In The Best Health

What four individuals learned about visiting their doctors, asking questions, and getting a second opinion.

yoga. She also takes medication.

“[The] 20s is typically when people are feeling like they’re healthy and invincible,” says Dr. Andrea Pennington, founder of the Pennington Institute for Health and Wellness. However, young men and women should enforce good health habits as early as possible to maintain a high quality of life.

Medical Tests and Screenings For Those in Their 20s

  • Annual physical exam, which checks blood pressure and weight
  • General blood tests: fasting blood glucose, complete blood count, and cholesterol
  • Urinalysis
  • Vision exam
  • Rectal exam, which checks for hemorrhoids and prostate cancer
  • Women should get an annual Pap smear to check for cervical cancer or other disorders, as well as a regular breast exam.
  • Men should examine their testicles for lumps or other abnormalities

Name: Kat Carney, Age: 35, Health concern: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Symptoms: obesity, hirsutism, hair loss, irregular menstrual cycle

Degree of involvement: Carney was reluctant to visit a doctor unless something was seriously wrong. She was forced to go because of back pain.

Results: She began a drastic fitness regimen, educated herself, and took medication. In 14 months, she lost 90 pounds and saw a reduction in all symptoms of PCOS.

Kat Carney only visited a doctor when she absolutely had to. When back pain forced her to pay her doctor a visit seven years ago, what she learned forced her make lifestyle changes that completely transformed the way she lives today. Weighing in at 240 pounds, the former anchor for CNN Headline News was reluctant to admit there was a problem. But the doctor insisted that obesity was contributing to her back pain. “I told the nurse, ‘there’s something wrong with your scale,’” Carney jokes. The excess weight was not the only problem. Her inability to lose it was just one sign that something else was wrong.

Carney also noticed hair shedding from her head. Simultaneously, she was developing hirsutism, excessive growth of body hair. Her menstrual cycle was also irregular. Her doctor said that there was nothing seriously wrong, but Carney was determined to understand the problem behind her ailments. After seeing several doctors, one finally suggested that she might have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a hormonal disorder that affects approximately 10% of women of childbearing age. In PCOS sufferers, the pituitary gland sends the wrong hormonal signals to the ovaries, which in turn, will not release eggs as they would during a normal menstrual cycle. The ovaries become enlarged and develop several fluid-filled cysts, which contain mature eggs.

“Carney did the right thing by seeking more than one medical opinion,” says Pennington. “As African Americans, we have to be willing to tell all the symptoms we are experiencing. It could be a signal that something bigger is going on inside that could become a big deal later on.”

Women with PCOS also have higher levels of insulin, which increases their risk of developing diabetes. “When your blood sugar is elevated, it damages the lining of the coronary arteries,” says Dr. Jennifer Mieres, director of nuclear cardiology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York, and spokesperson for

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