Steps to­ward good health

Central Leader - - HEALTH& WELL-BEING -

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.

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