Celebrating International Women’s Day: What Women Need to Know About Their Health

Celebrating International Women’s Day: What Women Need to Know About Their Health

“Take control of your health. How you or your body responds to something may be very different from your friend, neighbor or the gal standing in front of you at the coffee shop, so try not to worry or compare yourself to others. You have only one life to live, make it your own and make it your best!”

Kimberly P., MD

Family Medicine Physician , Kaiser Permanente Santa Monica Office

What do women commonly overlook when it comes to paying attention to their health?

KP: Women often care for others’ health care needs before tending to their own. We are great at taking family members to the doctor and we call a friend when they’re sick. However, if it’s us getting sick, we call a friend or research “Dr. Google” and get scared when we read something on the Internet.

Going to the doctor is sometimes last on our list. Some of us are too embarrassed or too busy, and others of us are too afraid to hear what the doctor has to say. But regular checkups are so important as are regular physicals to prevent disease. What’s most important is to listen to your body and seek medical care when you think it may be trying to tell you something. But also, lean on your doctor to guide you through your health concerns.

Are there certain diseases that women are more susceptible to that women should be screened for on a regular basis? How often should those checkups be?

KP: I generally encourage all patients to come in every year for at least a checkup. Discussing your diet, exercise, lifestyle, checking to make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date, and having a blood pressure check can prompt conversation for continued health maintenance and surveillance. Tests such as diabetes screening, cholesterol, liver, kidneys, thyroid, and others may be discussed with your primary care physician as well as the interval they are recommended, curtailed individually for you. Blood tests are not necessarily required annually unless there is a medical reason, concern or symptom your doctor wants to check.

There are some screenings that are designed specifically for women.  For example, while both men and women can acquire the HPV virus through sexual intercourse, the HPV virus can also make women susceptible to cervical cancer. For this reason, women are encouraged to undergo regular cervical cancer screenings called pap smears. It is now recommended to start after the age of 21 and to have a pap smear every 3 years between the ages of 21-29 and every 5 years between the ages of 30 to 65, unless instructed otherwise by your doctor or with a history of abnormal prior test results.

Breast cancer screening is also important and I recommend annual breast exams with most of my patients who are in their mid-20s and older. The USPTF advises starting mammograms at age 50 and every 2 years after that.  Some women may choose to start this screening at age 40 or possibly even younger (if needed) because of personal or family history but this should be discussed with your doctor.

Lastly, we recommend all female patients of child-bearing age to have STD screenings when sexually active, especially when unprotected. Exposure to chlamydia and/or gonorrhea can lead to scarring and fertility concerns for women if left untreated.

When it comes to improving mental health, what are some tips that women (and men) can do to improve their mental well-being?

Good mental health is essential for all people, men and women alike. Our mental health affects more than just our mood. It also affects our energy, sleep, concentration, productivity, relationships, work, weight, eating habits, and so many more things in our daily lives.  Depression and anxiety are experienced by most women at least once in their lives and 1 in 5 will have experienced it within the past 12 months. My recommendations are to stay active and try to exercise regularly. Starting with something easy and not overly daunting such as 30 minutes, 3-5 times per week is a great starting place. If you can’t make it to a gym, get out of the house for some fresh air, take a walk and stretch! This will help open up your chest and your heart. Find what works best for you whether its yoga, or for me, boxing. There are so many options to explore, see if anything can strike your fancy and help protect your mental wellbeing. Exercise helps promote endorphins- the brain’s natural pain killer- enhancing mood and sleep – and it can show you great results that can, with time, improve the way you feel.

Meditation is also a wonderful practice for mental wellbeing. It can help gain perspective, reflection, and mindfulness. Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk to someone! Whether it’s a friend, religious figure or getting professional counseling, there are people who care and resources to help, especially in time of crisis.

Everyone’s body is different, but when it comes to the general health for women, are there certain foods they should be eating? Increase in their diet?

KP: First and foremost, try to avoid fad diets. Life is about moderation. It’s OK to treat yourself every once in a while, but find a meal plan that works right for you; something you can sustain and is easy to follow for you. Be mindful of portion size and ingredients that are on the labels. Read the whole label!  When possible try to stick to foods that are low in inflammation. Chose nutrition dense foods such as green veggies. Reduce your intake of sugars and processed foods, and opt for whole grains, lean proteins, and leafy greens. Here are some other tips:

  • Eat Fiber
    • Beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts are great examples. These foods are a great source of fiber and protein and high-fiber diets have been linked with good intestinal health and bowel regularity, decreased cardiovascular disease, are high in isoflavone (soybeans are the highest), and can help reduce PMS and menopausal symptoms.
  • Eat Yogurt
    • Low-fat yogurt can be beneficial to the intestines as a probiotic to help reduce inflammation in the digestive tract.
  • Protect your heart
    • 2-3 servings per week of fatty fish (Omega 3 fatty acids: DHA and EPA) such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel can help as an anti-inflammatory for many disease processes including heart disease and stroke.
  • Get Vitamin D
    • This includes low-fat milk, fish (as listed above) and certain juices. You want to be taking in at least 800 iu daily. For those of us who do not have the time spend basking in the sunlight and naturally building or vitamin D levels (sunscreen also reduces natural vitamin D absorption), a diet rich in vitamin D can help with fatigue, calcium absorption and reduce the risk of various disease processes in our body.
  • The Power of Berries
    • Eat fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries. They have a high level of vitamin C and folic acid, but also offer a powerful source of antioxidant (protecting the heart and skin, for example) and an anticancer nutrient called Anthocyanin which helps in cell repair.
  • Eat Red Fruits
    • Tomatoes, watermelon, red grapefruit, and navel oranges provide lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant.

What vitamins are essential for women? Is it better to consume these in daily supplements or in day-to-day foods?

KP: It is best to get your vitamins and micronutrients in your diet rather than chasing after supplements.  Your body is an amazing tool and can more effectively extract the nutrients it needs from the foods you consume than by getting it thru a supplement. However, there are a few diagnoses that may require vitamins:

For example, if you have a diagnosis of osteoporosis, then Calcium and Vitamin D are helpful in bone health. Also, vitamins are essential for women when they are planning to conceive or are pregnant. Taking a daily prenatal vitamin to ensure adequate folic acid and B vitamins are essential.

If my patients really want to take any supplements I encourage Vitamin D, Omega 3 and fiber.  These are the most common things lacking in normal American diets, and even a multivitamin does not provide this for you. A daily multivitamin is generally not necessary.

If you are still not convinced please consult your doctor but always be careful when taking over the counter supplements. Sometimes, taking too much can lead to complications such as liver, kidney or heart disorders that you would have never otherwise known or expected.

Responses provided by Kimberly Petrick, MD, Family Medicine Physician at the Kaiser Permanente Santa Monica Office. Some slight grammatical adjustments were made. 


Recommended Reading

The Heart: Love, Fitness and Heartbreak – Podcast Ep. 18

The Heart: Love, Fitness and Heartbreak – Podcast Ep. 18


Welcome to the 18th episode of the Living Healthy Podcast, presented by LA Fitness.

Can you really die of a broken heart? We asked Subbarao Myla, Medical Director at the HOAG Cardiovascular Institute, this exact same question and the answer might surprise you. 

How Are We Doing? 


This podcast should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.


Timecard Markers – The Heart: Love, Fitness and Heartbreak – Podcast Ep. 18

***The Physical Side of the Heart – Part 1*** 

Introduction   

0:01   

Introduction of Subbarao Myla, Medical Director at the HOAG Cardiovascular Institute

Begins at 0:55 

What Makes the Heart So Special? 

Begins at 1:41   

What is Heart Disease Exactly? 

Begins at 2:55  

What Causes the Beginning Breakdown of the Heart? 

Begins at 4:28 

What Type of Exercise is Best for the Heart? 

Begins 5:38 

Why Do People’s Heartrates Vary So Greatly?  

Begins at 7:37 

Subtle Warning Signs of the Heart 

Begins at 9:55 

High Blood Pressure vs. High Heart Rate – Which is Worse? 

Begins at 13:53 

***The Spiritual Side of the Heart – Part 2***  

Does Love Actually, Truly, Affect the Heart? 

Begins at 16:02 

Can You Really Die of a Broken Heart?  

Begins at 19:46 

Can You Fix a Broken Heart? How Long Does It Take to Fix a Broken Heart? 

Begins at 22:49  

Teenagers and Cell Phone Use: Predicting Depressive Tendencies  

Begins at 25:00 

How to Make Your Heart Feel Happier 

Begins at 26:04 

The Elderly and Loneliness 

Begins at 28:05 

***The Nutritional Side of the Heart – Part 3*** 

Heart Healthy Foods 

Begins at 30:46 

Eat Brighter Foods? Here’s Why 

Begins at 33:43 

Portion Control – How Much to Cut Out 

Begins at 34:04 

How Much Dark Chocolate is Healthy for You   

Begins at 36:43  

Actionable Advice 

Begins at 38:12  

Outro 

Begins at 40:32 


Recommended Podcast Episodes 

What is ALS and Could It Affect You?

What is ALS and Could It Affect You?

When you think fitness, what comes to mind? Toned muscles, flat abs, strong and trendy fitness influencers? Chances are that your mind doesn’t think of progressive muscle weakness, but that’s exactly what former fitness industry leader Augie Nieto experienced when he was diagnosed with the crippling disease ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), otherwise referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Photographed: Lynne and Augie 

Photographed: Matt Bellina and Team

But what is ALS and who does ALS affect?  

“ALS is a disorder that affects the function of nerves and muscles”1. One of the mysterious things about this disease is that researchers don’t yet know what causes it, but they do have some insight on those most heavily afflicted by the disease.

Per the ALS Association, Massachusetts Chapter –

Most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, with an average age of 55 at the time of diagnosis. However, cases of the disease do occur in persons in their twenties and thirties. Generally, ALS occurs in greater percentages as men and women grow older. ALS is 20% more common in men than in women. However, with increasing age, the incidence of ALS is more equal between men and women.2

While an exact cause has not yet been discovered, “it is known […] that military veterans, particularly those deployed during the Gulf War, are approximately twice as likely to develop ALS.”3

One fortunate thing about this disease is that it is not contagious. However, that doesn’t help ease the minds of friends and families whose loved ones struggle with this deliberating condition.

Fifteen new cases are recorded each day4, estimating that as many as 20,000 Americans have the disease at any given time. The onset of ALS symptoms can be as common as muscle weakness or stiffness. Once the disease progresses, however, “vital functions such as speech, swallowing and later breathing”5 are lost.

There is currently no cure for ALS.

In 1995, the FDA approved a drug known as Riluzole. This drug has scientifically shown “to prolong the life of persons with ALS by at least a few months.”6

Each year, LA Fitness partners with Augie’s Quest, founded by Life Fitness leader, Augie Nieto. His foundation raises money to help fund ALS research. It’s his mission to one day find a cure for this horrible disease.

If you would like to learn more about how you can donate, please visit www.lafitnesscares.com.

For more information on ALS, click here and here.

Photographed: Collin Hadley and family 

Photographed: Andrea Lytle Peet 

Sources:

  1. “Who Gets ALS?” org, webma.alsa.org/site/PageServer/?pagename=MA_1_WhoGets.html.
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid
  5. Ibid
  6. Ibid

Recommended Reading

Does Love Really Affect the Heart?

Does Love Really Affect the Heart?

Ah, love. Is there anything more freeing than the feeling of being completely, utterly, and hopelessly in love? When suddenly, the world seems calmer, colors seem brighter, and you just can’t hide the smile that stays stuck to your face. True love is pretty wonderful because it makes us the best version of ourselves – and often, the best version of ourselves makes others want to be the best version of themselves. It’s an ooey-gooey cheesy feeling that is truly amazing.

Reflecting upon how good love makes us feel inside, we reached out to American Heart Association volunteer John A. Osborne, MD, PhD, the director of Preventive Cardiology at State of The Heart Cardiology in Dallas, TX to understand if these feel-good feelings actually affect the heart.

Dr. Osborne, is this true, does love really have an effect on the heart?

Absolutely!  As anyone who has ever been in love (or read about it) knows!  It not only makes one’s heart “pitter-patter” and makes us feel wondrous, it may actually be good for your heart health!  When you are in love (and feel loved), one’s blood pressure responds to that peace and calm and may translate to lower blood pressure.  High Blood Pressure is the most common form of cardiovascular disease and affects about one-half of US adults.  If this “silent killer” is not identified, treated, and controlled, it could take between 5 to 7 years off the average lifespan!  In fact, those who are married or in long -term supportive relationships live longer and have better recoveries if they do encounter heart problems.  Patients who have a good social support system had better recoveries and survival rates after bypass surgery than those who did not.  This survival benefit also extends to our four-legged friends as well!  Don’t forget about them on Valentine’s Day either!

What about the opposite – can you really die of a broken heart?

The short answer is yes!  Only in the 1980s was this described in the medical literature, although for centuries that concept of “dying from a broken heart” has been well described in literature, operas, plays, and, most recently, movies!  It is called “Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy” and is more common in women and looks like a typical heart attack, but in this case, there are no blockages in the blood vessels unlike how the vast majority of heart attacks occur.  It is felt that a sudden, massive release of catecholamines (the stress hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and other stress hormones) can cause severe vasoconstriction of the blood vessels to the heart and cause a heart attack, heart damage, heart failure, and even sudden death!   Fortunately, if diagnosed properly and with appropriate medical care, the damage can be prevented, and our heart can heal itself with time and medications.

What are some ways you can make your heart feel happier and stronger?

A good diet (the Mediterranean Diet was voted, yet again, the best overall diet in 2019) and regular exercise along with a no tobacco lifestyle are the foundations for excellent cardiovascular and all-around health.  A small amount of dark chocolate – with its blood pressure lowering anti-oxidants, flavonols, and catechins, and best of all shared with your loved one(s) – can’t hurt!  The AHA has a great app to help with this called “My Cardiac Coach” that is available for your smartphone and large number of resources on the web at www.heart.org.

Responses above provided by American Heart Association volunteer, John A. Osborne, MD, Ph.D., the director of Preventive Cardiology at State of The Heart Cardiology in Dallas, TX. 


Recommended Reading

Life with ALS – Podcast Ep. 17

Life with ALS – Podcast Ep. 17


Welcome to the 17th episode of the Living Healthy Podcast, presented by LA Fitness.

On this episode of Living Healthy, we speak with Lynne Nieto, wife of Augie Nieto, and co-founder of Augie’s Quest. Their mission is to find a cure for ALS. Lynne educates us on what ALS is, who it affects, and how you can help find a cure for this debilitating disease.

Text AUGIE to 44-321 to help show your support for this great cause. 

How Are We Doing? 


This podcast should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.


Timecard Markers – Life with ALS – Podcast Ep. 17

Introduction

0:01

Lynne Nieto, of Augie’s Quest, Joins the Show

Begins at 1:12

What is ALS?

Begins at 1:28

Who Does ALS Affect?

Begins at 2:22

Who is Augie Nieto? What is Augie’s Quest?

Begins at 3:45

Augie and the Fitness Industry

Begins 4:33

Life Before the Diagnosis vs. After the Diagnosis

Begins at 5:44

About the ALS Therapy Development Institute

Begins at 6:17

How Does ALS Affect People Differently?

Begins at 7:05

How Does ALS Affect Families?

Begins at 8:37

The AT-1501 Drug

Begins at 10:32

How Does Humor Help?

Begins at 11:32

Intimacy and ALS

Begins at 13:11

How You Can Get Involved

Begins at 14:10

Actionable Advice

Begins at 14:43

Outro

Begins at 15:53


Recommended Podcast Episodes 

SUBSCRIBE TO

LIVING HEALTHY

Be the first to know about exclusive

content, deals and promotions

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest