Dining & Dishing on Health in Your 50s & 60s (Article)
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Dining & Dishing about Health
A Chicago family medicine physician serves up advice on women’s health issues that may arise in your 50s and 60s
Well Community Contributor
The heavy downpour on Monday night didn’t dampen anyone’s spirit at the Wise Woman Week event “My Generation Dinner: 50s & 60s” at Bread & Wine on Irving Park Road in Chicago. The event —part of Swedish Covenant Hospital’s week-long celebration of wise women— welcomed more than a dozen women in their 50s and 60s who came to socialize and listen to health advice from Dr. Nanajan Yakoub, a family medicine physician at Swedish Covenant Hospital, while dining on a three-course meal.
“Women in their early 30s to 40s are busy raising their kids and taking care of their family and their career and they forget about their health,” Dr. Yakoub said. “But their 50s is the time to really take it seriously, especially if they haven’t before.”
The Heart of the Matter
Situated at two intimate tables nestled among shelves of wine, chocolates and artisanal goodies, attendees at the event listened as Dr. Yakoub discussed the number one, two and three killers of U.S. Women: heart disease, lung cancer and breast cancer, respectively. She explained that most women tend to worry about breast cancer when they think about their health, and neglect their hearts, which are at even higher risk.
Dr. Yakoub pointed out that talk show host Rosie O’Donnell put a spotlight on heart disease —the number one killer of women— this summer when she delayed seeking medical attention for what turned out to be a heart attack. Fortunately, being vigilant about overall health is the first and the easiest step that women can take to protect their hearts.
While certain indicators of heart disease such as family history and age cannot be helped, other factors such as weight, cholesterol and Body Mass Index (BMI) are within a woman’s ability to control. A healthy woman’s BMIs should range between 18 to 24.5 kg/m2. Dr. Yakoub said a BMI of 26 may still be healthy for some women, but no higher. She also stressed that a woman’s waist measurement is more important than weight. Taller women, and women of European descent, should have a waist size of 35 inches or lower to be in the healthy range. Shorter women, and those of Latin descent, should have a waist size of 32 inches or less.
To keep cholesterol in check, Dr. Yakoub recommended that women in their 50s and 60s incorporate weight-bearing exercises, like walking with small dumbbells, into their workouts. She also recommends that women keep their portions of meats, grains and nuts no larger than the size of their palm. “A handful of almonds keeps the cardiologist away,” is Dr. Yakoub’s take on the old adage about an apple a day.
Chris Ryan, 51, couldn’t agree more. During the event, she shared with the group that earlier this year she joined Galter LifeCenter and participated in the 3-month Nutrifitness program. She lost 13 pounds and 13 inches (5 from her waist) in just 90 days. Ryan said she attended the dinner event with Dr. Yakoub because despite her gains, she is still unsure about what will happen to her body as she ages and she wanted to hear from an expert. She left feeling “more hopeful and positive” and now believes, “if I keep making changes, I can feel better.”
Prevention for life
Dr. Yakoub’s last take-home point stressed the importance of preventive screenings for women age 40 and older. She informed the attendees that starting this October, Swedish Covenant Hospital will be the second hospital in Chicago, and only the third in Illinois, to offer women 3-D digital mammograms. The innovative technology provides physicians with higher quality, more detailed images to identify abnormalities or suspicious lumps, which may have been overlooked in the past. She recommended that women get a mammogram every year, as things can change quickly and the faster you can identify a possible lump, the better.
Dr. Yakoub also encouraged women to get a colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50, and women between age 50 and 60 should get a pap smear every three years. She said if you haven’t had any issues by age 65, you don’t need any more paps. The evening, topped off with a raffle for a gift certificate to Bread & Wine, saw women leaving with satiated appetites, increased health knowledge and the phone numbers of new found friends in their cell phones.
To make an appointment with Dr. Yakoub, call (773) 907-0978 or visit SwedishCovenant.org/findadoc.
Bread & Wine is a neighborhood American Bistro, wine bar, and wine market focused on farm to table fare. Heidi Lading is a freelance writer in Chicago. Photo credit to Heidi Lading