|This book deserves more than five stars. It is by far the best resource on women's health issues that I have seen.|
Review Summary: How can women improve their health by changing their lifestyle, diet, and activities? That's the question that this book answers. Based on the longest running and most authoritative sources of information, you should prefer the information here to what you will read in other resources. The book deals with factors like age, race, exercise, diet, use of supplements, weight, birth control pill and hormone replacement usage, smoking, and drinking in order to define how these affect the incidence of disease. In addition, the book also tells women how to improve their chances for avoiding diseases where where behavior counts for a lot.
Review: The detailed focus of this book is remarkable. Unlike most books about health that look at men and women together, this one drills down to many different perpectives on women. For instance, if you took oral contraceptives in the 1970s, what is the effect on your risk of breast cancer today? If you take supplementary calcium now, how does that affect your risk of having a bone fracture when you are past 70? These are the kind of specific, and important questions that this book looks at. And the data are not necessarily what you think. Calcium supplements, for instance, don't seem to help with reducing fractures. If you discontinued oral contraceptives some time ago, the impact on breast cancer incidence seems to drop off to nil.
The data for the book come from several long-term studies. The most significant is Harvard Medical School's Nurses' Health Study, which began in 1976. The base was 120,000 R.N.s aged 30-55. The original focus of this work was on oral contraceptives, but many other data were assembled in two page questionnaires sent every other year. Since then, biological samples have been added liked toenail clippings and blood. In 1989 116,000 more nurses were added in the Nurses' Health Study II, which tracks younger women than those in the earlier group who are now increasingly elderly. Nurses were originally chosen because it was thought they would be more accurate in their data and more likely to be open about sharing information about contraceptive and reproductive practices. Since then the National Institutes of Health have also started a tracking study focusing on the use of postmenopausal hormones, low fat diets, and the impact of calcium and other supplements on postmenopausal health. All three studies are used extensively in this book.
The book's first section looks at the studies and how to interpret the data that come from them. The second section (and the longest) looks at a different diseases. Instead of lumping cancer together, for instance, you get separate looks at breast, lung, colon, endometrial, ovarian, and skin cancer. Other dieases covered include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, asthma, arthritis, eye ailments, and Alzheimer's. The final section is on advice about how to do better with physical activity, weight control, smoking, nutrients, foods, alcohol, vitamins and minerals, postmenopausal hormones, birth control, and aspirin.
Unlike many books coming from physicians, this book is easy to understand and apply. You get a lot of scientific data, but you also get lots of instances of plain English. For example, there are quotes from nurses and how one doctor provides advice in each section for what she or he tells patients about that subject. Also, each chapter has a simple, useful summary that you can use to put everything in perspective.
If the book has a weakness, it's that you cannot learn as much as you need to know about how to change difficult behaviors like smoking and eating foods that lead to excess weight in brief chapters. So, once you've decided you want to improve your behavior, I suggest that you also seek out other books that are more specialized on those issues.
Obviously, this book will be of interest and value to women. Why should men read it? I told my wife about how good I thought this book was, and she asked me how she should change her behavior based on the book's information. I was able to summarize for her in less than five minutes what I had observed that she could beneficially change. So this book can be valuable for men to read, if they share the information with women they know. Also, men can give this book to women as a token of their love and caring.
After you finish this book, I suggest that you also think about where you can get such authoritative information about other important subjects in your life . . . like getting along well with others, enjoying good mental health, feeling happy and optimistic, and giving and receiving love. Why not make improvements in all these dimensions?
Remember: You deserve the best that you can provide for yourself!