The Role of Nutrition in Women’s Health

Chike Aguh MD

Proper nutrition isn’t just an important part of women’s health — it’s nothing less than vital.

Chike Aguh MD explains that throughout a woman’s life, nutritional needs evolve to help cope with higher risks of certain conditions or reflect specific personal health challenges.

Nutritional goals never fade as one ages. They often become more essential to follow than ever before.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 14% of women at least 18 years old are considered either in fair or poor health, and just over 20% met federal government guidelines for regular physical activity.

Women cope with not just common health conditions like heart attack, obesity, and stroke but also conditions they are more likely than men to develop at some point in their lives. That includes osteoporosis, breast cancer, and depression.

The bottom line: Throughout a woman’s life prioritizing nutrition is a matter of life and death.

Women’s Health Basics

Two of the most important aspects of nutrition and wellness remain constant throughout a woman’s life — physical activity and a balanced diet. They often work in tandem. A balanced diet — which includes consuming recommended daily amounts of nutrients, vitamins, and calories — is key to maintaining a healthy weight that helps keep numerous medical conditions at bay.

With a balanced diet, physical activity becomes easier to accomplish. With both, health benefits last a lifetime. They lower the risk of stroke, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes in women.

The federal government advises that women between 23- and 50-years old need somewhere between 1,700 and 2,200 calories a day (more if one is highly physically active) and try a diet that includes low sugar and fat intake, high in fruits and vegetables, and is high in vitamins and minerals like iron, folic acid, and calcium.

Chike Aguh MD

Special Consideration

Overall, women are more likely to experience nutrition-related health issues, including iron-deficiency anemia, lactose intolerance, and celiac disease, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Caloric intake is also important for women because they burn fewer calories during exercise and while at rest compared to men.

Also important to consider is reproductive health. Women must adjust their nutritional needs when they are pregnant, breastfeeding, and before and after menopause. Certain approaches to nutrition and wellness directly relate to reproductive health and hormonal imbalance, when a balanced and carefully considered diet is key.

Following the best nutritional guidelines impacts not just women’s lives but the health of their children. It goes beyond abstaining from alcohol and other drugs.

Proper nutrition while pregnant has been linked to the cognitive development and mental health of children and a lowered risk of developing a range of conditions, particularly those related to the bones and the heart.

The Heart of the Matter

Heart disease has long been the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Around 44% of all American women ‚— over 60 million — have a form of heart disease.

For a healthy heart, a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, as well as low in fat, is important to maintain throughout a woman’s life. The risk only increases with age, especially if there is a family history of heart disease.

In addition, heart health is bolstered when women commit to a minimum of 2 ½ hours a week of moderate exercise. That brisk jog followed by a healthy lunch a woman takes today may have benefits lasting far into the future.

Menopause and Aging: Managing Symptoms and Maintaining Health

Chike Aguh Gynecologist

Many women lack adequate education about menopause, causing many to hit this stage in their life with little to no information about how to soothe the symptoms. Thus, they scour the web finding an overwhelming amount of “advice” about which herbs are the best for cooling hot flashes, etc.

Chike Aguh Gynecologist says that cutting through the non-science-backed method is challenging, especially for women dealing with the tell-tale signs and symptoms of menopause. So, healthcare professionals have banded together to offer a professional overview of the best ways to tackle the discomfort that comes with this stage of life.

Ways to Manage Menopause for Comfortably Transitioning to The Next Stage in Life

Before diving in, it’s worth remembering that menopause does not require medical treatment — it’s a healthy, natural process, after all. However, as many will already know, it can be less than comfortable to experience.

With that in mind, the methods below must be treated as soothers, rather than “cures,” and it’s always important to remember that everybody is different. Therefore, what works for Jane may not work for Sue.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy, also known as estrogen therapy, is today’s most effective treatment for soothing menopausal hot flashes. Doctors typically prescribe estrogen in its lowest dosage for the shortest duration required to find relief.

Individuals who still have their uterus must be prescribed progestin alongside estrogen to prevent bone loss.
Since nothing comes without risk, people should be aware that long-term use of hormone therapy could carry some breast cancer and cardiovascular risks.

Home Remedies

The very nature of menopause means most associated signs and symptoms are temporary. Therefore, some women choose to stick to home remedies and lifestyle habits like:

  • Sleeping — Avoiding caffeine and alcohol is key to getting good rest. But if hot flashes are spoiling attempts, the Mayo Clinic recommends drinking cold glasses of water and figuring out what triggers the flashes.
  • Relaxation methods — Deep breathing, massage, and guided imagery could help with menopausal symptoms.
  • Strengthen pelvic floor — Kegel exercises can improve urinary incontinence.
  • Prevent vaginal discomfort — Over-the-counter, water-based lubricants like Sliquid and K-Y Jelly can prevent uncomfortable vaginal dryness that may occur through menopause.
Chike Aguh Gynecologist

Alternative Medicine

Finally, there are plenty of alternative medicines that have been marketed toward menopausal people. However, there aren’t many backed by science.

Some alternative treatments that have been studied include:

  • Phytoestrogens — Otherwise known as plant estrogens, they’re found naturally in foods. Sage contains compounds that perform like estrogen, effectively managing menopause symptoms.
  • Acupuncture — It could have some short-term effects on decreasing hot flashes. But evidence hasn’t shown consistent improvements.

Breaking the Black Cohosh Myth

Recent years have seen menopausal women swear by black cohosh and its ability to reduce symptoms of menopause. However, little evidence exists suggesting that it has any effect. Plus, it could be harmful to the liver and to women with a history of breast cancer.

Age Healthily By Managing Menopause Symptoms

Individuals having ongoing, life-disrupting trouble with menopause symptoms should speak to their primary doctor.

Understanding Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and its Impact on Women’s Health

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of female infertility.

It’s also one of the least understood.

About 10% of all women with ovaries and of reproductive age will be impacted in some way by PCOS. Additionally, about 50% of those with the condition also develop type 2 diabetes or prediabetes before the age of 40.

Chike Aguh Gynecologist explains that there are other health concerns as well. Those with PCOS have an elevated risk of heart disease and stroke. It is an equal opportunity disease, affecting all ethnicities, races, and those within the range of reproductive ages.

It impacts millions every year around the world. And yet there is still much more to uncover about PCOS and its causes.

What Does Having PCOS Mean

A hormonal disorder, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is closely related to elevated levels of the hormone androgens which leads to a slew of physical changes such as acne and excessive facial hair. Androgens are primarily found in men, but are also found in small amounts in women.

PCOS is typically identified with ovarian cysts or sacs filled with fluid that often inhibit the release of eggs during a reproductive cycle. It’s these cysts that make androgens.

However, not all of those who are diagnosed with the condition have ovaries with cysts, and not all women who have polycystic ovaries have PCOS. If eggs are not able to be released by the ovary it is not able to become fertilized by sperm during conception.

There are four ‘categories’ of polycystic ovaries. The most common is called insulin resistant PCOS, during which ovulation is prevented by high insulin levels in the body. It’s often caused by obesity, sugar intake, and smoking.

Birth control pills are often associated to ovulation suppression, especially for women who take birth control hormones for more than 10 years, referred to as pill-suppressed PCOS.

Another type is the result of inflammation which leads to an imbalance of hormones and prevention of ovulation. The fourth, hidden PCOS, is a simpler form of the condition, frequently caused by iodine deficiency and/or thyroid disease.

Other Symptoms

While the causes of the condition are still being studied, there are several symptoms women should be aware of. In addition to ovarian cysts, many women will have lighter than usual or irregular periods, skin tags, thinning hair or baldness, acne, large amounts of body hair, weight gain, and, commonly, infertility.

Heredity is also considered a factor. It’s commonly shared by the women of the family line – daughters, mothers, as well as sisters.

Chike Aguh Gynecologist

Screening for and Diagnosing

A physical exam, usually involving a pelvic exam, allows for a thorough check on reproductive organ health. Blood tests often uncover elevated levels of hormones, and doctors often check levels of blood glucose as well. An ultrasound is commonly used to identify cysts on ovaries and examine the uterine lining.

Treating the Condition

A healthcare provider may offer several different approaches for treatment. One is a contraceptive pill taken orally to help regulate a normal menstrual cycle and stop the thickening of the womb’s lining.

There are also medications designed to block PCOS-related hormone development and reduce other systems such as thinning hair and excessive facial hair. Medications are also prescribed to induce ovulation. Those with insulin resistance may also need separate medication to improve fertility and stem the tide of diabetes.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome can also be emotionally devastating. In addition to medication, many healthcare providers recommend counseling or other forms of mental health support.

Important Screenings in Women’s Health

Every living person requires routine check-ups and medical screenings to stay on top of their health and wellness, spotting potential issues before they grow too severe to treat. Chike Aguh, Gynecologist explains that women, however, need a particularly wide array of screenings to monitor their health as thoroughly as possible.

The most important screenings in healthcare include blood pressure screenings, blood tests, colonoscopies, dental exams, eye exams, and dermatologic scans for skin cancer. Women, however, should consider these screenings, as well as bone density checks, cervical cancer screenings, and mammograms. Age plays a role in deciding the frequency of each exam, with those over the age of 40 typically at a higher risk for developing cancer, or other conditions.

To better understand the importance of each screening and the frequency with which women should get checked, it helps to look at each test individually and which patients are most at risk of the health issues they seek to identify.

Screening for High Blood Pressure

While low-risk patients between the ages of 18 and 39 can afford to put off blood pressure checks for 3-5 years at a time, those 40 and over may wish to screen annually. Catching hypertension early and starting immediate treatment can reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, or kidney disease.

Some patients are at higher risk and may wish to get checked annually regardless of age. Such patients include:

  • Heavy drinkers
  • Nicotine users
  • Overweight or obese patients
  • Patients with unhealthy diets
  • Patients with limited physical activity
  • Pregnant women
  • Women of African American descent
  • Those already suffering from heart disease or hypertension

Annual Blood Tests

Blood tests look at basic physical health indicators such as blood sugar and cholesterol. However, they also help to detect conditions such as adult-onset diabetes and various autoimmune diseases. Blood tests should therefore be a part of any health-minded patient’s annual check-up.

Osteoporosis Screenings

While the above recommendations largely apply to men as well as women, osteoporosis is of unique concern to female patients. Since osteoporosis does not typically occur until later in life, it is suggested that women begin scheduling bone density tests at their doctor’s recommendation beginning at ages 65 and above.

Chike Aguh MD

Cervical Cancer Screenings

Every woman should meet at least annually with their OB-GYN, but special attention should be given to Pap smears. Women in their 20s will want to test for cervical cancer every 3 years or so, while women 30 and above can extend this timeframe to roughly 5 years and schedule their Pap smear around their regular HPV test.

Checking for Colon Cancer

Colonoscopy recommendations for women are similar to those for men. Women over the age of 45 should screen at least every 10 years unless otherwise directed by their physician due to unwanted results or identification of high risk.

Routine Dental Visits

Women wanting to keep their teeth looking great and their gums free from disease should visit the dentist regularly twice a year.

Regular Eye Exams

Eye exam recommendations vary by age, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Those with normal eye health should visit at least once or twice per decade, starting in their 20s. They should increase this to every year or two if:

  • They are 65 or over
  • They are diabetic
  • Their family shares high risk of eye disease
  • They suffer from high blood pressure
  • They already wear glasses or contacts

Yearly Mammograms

Even women who know how to check for lumps should still schedule annual mammograms, preferably beginning at age 40 but no later than 45. Those 55 and above can decrease their visits to every 2 years if previous screenings have shown normal results.

Skin Cancer Screenings

Women under the age of 49 run a greater risk of developing melanoma than most men of similar age. This is especially true of white women of non-Hispanic origin. Yearly screenings are recommended, particularly for those who sprout new moles or other unexpected skin changes.


It may sound like organizing all of the necessary screenings to stay in good health is a full-time job in and of itself, but women can easily stay on top of the above recommendations by keeping strong lines of communication with their primary healthcare providers. Those already behind on their screenings should take action today before the consequences are too great.

Debunking Common Myths about Women’s Health

International Women’s Day comes but once a year, but women’s health remains a topic at the forefront of many people’s minds. And there is a plethora of myths surrounding women’s healthcare that need debunking, according to Chike Aguh M.D.

Global News reported that falsehoods circulating around female conditions are often the primary talking points during screening appointments, and OB/GYN’s around the world are coming across more than their fair share.

Balancing Hormones and Testing Hormone Levels

According to physicians, two major myths surrounding women’s health are that hormones can be balanced, and blood tests are required to test hormone levels. Both are untrue, and they aren’t discussed enough.

Educators and doctors alike aren’t informing the public appropriately about this side of healthcare, creating gaps in the industry. And it’s a sad fact that many women’s legitimate questions are dismissed, ultimately having them seek products in the wellness industry that exploit such gaps.

Healthcare professionals explain that hormonal changes governing the reproductive cycle, puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause fall under hormonal health.

Experts warn that social media has exacerbated the problem, with companies attempting to sell products to “fix” issues with women’s health. Sadly, these products gimmicks.

The Untruths Surrounding Tampons

Women are constantly bombarded with myths about tampons , whether or not they should use them and that they may be harmful to one’s health. But gynecologists are quick to mention that the majority of these statements are entirely untrue.

Perhaps one of the primary myths about tampons is that users can contract deadly TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome).

The truth is that tampons do not cause TSS. In fact, the syndrome is caused by staphylococcus aureus, a strain of bacteria. It’s very rare and ultra-treatable, especially when it’s identified early on. Nine times out of ten, women seek treatment for their symptoms before it becomes TSS.

On top of that, many women believe tampons increase their risk of endometriosis. Again, this isn’t true. The exact cause of endometriosis is yet to be determined, however the tissue surrounding the uterus thickens, and becomes trapped, causing bands of fibrous tissue that can develop scaring and adhesions, leading to pelvic pain and infertility.

One cause of endometriosis relates to retrograde menstruation. This is where the myth has gained traction — some women believe that tampons can block the cervix during menstruation and can reverse the course of flow. However, retrograde menstruation is a common occurrence that most women experience at some point of their reproductive life.

Finally, tampons cannot get lost inside the body, despite what people may have heard. While they can insert higher up and the string can tuck inside, they aren’t lost. The cervix is a barricade between the uterus and the vagina, meaning the latter is essentially a dead end.

Chike Aguh Gynecologist

Learning The Truth About the Human Body Will Boost Women’s Wellness

The majority of gynecologists would like to see more education proliferate women’s health, encouraging women to ask their healthcare providers about their questions through open discussions.

Additionally, utilizing legitimate resources is a great way for individuals to learn more about the functions of their body and how it works. Pursuing untrustworthy sources like unqualified celebrities and social media pages will only further exacerbate these widespread myths.

People who wish to educate themselves on their bodies should seek out their trusted physician’s office for answers to their health-related questions.