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Keeping the Endocrine System Healthy...

from: THE WOMEN'S COMPLETE HEALTHBOOK (American Medical Association Complete Guide to Women's Health)

Keeping the Endocrine System Healthy

When the delicate hormonal balance that the endocrine system controls is maintained, your body efficiently performs many vital functions. Because the endocrine system is so complex and carefully calibrated, however, a variety of problems, both great and small, can result if it malfunctions. Women experience endocrine system abnormalities much more commonly than men, including thyroid diseases and osteoporosis, and must therefore be more alert to the prevention, early diagnosis, and appropriate treatment of this type of disorder.

Some endocrine disorders are related to diet, so the single most effective preventive measure a woman can take is to eat nutritious, healthy meals. Calcium intake is especially important, as a lack of sufficient dietary calcium -- the mineral that gives bones their strength and density -- and a low estrogen level are the most common causes of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, the loss of bone density, is found in one in every four older women in the United States today. Sufficient calcium intake throughout your life is, therefore, essential.

Another diet-related endocrine disorder is goiter, or enlargement of the thyroid, which can result from lack of iodine in the diet. After the introduction of iodized table salt, however, goiter became uncommon in the United States.

Keeping your body at a healthy weight will greatly diminish your risk of developing type II diabetes mellitus, the most common endocrine disorder in the United States. Diabetes affects almost 10 million people, about half of them women, and type II diabetes accounts for more than 85 percent of all cases. Obesity is believed to increase the body's resistance to the action of insulin, the hormone that stimulates cells and tissues to use the energy produced by the food we eat. Maintaining a healthy weight is vital to preventing and controlling this condition.

Knowing your family medical history is also important. Among the familial endocrine disorders are diabetes and hypothyroidism. Some genetically linked disorders involve more than one gland. If one member of the family has hypothyroidism, for instance, then others may be at risk for other endocrine disorders (polyglandular autoimmune diseases). Although you cannot change your genes, recognizing that you are at risk, taking preventive measures, and seeking early diagnosis and treatment can greatly limit the effects of the condition.

If you are at risk for developing an endocrine disorder, or are currently suffering from one, you may be referred to an endocrinologist. An endocrinologist is a specialist in internal medicine, with additional training in endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism.

From aol://4344:104.women.6483842.582847339

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