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Ask Dr. Ancy

When it comes to questions about feeling good, looking great and leading a fit lifestyle, Dr. Ancy is just what the doctor ordered for women of all ages. Dr. Ancy doesn't just know about healthy living - she's also a great example of it. "I love running, cooking and Pilates. I keep my mind active by reading and learning about a wide variety of topics ranging from skincare to science to art."

Dr. Ancy provides valuable guidance to Club W members. However, please be aware that she can't diagnose or provide specific advice for specific medical questions.

Q

As I grow older, what do I need to do to keep fit but injury-free?

A

Here are a few tips to staying fit and injury-free:

  • Keep moving! When you become sedentary, your joints stiffen and muscles weaken. Move as much as possible. Make it a point to stand often, take the stairs and walk every day.
  • Try Tai Chi, yoga, and Pilates. All help with core strength and flexibility
  • Join classes! NKCH offers several group fitness classes with instructors who make sure you are doing the moves right.
  • If you feel any pain or think you hurt yourself, make an appointment to see your doctor. Many times, a doctor’s visit and physical therapy can be the trick to getting you back to exercising.

Q

Arthritis vs. joint pain. How do I know which it is?

A

There are two kinds of arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that develops when your own immune system attacks the joints and causes pain. The condition is more serious than osteoarthritis, which is joint pain from mechanical wear and tear.

If you’re having significant pain and/or swelling in your joints (hands, knees, elbows, hips, ankles), speak with your doctor. Because it’s hard to differentiate between the two conditions, your doctor will talk with you about your medical history, conduct a physical exam and possibly order blood work and X-rays.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, specific medications can control the autoimmune destruction of the joint. If the condition goes untreated, it will eventually cause bone breakdown and complete erosion. The treatment goal is to control the bone erosion and manage the pain.

Osteoarthritis can’t be reversed, but there are some natural and over-the-counter medications that can help alleviate the pain. These include turmeric, glucosamine chondroitin, Aspercreme and Arnicare Gel. Other medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or steroid injections, can help with the pain. Sometimes, a person has so much wear and tear that joint replacement is the best option.

Q

I know I need to drink more water, but I hate it. What tips do you have for boosting my daily intake?

A

There are so many ways staying hydrated contributes to good health. Water keeps your skin looking good, gives your muscles energy, helps control calories and keeps your bowels working well, to name just a few benefits.
Here are few suggestions to help you get more water:

  • Buy a BPA-free water bottle you like, and take it with you everywhere. A good water bottle will keep your water cold and tasting fresh.
  • Set a goal to drink 2 liters (about 8 cups) of water every day. I prefer a 1-liter water bottle because I only have to refill it once. I place it at my desk and try to finish the first bottle by lunchtime. Then, I refill it, and finish the second bottle by the time I’m home.
  • Drink a cup of water when you wake up in the morning before your morning coffee. It’s a good way to start your day off with a positive fluid balance.
  • If you don’t like the taste of plain water, buy a water bottle with an opening that lets you add fruit to infuse some flavor. Add cucumber and mint, melons, grapefruit and rosemary, or any combination of your choice. The combinations are endless. Fruit-infused water is healthier than adding an artificially-flavored water enhancer.

Q

How do I know if I need an anti-depressant or if my feelings are hormone-related?

A

Our moods are influenced by multiple factors: family, work, politics and the performance of our favorite sports teams are just a few. Sometimes, during an exciting period such as the holidays, our emotions are high. Then, after the holidays, our emotions fall. Depression is defined as living more than two weeks with five or more of the following symptoms occurring daily. (At least one symptom must be either a depressed mood or a loss of interest and pleasure.) These symptoms include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Feeling worthless or guilt-ridden
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of energy
  • Restlessness or slowed behavior
  • Reduced interest in activities
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain/change in appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Trouble concentrating

If you notice these signs, talk to your doctor. He or she can check your hormone levels and diagnose depression. Many times, talk therapy or counseling can help boost your mood back to normal. In some cases, you may need a combination of medication and counseling.

Q

I’m a fairly healthy person and typically only see my primary care doctor once a year. How do I build a good doctor-patient relationship when we have such limited contact?

A

I have several patients who are healthy and only come in for their annual screenings or an occasional ache or pain. And, that’s great!

Ideally, you and your doctor should be partners in health. Studies have shown that having a trusting relationship with your doctor can improve your health outcomes. But, creating that relationship can be difficult when you only see your doctor once a year. However, it’s certainly possible.

The best way to develop a partnership with your doctor is to write down and discuss your healthcare goals with him or her. We want you to actively engage in your diagnosis, treatment and any decisions that need to be made. With this common focus, you and your doctor will keep you healthy.

Happy New Year!

Q

Women get pulled in so many different directions, making it difficult to focus on any one task. What are some quick, easy ways to boost concentration?

A

Remaining focused on the task at hand is tough! I use a few different tools.

  • Create To Do lists and divide the tasks into what needs to get done today, what can wait until next week, and goals that can span over a longer period of time.
  • Stay hydrated and eat high protein snacks
  • Go for a walk or try another low-impact form of exercise, like yoga
  • Make time to meditate.
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Breathe. Trying different techniques to bring your mind into focus.

You won’t notice a change overnight. Like any new habit, it takes time to develop the ability to focus on one thing at a time. But, keep trying and always be on the lookout for strategies that work for you.

Q

What online resources do you recommend for general health and wellness information?

A

I recommend reading to get general background information, but the art of medicine involves integrating many facts and symptoms to accurately diagnose and treat a patient. What you read online may not directly relate to you, so it’s always best to talk with your doctor.

However, I recommend a few sites for building your general health knowledge.

They are:

  • WebMD and/or MayoClinic. I trust these sites because the contributing authors are medical doctors.
  • U.S Preventive Services Task Force. This site is geared more toward healthcare professionals, but it’s full of information on evidence-based recommendations for preventive medicine.
  • My Fitness Pal. This is such an easy fitness app to use. BabyCenter. I love this app for pregnancy, baby and parenting information.

Q

What are three things that surprised you as a first-time mom?

A

First, the instant and indescribable love I felt for my sweet baby boy. Before I had Sebastian, I thought I might be bitter about giving up certain aspects of my life, but I felt the opposite. I was also surprised to find how simple things like lying on the floor together can make me happy. That’s not to say every single second is fun and games, but I couldn't be happier to do anything and everything for Sebastian.

Second, the first few weeks were harder than medical school! The sleep deprivation is no joke!

Lastly, I had no idea how many outfits and onesies I would go through in one day!

Q

Farmers Markets are popular this time of year. What foods do you typically buy at local stands?

A

I love visiting Farmers Markets in the summer. Buying fresh fruits and vegetables from a local farmer is a great way to support the community. They also tend to be a little healthier than what you buy at the store. They retain more of their nutrients because they aren’t stored in a warehouse first. Local produce tastes better, too, because the farmers pick it at its peak.

Some of my favorite foods to buy locally:

  • Beets
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Edamame
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Herbs
  • Micro greens
  • Okra
  • Peppers
  • Summer squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips

Did you know North Kansas City Hospital participates in the Farmers Market at the Gladstone Hy-Vee? Our next two events are coming up soon. We hope you’ll stop by!

NKCH and Gladstone Hy-Vee Farmers Market

July 16
Eating Healthy & Exercise
7 a.m.-noon

August 17
Making Positive Choices
2-6 p.m.

Q

What are your favorite summertime health and beauty tips?

A

Some of my favorite summer tips are:

  • Wear sunblock every day! Remember to reapply it after swimming or if you do something that makes you sweat a lot.
  • Freeze aloe vera in ice cube trays for quick and convenient sunburn relief.
  • Use topical hydrocortisone cream for heat rash relief. It the rash isn’t better in three days, call your doctor.
  • Use cream-based makeup instead of powder-based.
  • Wear waterproof mascara to prevent your makeup from running.
  • Grill out every time you get the chance. I love to splash some oil, fresh grated ginger and pepper onto squash, zucchini and bell peppers and grill them up.

Q

What are three questions patients should ask during an office visit?

A

I love talking with my patients and taking the time to get to know them better. Open communication is so important in building a trusting relationship with your doctor. Of course, I want patients to feel comfortable asking me anything. But, I also feel discussing the following topics helps me better understand overall health and wellness needs.

  1. Do I need all of these medications? Am I taking the right medications for my condition(s)? The best thing you can do is bring an up-to-date list of your medications to each visit. It’s important to understand each medicine’s purpose and its possible side effects. Then, we can talk about if they are the right ones for you and make adjustments, if needed. >
  2. Am I up to date on my cancer screenings? Early detection of cancer is essential to getting effective treatment. Talk to your doctor about mammograms, PAP smears and colonoscopies.
  3. Am I a healthy weight? I have a passion for healthy living, and all doctors want to help their patients take steps toward a healthier lifestyle. Weight management plays such a big role in our long-term health that it should be discussed. I work with my patients to help them achieve their weight goals. I encourage you to take an active role in your care by asking questions and being open about your health history. A simple conversation can open the door to a lifetime of health and wellness.

Q

Your complexion is absolutely beautiful! What are some of your skin care secrets?

A

Thank you for the compliment! I work hard to keep myself looking and feeling healthy. Here are a few of my “not-so-secret” secrets.

Hydrate. Staying hydrated keeps the skin cells full. I try to drink at least 2 liters of water each day and avoid coffee and alcohol because they can leave your skin dry.

Wear sunblock daily. I cannot emphasize this enough. UV rays from the sun are the No. 1 cause of wrinkles and premature aging. Wear sunscreen even if you work indoors or it is cloudy outside. I recommend wearing at least SPF 30. It can be tricky to find the right sun screen, and you’ll have to do some trial and error to find one that isn’t too greasy for your skin.

Wash your face every night. Sleeping with makeup on can clog your pores and cause acne or irritate your skin. My skin tends to be dry, so after I wash my face at night, I moisturize with argan oil. Every two or three days, I use a prescription-strength retinoid.

Try a retinol cream. Retinol creams are great and can help refine pores and keep skin smooth. I like RoC Retinol cream, which you can buy over the counter. Talk with your doctor or dermatologist to see if a prescription strength retinoid is a good option for you.

Stop smoking. You can’t have youthful-looking skin if you smoke. Smoking causes premature aging and a dull, dry complexion. The toxins in nicotine work against the natural cell barriers in your skin and weaken them.

I would caution that the cosmetics industry is heavy in advertising. There is no miracle cream that erases all wrinkles and dark spots. A hefty price tag does not mean one product is better than the other.

Q

I struggle with packing a healthy lunch. What’s in your lunch bag?

A

I try to pack foods that are quick and easy. If you looked in my lunch bag on any given day, you’d find:

  • 1 liter of water
  • Apple or pear slices with a scoop of peanut butter
  • A Greek yogurt cup
  • A handful of dark chocolate covered almonds (I buy a large bag at Costco)
  • 2 Babybel cheeses, original

I don’t eat everything in one sitting. I like to have extra food close at hand to keep me energized throughout the day. I also keep a supply of tea bags (and a water boiler), KIND granola bars and dried fruit in my office for a quick pick me up.

Q

What are the first signs of menopause? What advice can you give regarding how to cope with it?

A

The first signs of menopause usually start around age 47, but they can show up earlier than that, depending on the woman. Clinically speaking, you’ve officially entered menopause when you’ve gone through 12 months of absent periods, and you are over 45 years of age. The initial signs are:

  • Irregular periods
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Sudden hot flashes

Hot flashes are typically the most debilitating symptom of menopause. Sleep with a fan by your bedside, exercise to keep your energy level up during the day and make sure you’re getting enough sleep at night.

When you start to experience symptoms of menopause, it’s important to let your doctor know so you can have the proper tests done to ensure it’s menopause and not thyroid disease. Your doctor can also prescribe a variety of medications to help with irritability and hot flashes.

Q

I’m feeling run down and unmotivated more than usual this winter. Is this common? How can I deal with it?

A

Yes, it’s common. You’re probably feeling this way due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Long, dark winters can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm (your sleep cycle), causing more fatigue. Getting quality shut-eye is your best bet, but there are other helpful tricks.

  • Exercise. Get your blood pumping, and your heart rate going! Whether it’s taking a fun aerobics class or jogging around the block, exercise is proven to improve your mood. If the sun is out, even better. We don’t get as much vitamin D as we should in the winter, so any time you can spend in the sun is a valuable opportunity.
  • Light up your house. Increasing the amount of light in your house just a little bit will boost your mood during the winter. So go ahead and buy that cool floor lamp while you’re shopping online. It will literally lighten your mood.
  • Spend time with the girls. Don’t let your social calendar suffer just because you’re too chilly to move! Invite your friends to a happy hour or host a watch party for your favorite TV series. Making commitments with other people will force you to be more active, and spending time with others is guaranteed to brighten the blues.

If you’re making a serious effort but still can’t relieve sadness, then you might have a more severe form of depression and should consult your doctor.

Q

I want to make a New Year's resolution, but I want to promise myself more than simply "going to the gym more often." Can you suggest some other ideas for staying happy and healthy in the new year?

A

Try resolving to work healthy habits into your lifestyle where and when you can. Did you know just 30 minutes of exercise four or five times a week can make a difference? Anything from a brisk walk to dancing to your favorite tunes while cooking will help. And imagine how good you’ll feel about yourself if you eat something green every day – a smoothie, a salad or even green pepper on your pizza.

Remember that mind is as important as body. If meditation isn’t for you, just try staying positive. Write down three good things about your day, every day, and after just a few weeks you’ll notice a happy difference.

Dr. Ancy
Ancy Maruthanal, MD

Internist
Meritas Health NKC
Club W Medical Director

Ancy Maruthanal, MD

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