Guest blogger: Dr. Robin Miller
Looking at the title of this blog you might wonder how I know anything about this subject. As a woman over 50 and a doctor to many, I feel qualified to answer this question at least as it regards health. Clearly we are all unique individuals and our wants and needs may vary but from my personal research these are the top three things that women want for their health and wellness.
1. A Healthy Brain
Most women who I speak with are most afraid of losing their minds. Alzheimer’s and dementia are diseases that touch us all in some way. None of us want to lose our memory and with that our memories. My advice has not wavered for a long time. The key to a healthy brain is to have a healthy heart. Eating a Mediterranean style diet and exercising, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol, having preventive checkups that regulate blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and blood sugar will help to keep the arteries healthy and assure good blood supply to the brain. Taking supplements such as fish oil and folic acid can be helpful as well.
In addition, exercising the brain is important. Learn a new language, find new ways to get to work, avoid using the GPS on your phone and find your own way. And, there is more. An ongoing study of nuns has been illuminating. They have allowed themselves to be studied during their lives and have given permission to have autopsies after they die. What researchers have found is that there was a group of nuns who had Alzheimer’s disease on autopsy but showed no signs of it in life. The unifying feature of these women was that they had a positive attitude and lived a life with a sense of purpose.
How we live physically and spiritually is important for brain and overall health.
2. A Healthy Heart
For many years, heart disease was ignored as a condition that was common to women. Research was focused on men because they were easier to study due to their lack of hormonal fluctuations. The results were extended to women and we were viewed as mini-men with periods.
Women are relatively protected from heart disease until we reach menopause as long as we do not have cardiac risk factors that include: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, family history in a first degree relative, smoking, stress and depression, and a sedentary lifestyle. After menopause we rapidly catch up with men.
Fortunately, our hearts are now getting more attention since there is increased awareness that heart disease is the number one killer of men AND women. I know I am stating the obvious but we are different than men. We know that women with heart attack do not often have the classic symptom of an elephant sitting on the chest. Instead we may feel like we have a bad flu, jaw ache, overwhelming fatigue, nausea, sleep disturbance, shortness of breath and/or anxiety. One study found that 95% of women who had a heart attack when questioned afterwards actually had unusual symptoms during the month beforehand.
The key to a healthy heart is the same as those for a healthy brain. Eat healthy, exercise and prevent heart disease by seeing your doctor and being proactive by attending to cardiac risk factors.
As our ovaries poop out, we often do too. Up to two thirds of women experience menopausal symptoms, which can be distressing for around 20% although it seems like more since we are a vocal group! How can you not get upset when you can’t sleep, your vagina dries out, you feel like your brain is fogged up and you seem to be igniting from the inside out. In addition, there may be weight gain and a redistribution of fat due to the rapid loss of muscle that occurs if you don’t do strength train.
All women will benefit from healthy eating, exercise, and a medical evaluation to review their symptoms and receive treatment if necessary. Some may need hormone replacement. Often there is something else going on such as hypothyroidism, which commonly occurs at menopause. The symptoms are similar so they are often missed.
For vitality it is important that we take this time in our life to become number one on the list. We often put our children, husband or significant other, job, house, pets, and essentially everyone and everything else first. That is probably the most common advice I give. Take care of yourself or you will not be able to take care of anyone else.
Finally, what women want is to be happy. That however, is something that requires its own blog. So tune in next week!
Do you take care of others at the expense of taking care of yourself? Tell us all about it.
And come back next week Dr. Robin Miller’s secrets to happiness!
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File under: Expert Spotlight