Five Health Mistakes Smart Women Make

(WFLX) - There are the obvious health mistakes many of us make -- eating too much, exercising too little, and not getting enough fruits and veggies.

But there are some serious health mistakes many women are guilty of without even realizing the consequences.

These five mistakes are mistakes most of us make without realizing their dangers.

First off, Gynecologist Jennifer Young has a warning for women: If you have an abnormal pap smear, you must get a follow-up test. "A million women a year have an abnormal pap smear. Three-hundred thousand of those require treatment in order to prevent cervical cancer."

But up to 50 percent of women don't follow up. "For some women, it changes something that's easily treatable as an outpatient to a cancer to something that could actually kill them," explained Dr. Young.

Another mistake is avoiding birth control pills for fear they raise cancer risk. "Most women don't understand that birth control pills actually decrease your risk of ovarian cancer by up to 50 percent."

She says the link between breast cancer risk and birth control pills came from studies in the early 80s. "Ultimately, those studies have turned out not to be true," she assured.

Neuroscientist Suzanne Thomas says another mistake is quitting antidepressants cold turkey. "Because antidepressants work on brain chemistry and affect the rest of the body, going off of them abruptly is not a good idea."

A doctor should taper the dose by one-fourth every two weeks to avoid side effects.

Another mistake is drinking too much, even occasionally. Women are smaller and have less body water and less of an enzyme that breaks down alcohol than men.

Simply put: "Alcohol is more toxic to women's bodies than men's," Dr. Thomas warned.

In fact, research shows women who get drunk just once a month have triple the risk of a heart attack.

Finally, mistake number five is not taking vitamins, especially folic acid. Dr. Young says to significantly reduce the risk of birth defects, women should start taking folic acid at least six months before getting pregnant.

Copyright 2010 WFLX. All Rights Reserved.