Taking charge of your health comes down to focusing on prevention, good self-care, and having a plan of action.
Physical activity, or lack thereof, can have a direct effect on your health. Staying active is one of the best things you can do for prevention.
“Once you get over 40 metabolism starts to slow down, so that is when we start screening for diabetes and other metabolic disorders,” says Dr. Tashinea Bernadin with Piedmont Physicians Fayette South. “It is recommended to do at least 15 minutes of moderate to intense exercise a day or 90 minutes of vigorous activity 3 times a week,” said Bernadin.
Be Mindful of What You Eat
“As women get older they put on weight, so I tell them to avoid too many carbohydrates like breads and pastas that break down quickly and easily and go straight to raise your blood sugar,” says Bernadin.
There is no reason to eliminate food groups. Instead, the goal is to strive for a balance.
“Increase the fiber and protein because those are things your body has to work to get,” says Bernadin.
Raw fruits and vegetables are encouraged because of the fiber.
“Bananas are okay but have a lot of sugar, so I encourage fruit that has skin with fiber like the skin of the kiwi which regulates bowels,” says Bernadin.
Broccoli, kale, celery, asparagus, and cauliflower are also great picks, she says.
“At every preventive exam, we screen patients for depression because sometimes they do not want to bring it up,” says Bernadin.
Sometimes it can be hard to detect while other times there are tell-tale signs.
“We make sure the patient is not feeling sad or down, and the biggest thing in women over 40 is the loss of interest in something they used to enjoy doing, such as if they used to love knitting and now do not knit,” says Bernadin.
Sleep can be an indicator but depends on age.
“Older patients may have a lack of it and cannot go to sleep when they are depressed whereas I see younger patients sleeping more when they are depressed,” says Bernadin.
Eating too little or too much are also signs of a problem.
“Especially when you get stressed, I encourage female patients to reflect back on what they enjoy doing and what brings them happiness and write those things down,” says Bernadin.
Take the time to look back on that list when you feel discouraged or distressed.
“Do something on the list that makes you happy, like getting your hair or nails done or getting a massage because it is important to exercise the things that make you happy on a daily basis,” said Bernadin.
Have an Annual Physical
The well check is essential for precisely that: staying well.
“We do a lot of screening during annual visits like for diabetes and high cholesterol and check the kidneys, liver, and thyroid,” says Bernadin.
Care is always tailored to the patient.
“The yearly visit is great for fairly healthy patients who have no chronic conditions and are not on any medication, but if you are on medication you should be following up with your physician on a regular basis,” says Bernadin.
Certain health conditions warrant being seen more often.
“If you have hypertension or diabetes you should see the doctor at least every 3 months, and if you have depression or anxiety you should see the doctor every 6 months to see how it is going,” said Bernadin.
Have open conversations with your doctor about any questions or concerns that you may have
“Women should know what to feel for if they do their own breast exam and in the older population they are often concerned they have vaginal dryness which happens after menopause because estrogen levels are lower,” says Bernadin.
When the doctor knows you, he or she can better create a wellness plan for you.
Remember that you know yourself better than anybody, and it is essential to be a lifelong advocate for yourself and your well being.
By: Jamie Lober