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Women's Health Week: Top Five Ways to Stay Healthy

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Many a woman has relied, at one point in her life, on the big blue P's: Planned Parenthood. That's why we turned to their Medical Director in Los Angeles, Dr. Mary Gatter, for tips on how to stay healthy in the New Year. We approached her wondering exclusively about our nether regions (and yours), but she was quick to remind us that our bodies work as a whole. "One cannot divorce reproductive health from regular health," she said.

Dr. Gatter helped us compile this list of the top five things every woman should do to protect her health this year:

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1. Maintain a proper weight and cholesterol level, and exercise regularly. If you've been under a rock, or just don't read LAist every day (weird), maybe you don't know that we've been providing exercise suggestions regularly - for the rich, the poor, and the two of you who are still middle class. Pick one, and get started.

2. Put yourself on a long-acting, reversible, highly-effective contraceptive if you do not want to become pregnant. Gone are the days when the pill or a diaphragm were a modern girl's only options. Check out Planned Parenthood's website for an extensive list of birth control options - some old, some new, some that you probably don't even know about!

3. Wear condoms every time, until you are certain you are in a mutually monogamous long-term relationship. If you're out getting your kicks with a new guy or girl every night, there should be no question here. But if you're in a longer-term relationship and looking to lose the rubbers, that means it's time for the old "I have HPV, what about you?" conversation. Be honest, be straightforward, and don't let embarrassment stand in the way of your or your partner's health.

4. Stop smoking or doing recreational drugs, and use alcohol in moderation. Easier said than done, perhaps, but there are some easy ways to reduce the damage alcohol does to the body. Now would also be the time to rethink your plan for quitting smoking cold turkey; studies have shown that using a nicotine patch or gum (or other substitute) is far more effective than throwing your cigarettes in the LA River and hoping for the best.

5. Get regular check-ups for STDs and PAP smears on a regular basis. Last week, ScientIST let you know exactly what you can expect from an annual exam. Armed with knowledge, it's time to make an appointment with your doctor or your local Planned Parenthood (1-800-576-5544).