therefore, the decision about treatment for prostate cancer must be individualized according to your state of health and the information your doctor provides you about your options. Prostate cancer is a real problem because it's difficult to identify how the disease will progress. Watchful waiting is a legitimate and reasonable option for many patients. Make yourself as well-informed as possible and take the time to think about the advantages and disadvantages of each option available. In general, prostate cancer is not an emergency.

Children's Health

Dr. Barbara Korsch, professor of pediatrics at USC, attending pediatrician at Childrens Hospital, Los Angeles, specializing in child development and behavior, advises parents:

* Trust yourself. You know your child. Don't be frightened by all the advice out there. General rules do not apply to everyone. Parents know more about their children than anyone else.

* Everyone has such high expectations for mothers. Nobody turns into a saint just because they become a mother. You may do things when you are tired and angry that you regret, but your child will survive.

* Take care of yourself. Somebody has to be good to you if you are going to be good to your child.


Dr. Daniel Sigband, ophthalmologist in private practice in Huntington Beach and assistant clinical professor of ophthalmology at UC Irvine:

* Eye safety is very important. Wear protective lenses, such as safety goggles, when doing anything hazardous, whether it's on the job or around the house or even playing some sports, such as racquetball.

* Wear sunglasses that have been certified for protection against ultraviolet light. Even young people should wear sunglasses. There is indirect evidence that ultraviolet light might produce cataracts and macular degeneration.

* Tailor your vision care to your stage in life:

--Families have to be aware that they can go to their pediatrician and have their child's vision screened. Many conditions can be caught, such as amblyopia or lazy eye, preventing permanent vision loss.

--In early adulthood, continue to periodically see your eye-care practitioner. The need for glasses or contacts can and should be detected early.

--Age 40 is an excellent time to see an ophthalmologist for the first time to check for eye diseases, cataracts, glaucoma or retinal diseases.

--Over age 50, have ophthalmological examinations every two years.

--People with a family history of eye diseases as well as people with diabetes or high blood pressure are at higher risk for eye disease and should get regular examinations. African Americans are at higher risk of glaucoma.

Teeth and Mouth

Christine Dumas, dentist in Marina del Rey and spokeswoman for the California Dental Assn.:

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