Steps toward good health
When you’re a busy woman juggling household responsibilities, work and possibly parenting, your own health can take a backseat but if you want to keep on keeping on, you need to remember the ‘oxygen mask’ message.
This is part of the preflight safety briefing which says you should fit your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else with their mask. In other words, you can’t care for other people if you haven’t taken care of yourself first.
A GP with an interest in chronic illness, the North Shore’s Dr Frances Pitsilis often sees ‘‘worn out super women’’ who put everyone else before themselves. If she was to recommend three steps to good health from women, Dr Frances says number one would be to slow down and reevaluate one’s commitments, priorities and goals.
‘‘For a long time, women were told they could have it all but there’s always a price to be paid. Be wary of looking at people and thinking they have it all because, as I say, there’s always a price to pay and you don’t know what they’re paying. The fancy car may be on lease; they could be struggling to keep up the mortgage repayments on the big house.’’
The second recommendation is to get support. If you’re a working parent with housework to do, is it better to hire a cleaner rather than spend time scrubbing, dusting, sweeping and vacuuming when you could be with the kids or do something less stressful?
‘‘Unless, of course, you are the type of person who finds housework relaxing; some people do! Also help your children to grow up into effective and confident adults by teaching them some skills and responsibilities so you’re not doing all the running around.
‘‘It’s important to make some time on a regular basis to do something you enjoy which allows you to relax and unwind. It may be meeting some friends for coffee or going for a walk, listening to some music or even doing some housework. Everyone is different.’’
While a healthy diet and exercise are important, getting enough sleep is also a significant step toward good health. Dr Frances’ third recommendation is to turn the computer off by 9.30pm and the light out at 10.30pm.
Gradual changes made during time, rather than quick and temporary stress busters, are best because these are more likely to be sustained and have a lasting impact. A good start is to write down at the end of everyday three good things that happened during the day. This is a way to start looking at the more positive aspects of life.
If you want a health warrant of fitness, she recommends the following checks for women:
Smears: Three yearly unless there have been any abnormalities when it would be yearly
Breast examination by your doctor: Yearly from age 40 years or earlier if there is a family history of breast cancer. This is necessary because mammograms and ultrasound scans do not pick up all suspicious breast lumps
Mammograms: One or two yearly after the age of 40 unless there is a strong family history of breast cancer
Breast ultrasound: Instead of or in addition to mammograms
Pelvic ultrasound: One or two yearly may be useful in cases where there have been fertility treatments in the past, or a strong family history of ovarian cancer.
Dr Frances Pitsilis: Her number one piece of health advice to women would be to slow down and re-evaluate one’s commitments, priorities and goals.