Hot tips for health


Style asked 20 local health, fitness and nutrition experts, “What’s the most important thing women can do for their health after age 40”? And, since many of our experts are women around the age of 40 themselves, we also asked: “What is the most important thing you do for your own health”? Their answers aren’t miracle cures— just a lot of sound and savvy advice. And, good news: some of it is even fun!

>Monica Reinagel, licensed nutritionist, author and ‘Nutrition Diva’ blogger
“Guard against the upward creep of weight gain. Many women gain 3 or 4 pounds per year over the age of 40— throughout a decade that adds more than 30 pounds! The No. 1 thing that has made the biggest effect on my health and weight has been starting my own vegetable garden. There is nothing more gratifying than planning your meals with food you grow yourself.” 

>Dr. Pamela Ouyang, director of Johns Hopkins Women’s Cardiovascular Health Center
“Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. Understand and know your numbers for major risk factors such as high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol and glucose levels. I build exercise into my schedule. I run on the treadmill three to five times per week, and most days I truly do take the farthest parking spot from my office.” 

>Dr. Varsha Vaidya, psychiatrist and founder of Total Wellness in Federal Hill
“Play, joke, talk with your friends regularly. We are so busy juggling kids and work that we neglect that important social network of friends. Even just a few hours out of every week or two rejuvenates us so we go back and connect positively with our family. Once a year, my girlfriends and I also go for a weekend away.”

Jayne Bernasconi>Jayne Bernasconi, yogini, aerial dancer and co-founder of Yoga on York
“Turn yourself upside down. Don’t be afraid to take your feet off the ground. You are never too old for yoga and aerial yoga allows you to explore, improvise and create movement with your own body. Personally, I remain true to myself by meditating each day— even if it’s just for five minutes— to understand my true authentic self and wash away my brain’s thoughts and patterns.” 

>Dr. Michele Shermak, plastic surgeon
“Why live with your father’s nose? Why wait to move forward in your emotional health and self-confidence if you have an issue that’s been bothering you all your adult life? While plastic surgery is not for everyone, now may be the time to make a change as you are at an age for successful recovery.
I used to live on Aleve and ibuprofen from long days on my feet. But the Barre exercises I now do regularly have made all the difference in my physicality. Plus, I take the class with friends, so I get the physical exercise and social outlet so important for women.”

Mabeth Hudson>Mabeth Hudson, pastoral counselor and co-founder of Well for the Journey Spiritual Wellness in Towson
“Listen to your life. There is a voice within, buried under a lot of busyness, that offers guidance, direction and wholeness. I am an extrovert. I gain energy from others, but I need to allow for some downtime with silence and solitude to reflect and turn off the world around me so I can listen for that small voice.”

>Dr. Marianne Brandon, clinical psychologist, sex therapist and director of Wellminds, Wellbodies
“Stay connected to your sexuality, your feminine sensual side that is deep, rich and juicy. Sexuality invites you to be expressive, creative, emotive. Sex is not just about intercourse; it also reflects and honors femininity. I have a room in my house— decorated with fabric, dramatic art— devoted to enriching my feminine energy where I light candles, read poetry, listen to music, dance all alone. It keeps me connected to myself.” 

>Dr. Christina Li, director of minimally invasive surgery at Sinai Hospital
“Exercise. If you’ve got a TV, don’t tell me you can’t exercise. There are so many cable or on-demand exercise shows now. Walk in a botanical garden, hike in the woods, jog while your kids practice soccer. I’m busy, but I know I have to exercise. Some mornings, I’m up at 5 so I can get in my exercise session. So can you.”

>Dr. Christine O’Connor, director of well woman care and the adolescent gynecology program at Mercy Medical Center
“Have an annual gynecological visit with your doctor. Don’t neglect this. Would you let your kids go five years without seeing a dentist or your parents go five years without seeing a doctor?”

>Kelly Wilkes, massage therapist and owner of Ojas Wellness Center
“Put on your own oxygen mask first, before you help others. We always laugh with the women who tell us their families love it when they return from Ojas— whether it was a Pilates class, massage, anything, because they know she will come back happier, healthier and whole, with more love to give! I meditate twice a day, which gives me time to check in with myself. I also take a walk, do yoga, put down the computer, eat a cookie for breakfast if that is what I want! This helps me connect with feeling good and remain in concert with present energy.”

>Dr. Jennifer Payne, director of the Women’s Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital
“Get your mood or anxiety disorder treated. Life is too short to not feel well psychologically. Exercise helps with this and is the most important thing I do for my health. It’s hard to fit it in, I know, but when I do, I feel and function dramatically better.”

>Jennifer Ortiz, owner of Her Health Physical Therapy
“Pay attention to your pelvic health— it’s just like the rest of your body in that you need to work now, at age 40, to prevent future issues such as incontinence, sexual dysfunction and pelvic pain. I personally carve time out to exercise to help prevent osteoporosis. You can’t wait till you are 60 to make that happen. The time is now.” 

>Dr. Denise Meyer, dentist
“Are you sure that’s just a cold sore? Request an oral cancer screening during your routine dental check. Get your dentist to check your neck, the sides of your tongue, base and roof of your mouth and lips for lumps and bumps— the whole works, because no other medical professional does this. I have my dental partner screen me every six months.”

>Jodi Naasz, owner of Charm City Fitness
“If you can only fit one type of exercise into your busy day, make it a session of strength training. Over the age of 40, weight-bearing exercises become so important in maintaining muscle mass. Interval workouts actually offer a bit of both. The most important thing I do for my own health is to vary my exercises weekly— I do boot camp, treadmill running, weight lifting.” 

>Dr. Rebecca Kazin, medical director of Johns Hopkins Dermatology and Cosmetic Center at Green Spring Station
“Have an annual skin check for preventative care. I wouldn’t tell you to sit in a dark room all day or never go on a sunny vacation, but a baseline now at age 40 allows a comparison so you can stay ahead of any changes— especially as we begin to age.”

>Lillian Cooperman, owner of The Traditional Acupuncture Practice in Fells Point
“Move your energy. Acupuncture helps unblock energy to offset the effects of stress— anxiety, depression, back pain, neck pain, headaches, digestive issues— something many women ignore in their own health. For me, I need rest and strive for a good night’s sleep every night. I also get outside every day and walk, and I try to spend as much time with my dogs as possible.”

>Kristen Chandler, owner of Bella of Canton salon
“Without a doubt, get a great haircut and consider hair-color enhancement. Strategic style designs will beautifully frame and hugely complement a woman’s face instantly. I personally commit to the basics—exercise, rest, healthy diet— and great hair!”

>Ann Quasman, host of “WomanTalk Live” on 680 WCBM
“Live in a state of awareness so that you learn what feeds your mind, body and soul. I make an intentional awareness each day to keep myself and my needs at the top of the list. I believe it’s the greatest gift a woman can give herself and it ultimately benefits everyone around her.”

>Dr. April Tripp, professor of wellness at Community College of Baltimore County
“There are so many ways to eat simply and healthily. I eat one raw food at every meal— an organic carrot, a slice of tomato, celery. But I also have self-compassion. If I overeat or eat the wrong foods, I go easy on myself. Health is a process.” 

>Dr. Dawn Leonard, director of the Herman and Walter Samuelson Breast Care Center at Northwest Hospital
“Mammograms absolutely save lives. Get an annual mammogram starting at age 40. Yearly clinical exams as well as monthly self-exams are critical, too. Put the three together for the best opportunity to find cancer early. Put your own health— physical, social, psychological— at the top of the list. That is exactly what I strive to do.”  

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