Archives for September 2016

Marla Ahlgrimm: Pregnancy and Substance Abuse

Marla AhlgrimmBeing pregnant doesn’t mean you are simply “eating for two.” The moment you become pregnant, you are  drinking, breathing, exercising, and living for yourself and another precious life, asserts Marla Ahlgrimm. It’s vital to the health of your baby to carefully consider what you do to your body. Everything you take in, from asparagus to alcohol, goes directly to your unborn baby.


Smoking can affect the reproductive system before conception. Marla Ahlgrimm explains that smoking can make it more difficult for a woman to get pregnant. During pregnancy, the toxins in cigarette smoke can cause problems with the placenta, premature birth, low birth weight, and miscarriage. Smoking during and after pregnancy has been found to be a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have a cleft palate or cleft lip. Marla Ahlgrimm explains that electronic cigarettes are not a safe alternative during pregnancy. The liquid in e-cigs contains nicotine and other harmful ingredients.


According to Marla Ahlgrimm, there is no safe amount of alcohol that a woman can consume while pregnant or trying to get pregnant. She stresses there is also no safe time during the pregnancy to drink. Wine, beer, and liquor are all dangerous to an unborn baby. When a mother drinks, the alcohol passes through her blood into the umbilical cord and then on to the baby. Drinking during pregnancy puts the child at a greater risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. There are a number of disabilities associated with fetal alcohol syndrome, one of the most well-known disorders affecting infants of alcoholic mothers. A few of these include:

  • Small head size
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Impaired memory skills
  • Significant learning disabilities
  • Small stature
  • Language delays


Marla Ahlgrimm stresses that there are no known illegal drugs that are safe to use while pregnant. As well, many over-the-counter and prescription medications pose a high risk to an unborn baby and mother. Cocaine, for instance, can cross the placenta and may cause placental abruption and fetal or maternal death.

Marla Ahlgrimm: Health Screenings and You

Marla AhlgrimmThere are a number of medical exams that should be performed regularly in order to keep you at your peak health, explains Marla Ahlgrimm. Maintaining a relationship with your doctor and other health care providers is important in achieving your overall health goals.

Dental exam

Your dentist is a vital professional who can help you maintain overall good health, says Marla Ahlgrimm. He or she can help you detect certain health conditions that present with symptoms in the mouth. See your dentist twice a year.

Eye exam

An ophthalmologist is a doctor who specializes in detecting and treating conditions of the eye. This includes vision problems, but also more serious issues such as glaucoma.


According to Marla Ahlgrimm, most women should get a flu shot every year. Other vaccinations, including pneumonia, may be discussed on an individual basis. Most adults have been vaccinated for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, but can benefit from a tetanus-diphtheria booster every decade. Once you reach the age of 60, Marla Ahlgrimm suggests talking to your doctor about the shingles and herpes zoster vaccine.

Physical exam

A quick visit to your doctor once a year can provide you with major insight regarding your health, says Marla Ahlgrimm. During an annual exam, your doctor may check blood pressure, cholesterol, height, weight, and body mass index (BMI). You will be asked about your diet and exercise routine and your alcohol and tobacco use. Your doctor may also talk to you about stress, depression, and anxiety.

Breast exam/mammogram

Once you reach the age of 40, your doctor may recommend a mammogram. This is a painless test that can help detect breast cancer in its early stages, when treatment is most effective.

Pelvic exam/Pap smear

Women of childbearing age should consider having a Pap smear every three years and an HPV test every five. This may be done by your primary care physician or a gynecologist, a doctor who specializes in women’s reproductive health, says Marla Ahlgrimm.

Marla Ahlgrimm: Health Screenings for Women

Marla AhlgrimmWomen take note: your doctor isn’t someone you should only visit when you’re ill. Marla Ahlgrimm says it’s important to maintain a relationship with your healthcare provider and have regular well check visits to detect or prevent health problems.

Marla Ahlgrimm explains that annual well visits screen for health complications, ensure vaccinations are up to date, assess risk of future medical issues, and establish a relationship with your care provider. The latter is important so that he or she is familiar with your baseline of health in case of an accident or illness.

A few of the more common health screenings are:

Blood pressure

You should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year. Your blood pressure is written as two numbers – the systolic number on the top and diastolic on the bottom. Ideal blood pressure is approximately 120/80. Consistent numbers much higher or lower than that may be cause for concern, says Marla Ahlgrimm.


Women over 20 with pre-existing conditions that put them at a greater risk of coronary heart disease should request a cholesterol screening every five years.


Diabetic testing should take place for women over age 44 every three years, explains Marla Ahlgrimm. Women with a BMI over 25 are at a higher risk of diabetes; a BMI of greater than 23 may be cause for concern for those of Asian descent. Diabetics are at a greater risk of circulatory issues of the lower extremities, heart attacks, and a host of other health problems.

Colon cancer

Marla Ahlgrimm explains that menopause-age women may begin colon cancer screenings annually. Women under the age of 50 should test sooner if they have a history of polyps or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Colon cancer screening is a simple fecal test that may be combined with sigmoidoscopy every five years and colonoscopy every decade.

Marla Ahlgrimm: Digestive Health Matters

Marla AhlgrimmAn occasional upset stomach, constipation, heartburn, or diarrhea is likely nothing of concern, says women’s healthcare expert Marla Ahlgrimm. Having a basic understanding about your digestive system – and the things that bother it – is a good first step in understanding your overall health.

How does the digestive system work?

According to Marla Ahlgrimm, the digestive tract includes the mouth, esophagus, small intestine, stomach, colon, rectum, and anus. All digested food and liquid is processed through these organs and either absorbed or eliminated. The liver and the pancreas assist in digestion by producing digestive enzymes that break food into nutrients. The gallbladder stores bile, which helps the liver digest fat.

The nutrition in your food is absorbed into the small intestine and then dispersed throughout the bloodstream. Waste products are expelled from the bowels, says Marla Ahlgrimm.

Common digestive issues

Digestive complaints run the gamut from gas and heartburn to constipation, nausea, and vomiting. Usually temporary, these stomach issues may be caused by certain foods, bacteria, illness, menstruation, or pregnancy. It is important to talk to your doctor if you have issues that persist, as these symptoms could be a sign of a more serious digestive disease.

Digestive issues specific to women

Marla Ahlgrimm explains that certain digestive issues, including IBS and gallstones, are more common in women. Other issues, such as heartburn and reflux, tend to show up during pregnancy.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a group of symptoms which most often present as abdominal pain, discomfort, and bloating. Many women experience constipation; others uncontrollable diarrhea. IBS may be controlled by changes to your diet and over-the-counter fiber supplements.

Gallstones are what Marla Ahlgrimm describes as hardened material – usually cholesterol – stuck in the gallbladder. Women are two times more likely to experience gallstones due to high estrogen levels – especially during and just after pregnancy.

Marla Ahlgrimm: Put Your Best Foot Forward

Marla AhlgrimmFeet are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to women’s health concerns, says Marla Ahlgrimm. The retired women’s healthcare expert insists, however, that our feet are remarkable feats of biological engineering and deserve as much respect, attention, and care as the rest of our bodies.

According to Marla Ahlgrimm, the feet actually account for around 25% of our body’s bone structure. Each foot is comprised of 26 bones, 33 joints, and a vast network of muscles and tendons. Our feet aren’t just a free form of transportation, either. In addition to movement, feet act as shock absorbers and stabilizers for the rest of the body. They endure an enormous amount of pressure each day and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Marla Ahlgrimm offers these tips on foot care:

  • Feet should be washed and dried before putting on shoes or socks. This prevents an excess of moisture, which can lead to bacteria and issues such as athlete’s foot.
  • Use a daily moisturizing cream if your feet are prone to drying and cracking. Avoid lotion in between the toes since it won’t dry properly.
  • Toenails should be cut straight across to avoid ingrowth.
  • Rotate your shoes often. Marla Ahlgrimm says it’s best to change shoes every day. Giving your shoes at least 24 hours to dry out between wear helps reduce the risk of foot odor and bacterial problems.
  • Wear well-fitting, high-quality shoes. A one dollar pair of flip-flops is not going to provide ample support for the complex mechanisms we call feet. Women shoes are designed to look fashionable and flattering, but often sacrifice practicality and comfort.
  • Understand the link between your feet and other health problems. Marla Ahlgrimm says this is especially important for diabetics, who may be at a greater risk of a condition called neuropathy. People with neuropathy lose the sensation in their feet, meaning they are less likely to notice when they have been injured or are experiencing circulatory issues.

Marla Ahlgrimm | Six Things to Avoid in Bed

Marla AhlgrimmSleeping and sex. These are the only two activities that should happen in the bed, says women’s health expert Marla Ahlgrimm. There is a laundry list of others that should take place only outside the bedroom. The top six are:

1. Watch television

Watching TV until you drift off to sleep is a favorite American pastime, says Marla Ahlgrimm. However, watching television can actually thwart your brain’s melatonin secretion. Melatonin is a hormone that helps the body fall asleep. It’s best to turn off the tube at least 60 minutes before settling in.

2. Check your phone/tablet

Like the television, the light on your phone or tablet can delay sleep. Another caveat to opening Facebook, text messages, and emails is that it can be very tempting to respond, delaying sleep time even further.

3. Eat

According to Marla Ahlgrimm, eating in bed is one of the worst things you can do for your health and hygiene. Crumbs between the sheets act as a beacon for bugs, including ants, flies, and cockroaches. Sweet foods are especially attractive to gnats and other flying pests.

4. Argue

The 10 o’clock hour is not the time to get into a heated discussion with your partner, says Marla Ahlgrimm. Unfortunately, busy schedules often mean nighttime is the first chance couples have to discuss their differences. It’s better to wait until morning, with the bed best left for makeup sex.

5. Work

Working from bed sounds like a dream come true. But, Marla Ahlgrimm warns that plopping your laptop down where you sleep can actually trigger an unconscious association between your bed and work. This can lead to anxiety when trying to count sheep and catch 40 winks.

6. Co-sleep with pets

This hotly debated topic is the most subjective on the list. Marla Ahlgrimm acknowledges that animals absolutely help reduce stress and may even lull an individual to sleep. The issue here arises when pets get up and move throughout the night, which can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to fatigue and mental exhaustion.

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