Interview by Lynn Mundell
Stress. Cancer scares. Sexual questions. Women’s health concerns run the gamut. Some advice is unchanging. But other times, individuals hold the key to their own health solutions, according to Nancy Goler, MD. An ob-gyn, Dr. Goleris Kaiser Permanente’s regional medical director of the Early Start Program for Northern California, as well as Kaiser Permanente’s clinical director for both the Wellness Coaching Center and the Vallejo Call Center. On Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 12:30 p.m. she leads this month’s Health Talks Online webinar “‘Good to Know’ for Women.” Dr. Goler recently discussed a sample of women’s health topics.
What are women’s top health concerns?
Although a woman’s age tends to affect her health concerns, breast cancer remains the No. 1 worry, with every lump causing major anxiety. Young women tend to be most interested in pregnancy and birth control, as well as sexually transmitted diseases. Women in their 40s and 50s are more concerned with perimenopause and may be most nervous about breast health because they start knowing women being diagnosed. By the 60s and 70s, breast cancer starts to fall more in the background as a greater array of health worries arise, such as colon cancer, hypertension and stroke.
Nancy Goler, MD
Weight seems another hot topic. What’s your advice?
Make moving around a priority, not just to control weight but to keep muscles toned and bones strong. Women’s bone loss happens from the mid-30s onward, so choose exercise that will help bone density as well as heart health. Maintain a moderate lifestyle by eating across the spectrum of food in order to get needed protein. I tell my patients to try having their regular portion of food and then removing one-quarter of it. Second, slow down. If you take 20 minutes to eat a meal, try 30. That will make you more mindful of what you are eating and of when you are actually full.
What are women reluctant to talk about, but should?
Sex and relationship topics sometimes come last on the list when perhaps they should come first. For example, couples need to go on dates and have time together. If you don’t,the libido will be the one taking the vacation. It’s also important to discuss with your doctor any bad or unhealthy relationships with anyone you live with, even your children. All of the sexual questions you are too embarrassed to ask, bring them in. Physicians are there to address substance abuse, too. Kaiser Permanente has many health resources to help people stay healthy.
Kaiser Permanente Health Talks Online
- October 2, 2013 — Women’s Health with Nancy Goler, MD
- November 6, 2013 — Combating and Preventing Diabetes with Eileen Kim, MD
- December 4, 2013 — Food and Mood with Nancy Hoffman, MD
- Archive of Past Health Talks »
How did stress become a top health concern?
I’ve noticed that rarely do my patients say they are not stressed out. I think the causes are stacking up: taking care of young children and aging parents, working hard jobs for long hours, our 24-7 technology diet. If you have adult children, some of them are returning home to live — and that is a stress. Finally, studies show that the division of housework is not 50-50 in most homes. So a woman might work all day and go home to work some more.
There are so many health concerns. How do you begin to address them?
I spend a lot of time listening to my patients to find out what is important to them. Often for women, the motivation is children, a partner, friends, parents — loved ones. That can be the key to getting a woman to stop smoking, for example. She needs to be there for those people in the future. Really, though, I would like my patients to stay healthy for themselves. Make your doctors’ appointments — mammograms and Paps, but also eye checkups, flu vaccinations, anything you need. Then keep those appointments. Ask yourself, what brings you joy or makes you laugh? With those answers, I urge you to make time for those things during the day or week or month. If you don’t know what these things are anymore, start small to find them — and build from there.