Roberta Whitney Hughes
Women’s Wellness Over 40
I grew up in a small military town in Arizona. Living in the desert, my parents always encouraged (maybe more like demanded) that my sister and I wear sunscreen and stay hydrated. From an early age, I remember going to routine dentist visits, getting an annual eye exam, and checking the box for my annual physical. Well-checks were part of my normal as I grew up, which allowed me to carry the practice into my adult life. Even when life got busier in adulthood, planning my annual well-checks was part of my norm.
Having now spent more than half of my adult life going through the different ages and stages of womanhood, I continue to be surprised by how many women forget to make time for well-checks. For me, well-checks offer a proactive approach to health and wellness. They give me a baseline and let me know when changes need to be made to enhance my health. While I often seek a holistic approach to supporting my health and wellness needs, the information I receive at my annual well-checks gives me more power to find the care that is best for my body, mind, and spirit. As we move into the month of May and celebrate Women’s Health Month, it feels like a perfect time to give you the tools to create your own annual wellness plan?
I have found that many women get so caught up in taking care of others, managing their careers and running through daily responsibilities that they forget to take care of themselves. I understand how easy it is to let yourself fall to the bottom of your list. I also know the value in creating the time to take care of yourself. This month, as we celebrate Women’s Health, I invite you to prioritize your personal health. This blog will offer a few ideas to inspire, support, and bring your focus to your own health and well-being.
Create Your Annual Wellness Plan
Your annual wellness plan begins with annual well-check visits. Think of well-checks as an opportunity to understand your physical health, mental health, and emotional well-being. Through routine check-ins, you can track your progress, identify potential health risks ,and address any concerns that arise. Here are the basic visits to add to your plan:
Physical- This well-check is typically performed by your primary care doctor (PCM). I recommend finding a doctor you can get to know and trust. A good relationship with your PCM will encourage you to ask questions, gather information, and make informed decisions about your health and wellness. At your annual physical exam they will check everything from your reflexes to your hormone levels. Be sure to share any concerns you have and ask if the bloodwork will offer information that might help. For women, I recommend asking for a hormone panel in addition to the routine checks they offer. It is good to have a baseline of what your hormones are doing and how they might be changing through the different stages of womanhood.
OBGYN- From the age of 20, I started seeing a gynecologist in addition to my PCM. A gynecologist will perform your annual cervical exam, discuss hormones, and help with family planning as well as birth control needs. The female anatomy and hormones are intricate and vast, changing many times through each stage of life. Many women over the age of 40 begin to experience changes in their menstrual cycles, enter into perimenopause, then menopause. These changes can have a significant impact on mood, stress levels, and relationships. Having a specialist to guide you through the process can help you make the best choices for your body, mind, and spirit.
Mammograms- Beginning at age 40, it is important to schedule your annual breast exam. Thankfully, technology has come a long way, and even in the last ten years, I have noticed a positive shift in getting my annual exam. Invision Sally Jobe has become my favorite place to go for my annual mammogram. Without fail, they deliver warm smiles, caring technicians, and heated robes for you to change into before your exam. The process is easy and painless. Ask for referrals in your area to find a provider that offers a caring experience. You are more likely to return each year when your experience is a positive one.
Colonoscopy- Beginning at age 50, you will want to ask your PCM about scheduling your fist colonoscopy. Depending on your health history, they will help you choose the best time to do your first exam. After your first exam, you will schedule this visit every five years unless the results showed precancerous concerns. I wish I had something good to say about getting a colonoscopy. The truth is, the prep is much worse than the procedure. Have a chat with friends who have been through the process to get encouragement, ideas, and support. It’s worth the effort because colon cancer is painful, so why not do what you can to prevent it by staying on top of your well checks?
Eye Exam- If you do not have vision concerns, your PCM can perform a basic eye exam at your annual well-check. If you wear contacts or glasses, it is best to see an optometrist once a year to check if your vision has changed and to make sure your eyes are healthy. Your eye doctor will offer optional diagnostics that are not covered by insurance. I say yes to these every other year to keep costs low and to make sure I have a full scope of my eye health.
Dental Exam and Cleaning- This is a bi-annual commitment. You will want to go in for a routine cleaning every six months and get x-rays once a year. Most insurance plans cover these basics and taking the time to visit the dentist will keep your oral health in check. Be sure to find a dentist you like and trust. Many dentists have moved into the cosmetic dentistry side of business. While this may be a need or desire for some, it may not be the right fit for you. Your dentist should feel more like a support person and less like a salesman. Shop around until you find the right fit.
Making the Time
So, how does a busy woman make time for all of these visits? While it may seem like it is a lot to manage, you will find a flow once you begin. Here are a few suggestions:
● Schedule your well checks during your birth month. Many doctors now book appointment 3-6 months out. Pull out your calendar and see when you can get your first visit scheduled. Start in your birth month then populate the other appointments within a two month period. If it’s possible to get them all complete in the same month, go for it!
● Find a friend to go with you. One of my good friends has a birthday in November. She and I get our mammograms during her birth week each year. After our exam we enjoy lunch and pumpkin cheesecake. It is one of my favorite celebrations of gratitude every November.
● Schedule your well check at the same time you schedule your kids. Most moms remember to schedule well-checks for their kids then forget about themselves. If you schedule annual appointments for back-to-school, dedicate a few extra minutes to focus on your annual wellness visits, too!
● At the end of a well-check, schedule your next visit. If you cannot schedule a year out, ask them to send a six month reminder so you can get on the schedule and keep your routine.
Getting the first round of visits scheduled may feel like a challenge. Dive in and do it anyway! The payoff is worth it. Beyond physical health, annual well-check visits provide an opportunity to detect any underlying conditions and ensure timely treatment. It offers you the ability to practice in your health and well-being. At PeaceFull Living, we advocate for women to make themselves a priority. We want you to feel healthy, strong, and vibrant at every age and stage of womanhood.
Roberta Hughes is a certified meditation, Pilates, and yoga instructor and the owner of PeaceFull Living, which specializes in helping individuals with personal growth and self-care. Roberta provides customized guidance so students can make the most of their practice and reach their unique goals. She also offers a complimentary Discovery Call to help new clients identify their goals and choose the best program for their needs. If you're looking for personalized instruction or healthy living advice from an experienced teacher, contact Roberta today through the PeaceFull Living website.