Doctor of the Week: Dr. Ryan Roy!

"Dr. Ryan A. Roy joined the Woman's Clinic in 2006 after completing his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Tennessee at Memphis. As a resident, Dr. Roy was honored with the Excellence in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Award, and did research on smoking cessation during pregnancy. As an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee at Martin, Dr. Roy's honors and awards include being named a University Scholar, Phi Kappa Phi, Summa Cum Laude, and Student Ambassador. In keeping with the Woman's Clinic mission of offering cutting edge personal care to their patients, Dr Roy was the first doctor in West Tennessee to perform a "Gentle" or "Patient Centered" C-Section. He and his wife Molly enjoy traveling, Ole Miss Football, and spending time with family and friends."

Please check back with us on Friday for a follow up with Dr. Roy! 

Follow Up With - Dr. Ryan Roy!

Dr. Ryan Roy focused his studies on smoking cessation during pregnancy. This follow up will be information on just that! Please follow the link listed below for more information on this process. 

"Question: Despite being highly motivated to quit, many of my patients struggle with smoking cessation during pregnancy. Can you comment on the current treatment options and discuss their safety and efficacy during pregnancy?

Answer: Given the considerable and well-documented adverse effects of antenatal smoking on mother and fetus, pharmacotherapy for smoking cessation should be considered. Available medications include nicotine replacement therapy, sustained-release bupropion, and varenicline. Nicotine replacement therapy and bupropion do not appear to increase the risk of major malformations; however, there is currently limited evidence on the use of varenicline during pregnancy. Given that these agents are only marginally successful in smoking cessation, their use should always be accompanied by behavioural counseling and education to maximize quit rates."

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3352787/

Follow Up With - Dr J. Paul Gray!

"The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and other tissues that form a sling or hammock across the pelvis. In women, it holds the uterus, bladder, bowel, and other pelvic organs in place so that they can work properly. The pelvic floor can become weak or be injured. The main causes are pregnancy and childbirth. Other causes include being overweight, radiation treatment, surgery, and getting older.

Common symptoms include:

  • Feeling heaviness, fullness, pulling, or aching in the vagina. It gets worse by the end of the day or during a bowel movement.
  • Seeing or feeling a "bulge" or "something coming out" of the vagina
  • Having a hard time starting to urinate or emptying the bladder completely
  • Having frequent urinary tract infections
  • Leaking urine when you cough, laugh, or exercise
  • Feeling an urgent or frequent need to urinate
  • Feeling pain while urinating
  • Leaking stool or having a hard time controlling gas
  • Being constipated
  • Having a hard time making it to the bathroom in time"

Doctor of the Week: Dr. J. Paul Gray!

"Originally from Thibodaux, Louisiana, Dr. Gray moved to Jackson, TN and joined the Woman’s Clinic in 1994. He sees both low risk and high risk obstetric patients. His gynecological practice includes treating patients who have urinary incontinence, pelvic prolapse, pelvic pain, need menopause management or a woman’s wellness exam. His desire is to offer all of his patients the options of surgical and non-surgical choices. Non-surgical choices in treatment of pelvic pain and urinary incontinence include pelvic floor rehabilitation, medical therapy and pessary placement, and diet modification. He also offers surgical management of urinary incontinence, pelvic prolapse, laparoscopic surgery, hysteroscopic surgery, and outpatient endometrial ablation.

In 2008 Dr. Gray began a natural family planning practice in a contraceptive free environment. His practice methodology focuses on offering alternatives to traditional methods of birth control and he wants to ensure that women are given their options in a pressure free environment. Dr. Gray now manages gynecological problems such as heavy periods, frequent periods, and pelvic pain without the use of birth control pills. Dr. Gray helps women to achieve or not achieve pregnancy by using the natural family planning practice. Dr. Gray is no longer performing tubal ligations with his patients. For patients that are having difficulty achieving pregnancy, Dr. Gray is able to manage their care with alternatives other than In Vitro Fertilization."

Please check with us on Friday for a follow up with Dr. Gray! 

Follow Up With - Dr. David J. Soll

The information about Dr. Soll referenced the Tennessee Medical Association. Here is the web page and official website and "about" section. 

"The Tennessee Medical Association is the state’s largest professional association for physicians. We improve the health of Tennessee by bringing all physicians together in efforts to continually improve effectiveness of physician care and ensure proper policy to serve the best interests of patients and the profession.

Open to all medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy licensed to practice in Tennessee, TMA serves 9,000 members who also participate in local, regional and specialty medical societies throughout the state."

https://www.tnmed.org/

Doctor of the Week: Dr. David Soll!

Dr. David Soll joined the Woman's Clinic, P.A. in January, 2003. After completing medical school at the University of Iowa, he completed a residency in Family Medicine at the Phoenix Baptist Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. He then completed a fellowship in High Risk Obstetrics in Spokane, Washington with Family Medicine of Spokane, an affiliate of the University of Washington. Returning to Arizona he was in a group practice until he joined the residency program of the Phoenix Integrated Program in Obstetrics and Gynecology. He subsequently was Board Certified in 2000 by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Soll belongs to the Tennessee Medical Association, American College of OB/GYN, and the American Academy of Family Practice. His practice interests include high-risk obstetrics and operative laparoscopy. He is a Clinical Faculty Instructor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. His personal interests include tennis and horses.  Dr. Soll is married to Deborah Soll and has two children, Tianna and Christopher.

Please continue to check back with us at the end of the week for more information on Dr. Soll! 

Doctor of the Week: Dr. David J. Soll

Dr. David Soll joined the Woman's Clinic, P.A. in January, 2003. After completing medical school at the University of Iowa, he completed a residency in Family Medicine at the Phoenix Baptist Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. He then completed a fellowship in High Risk Obstetrics in Spokane, Washington with Family Medicine of Spokane, an affiliate of the University of Washington. Returning to Arizona he was in a group practice until he joined the residency program of the Phoenix Integrated Program in Obstetrics and Gynecology. He subsequently was Board Certified in 2000 by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Soll belongs to the Tennessee Medical Association, American College of OB/GYN, and the American Academy of Family Practice. His practice interests include high-risk obstetrics and operative laparoscopy. He is a Clinical Faculty Instructor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. His personal interests include tennis and horses.  Dr. Soll is married to Deborah Soll and has two children, Tianna and Christopher.

Please continue to check back with us at the end of the week for more information on Dr. Soll! 

Doctor of the Week: Dr. Madhav Boyapati

Dr. Madhav Boyapati joined the Woman's Clinic in 2000 after completing his residency. He and his wife, Sonia, are from Tupelo, Mississippi; however, his family has lived in the Jackson area since 1992. Dr. Boyapati's research publications include: Identification of Oncogenes by Fluorescent in Situ Hybridization in Mixed Mullerian Sarcoma of the Uterus, Optimization of the Computer Controlled System and Tissue Damage Profiles for the Free Electron Laser, and Identification of Transcription Activation Factors Regulators for the Insulin Gene in the Rat CDNA Library.

We will be hosting a follow-up post with some information about Dr. Boyapati's research and practices. Join us again On Friday for more. 

Cosmetic Boutique At The Woman's Clinic

Would you like to appear refreshed and feel more confident? Botox can help soften the lines that make us look older than we feel. The Woman's Clinic Cosmetic Boutique gladly schedules complimentary consultations and helps design individualized plans for rejuvenation. Be sure to ask us about our current special "Two on Tuesdays" and the Allergan Brilliant Distinctions Program. Learn More!

Check out these before and after photos. Your results can be our next success!

Before

Before

After

After

Before

After

After

What It Feels Like When a Woman Has a Heart Attack

What do you see when you imagine a heart attack? Does the victim — probably a man — stop what he's doing, clutch his chest, and fall to the floor? We call that the "Hollywood Heart Attack." It doesn't paint the most accurate picture, particularly for women. The truth is: Heart attacks can be much harder to spot. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. More women than men die from their heart attacks. That's why I want to share with you the common symptoms of a heart attack in women.

Here are the seven symptoms every woman should know:

  1. Chest pain or discomfort. This feels like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain around your heart or in your chest. It usually lasts for more than a few minutes, or it goes away and comes back. It may feel like heartburn or indigestion.
  2. Sharp pain in your upper body. Women are more likely than men to experience pain in the back, neck, or jaw. But it can also include pain in one or both of your arms, shoulders, or the upper part of your stomach. Some women say this pain feels like it's radiating from their chests.
  3. Shortness of breath. You may struggle to breathe or take deep breaths while resting, doing light physical activity, or doing something that wouldn't normally make it difficult for you to breathe. You can experience this symptom with or without chest pain, and it may be the only symptom you have.
  4. Breaking out in a cold sweat. You may also experience unexplained or excessive sweating. Don't excuse this as a symptoms of perimenopause or menopause.
  5. Sudden or unusual tiredness. This is one of the easiest symptoms to ignore, but more than half of women who have a heart attack report feeling muscle tiredness or weakness that's not related to exercise.
  6. Light-headedness or sudden dizziness. You may feel suddenly dizzy, like you stood up too fast.
  7. Unexplained nausea. Women are twice as likely as men to experience nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting, or indigestion during a heart attack.

I urge you to listen to your body — it could be telling you it's time to call 9-1-1. Don't ignore or downplay your symptoms. Acting quickly can help save your life. If you experience any of the symptoms described above, don't wait — Make the Call. Don't Miss a Beat. For more information on heart attack symptoms and getting care, visit our Make the Call. Don't Miss a Beat. website and watch this video for an easy way to remember the symptoms of a heart attack.

Share this post with the women in your life and make sure everyone knows the signs of a heart attack. You could help save a life!  

6 Tips for Healthy Aging

It's a new year, full of opportunity, promise, and hope. While no one knows what 2015 will bring, there is one truth we can't escape: we're all older than we were last year. Aging is a natural part of life, and it's up to us to make the most of it. To me, that means being active and feeling my best. No matter your age, you can feel your best, too! Here are six easy ways you can stay active and healthy in 2015.

  1. Eat smart. I know it's not always easy to eat well. But a healthy diet can reduce your risk for women's major health problems — heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

    Start by making small changes. Pick leaner proteins (lean beef, chicken, and fish) and whole grains. (Not sure what to do with whole grains? Check this out.) Swap sugary drinks for water, and pick fat-free and low-fat milk products. I also work fruits and vegetables into every meal. Top your morning cereal with berries, and add vegetables to pasta and casserole dishes. My last piece of food advice is to cook at home as much as possible. Why? It gives you more control over what you eat. Need healthy recipe ideas? Check out the MyPlate Recipes Pinterest board.
  2. Move more. Exercise is one of Mother Nature's best anti-aging remedies. Regular exercise not only helps you live longer, but it also helps you sleep better, stay at a healthy weight, and feel good about yourself. Plus, it can be a lot of fun. How much exercise do you need? Aim for two and a half hours (about 30 minutes a day) of moderately intense activity a week (such as brisk walking) and two or more days of strength training that works all major muscle groups (such as sit-ups and lifting weights). Whether it's gardening, yoga, or hiking, finding activities you enjoy can make it easier to stick with it. Need inspiration? Try these easy exercises.
  3. Ditch the tobacco. Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health — and for the health of those around you. There's no denying that quitting is tough. Ex-smokers say it's one of the hardest things they've ever done, and many quit more than once before they were successful. But they did it, and so can you. Visit women.smokefree.gov for free tools and resources to help you or someone you love quit smoking for good. And don't forget to check with your insurance provider to see if — thanks to the Affordable Care Act — your plan offers no-cost services and medications to help you quit smoking.
  4. Monitor your health. Schedule your well-woman visit every year. Even if you feel fine, a yearly visit allows you to connect with your doctor or nurse. It's your time to get important screenings and to discuss your health habits, family history, and future plans for your health, such as wanting to get pregnant or needing an effective family planning method. It also gives your doctor or nurse a chance to identify problems early, when they're easiest to treat. The best part? The Affordable Care Act requires most private insurance plans to cover your well-woman visit and preventive screenings at no additional cost to you.
  5. Don't forget your "Me Time." Life gets busy. And if you're like me, every time you cross something off your to-do list, you add five more things. Let's put ourselves on our to-do lists. Carve out time just for you every day — even if it's only a few minutes. Do something you enjoy or that feels relaxing and satisfying. Maybe it's meditating, an early morning walk, or a cup of tea and a crossword puzzle. (I like to knit.) Do whatever feels good and helps you de-stress.
  6. Be sun smart. Being safe in the sun isn't just for summer days at the beach. Whenever you're in the sun — even during the winter — you're exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, immune suppression, and cataracts. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself, like wearing protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and hats and sunscreen every day. Your daily moisturizer or foundation may already have sunscreen, but you'll want to use products with SPF 30 or higher. Also be sure it offers broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. And remember those sunglasses — they protect your eyes from sun damage. For more tips, check out these sun safety action steps for you and the whole family.

Let's make the most of the years ahead! Small changes can make a big difference in your overall health, so take one step toward a healthier you today.

An Interview About Heart Disease: Yaskary Reyes

Yaskary Reyes is a woman living with heart disease. As an ambassador for The Heart Truth®, she wants all women to know what steps they can take to prevent or manage heart disease.

Yaskary Reyes is a woman living with heart disease. As an ambassador for The Heart Truth®, she wants all women to know what steps they can take to prevent or manage heart disease.

Did you know heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States — surpassing stroke, diabetes, and even cancer? In honor of American Heart Month, we spoke with Yaskary Reyes. Yaskary is an ambassador for The Heart Truth®, a program sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute that strives to educate women about heart disease and motivate them to take steps to prevent it. She is also living with heart disease.

Due to her unusually strong family history of heart disease, Yaskary's experience is not typical for most women. However, her story makes a compelling case for being aware of your own personal risk factors for heart disease. Yaskary talks about what women should know about heart disease and how she manages it.

Q: Can you tell us about The Heart Truth® campaign and why you got involved?

A: The Heart Truth® is a wonderful, beautiful, and impactful program that appeals to women of all ages and backgrounds. The program uses the Red Dress℠, the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness, to portray, motivate, and bring attention and awareness to heart disease. I got involved with The Heart Truth® because of my connection with WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. I am a WomenHeart Support Network Coordinator and a Heart Champion. WomenHeart advocates for women with heart disease or those at risk. I feel very passionately about awareness and how it can lead us to take important steps to advocate for our own heart health.

Q: What do you think women should know about heart disease?

A: Heart disease has no respect for age, gender, background, or physical appearance. It can be a silent killer, and women need to be proactive about being aware of symptoms, risks, and hereditary factors.

Q: What advice would you give to other women about their heart health?

A: Be an advocate for your own heart health! Learn to identify the signals that our bodies give and know the risks associated with the disease.

Because we tend to multitask by being mothers and wives, often while working outside our homes, there are times that doctors would tell us that we are just stressed, but we need to persist in having further tests when we know that it is not merely stress. On a Saturday morning, my younger sister, 51, went to her doctor's office crying. She had all of the symptoms of a heart attack. Her doctor questioned her as to why she was crying and told her that she was stressed and sent her home with painkillers. The following day, while having lunch at a restaurant, she almost had a cardiac arrest. I had already spoken with my sister about calling 911 if she felt symptoms again; this saved her life! The ER doctor told her that if she had gone home from the restaurant instead of to the ER, she would not have survived.

Q: Women may know that high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, and being overweight are risk factors for heart disease. What other risk factors do you think women should be aware of?

A: In my case, a strong family history/genetic factor on both sides of my family.

My mom and dad both died of heart disease — it runs in both sides of my family. My mom was only 38 when she died of a heart attack. I was 15 years old. One of my aunts had a heart attack at 33 and underwent triple bypass surgery; she died at 41. Many other aunts and uncles have died in their mid-50s. Young cousins have had heart attacks in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. And you know about my sister's experience!

Q: Because it runs in your family, did you take any steps to try and prevent heart disease?

A: The first step that I took was to follow a cardiologist's wise advice to the family after my aunt's death in 1986. He stressed the importance for the newer generation to be aware of this deadly disease in the family, and suggested that family members begin to have regular checkups and tests done at an early age. I was tested in my early 20s, and the results showed that I had genetic risk factors for heart disease.

Also, because of my strong family history, I have always done some sort of regular exercise. In my early 20s, I jogged and went to the gym a lot. In my late 20s and early 30s, I took aerobics and walked 20 to 25 minutes to and from work every day.

Because I followed the doctor's advice to get regular tests, they discovered that I had multiple arterial blockages when I was 49. In January 2010, I underwent emergency quintuple bypass surgery. Doctors told me that I was a "living miracle" and were surprised that I had not had a heart attack.

Also, because of the genetic factor in my family, I took proactive measures to check my 6-year-old son's cholesterol. The screening results were incredibly high at 350 — especially high for a child that young. This is when I truly realized the importance of knowing our numbers and of being aware, no matter how young you are.

Q: Tell us about the events leading up to your diagnosis. What did you experience?

A: Awareness has been a key factor. Even though my cholesterol levels were high, I never experienced the typical angina symptoms associated with cardiovascular disease. I have always been diligent about having regular blood work and echo stress tests done in order to help prevent heart disease.

In late 2009, I went to my primary care doctor and mentioned to her that it had been about a couple of years since I had my last echo stress test and that I wanted to have one done. She asked whether I was experiencing chest pain and I told her no, but that I had been feeling a very mild pressure on my left shoulder over the last couple of months. Considering my family history, my doctor approved the tests. In January 2010 I had an echo stress test, and the results were positive for possible arterial blockages.

My doctor called me at work the following morning and told me to go home and rest, not to expose myself to traffic, stress, or the cold weather that we were having in Florida that particular January. She also told me that she personally had made an appointment for me to go see a cardiologist that afternoon and emphasized that it was very important for me to leave work, go to my appointment, and just stay home resting until I received my test results. This was so shocking. I told my doctor that she was talking to me as if I were going to die and that I was feeling fine. At that moment, it was very difficult to accept what she was telling me. It was a very busy time in the office, but I went home and then to my appointment with the cardiologist that afternoon. However, I did go back to work while I waited for my test results, because I wasn't feeling sick or experiencing typical chest pains or angina symptoms — at least that's what I thought. I know better now.

Q: Once you were diagnosed, what kind of treatment did you receive?

A: Once I was diagnosed for possible cardiovascular disease, based on the results of the echo stress test, the cardiologist scheduled a cardiac catheterization a few days after. On the day of the catheterization the doctor told me that he was surprised that I was still alive and able to walk and breathe, due to the high level of blockages in my major arteries. He called my husband into the room and told us that I needed to have emergency bypass surgery, possibly triple bypass or more. He said the number of bypasses I needed would be determined at the time of my surgery, which was scheduled for the following day. This is when my cardiologist and surgeon, along with a team of cardiologists told me that I was “a living miracle.”

Q: Since your surgery, what changes have you made to lead a more heart-healthy lifestyle?

A: I've always found it challenging to keep healthy eating habits. There are many foods I don't eat any more, and I am much more careful when making meal choices. I eat salads for lunch about three times a week, and I have cut down on portion sizes.

To learn more about how to lower your risk for heart disease, visit The Heart Truth® at www.hearttruth.gov.

To learn the seven most common symptoms of a heart attack, visit our Make the Call. Don't Miss a Beat. website.

The Heart Truth® is a registered trademark, and Red Dress℠ is a service mark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The statements and opinions in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health.

5 Small Changes That Can Improve Your Health in Your 20s, 30s, and Beyond

Sometimes it feels like being healthy is just a list of things we shouldn't do. No eating this, no drinking that, no doing this, no doing that. The no's can steal the joy right out of everyday life. What if we told ourselves "yes" instead?

National Women's Health Week is all about shouting a resounding YES! to living a healthier life. Yes! to taking care of ourselves, body and mind. Yes! to preparing for the future. Yes! to making better choices. While you may need to make different kinds of changes depending on your age and stage of life, all women can make small changes for better health.

Here are some ways to say YES! to a healthier you this National Women's Health Week:

  1. ACTUALLY Eat Healthy
    You've heard this one time and time again. So what's stopping you? There are tons of recipes, cooking tips, and meal plans (with shopping lists!) to choose from. You can even get the kids on board. In your 20s? Now's the time to get in the habit of healthy eating. Learning to eat well now will make it a lot easier to keep eating well throughout your life.
  2. Get Active, No Matter Where You Are
    You know you need to work out, but it doesn't have to be in a gym. Spend a little more time doing the things you love. For example, walk the dog a little bit faster, for a little bit longer every day. Little steps can lead to big changes. If you love dancing, take a dance class. Or if you enjoy socializing, join a tennis team, or start a running group. In your 30s? It's not too late to fit exercise into your life and develop a routine. The exercise will help with stress, too.
  1. Pay Attention to Your Mental Health
    This one can be tough, especially for women who juggle work and family. After all, if it was easy to lessen stress, wouldn't we all be doing it? When you're feeling stressed, try stretching, deep breathing, or talking it out with a friend. If one thing doesn't work, try something else. (Here are some ideas to get you started.) In your 40s? Perimenopause might affect your sleep, moods, and sex life. Talk to your provider about how to deal with your symptoms.
  2. Get Regular Checkups and Preventive Screenings
    One of the best ways to reduce your risk for illness and disease is to see your health care provider regularly — before you get sick. In your 50s? Ask your provider about which cancer screenings you need and how often.
  3. Use Smart Judgement
    Every time you text while driving or ride a bike without a helmet, you're making a dangerous choice that can have a big impact. Choose healthier options instead! Take time to enjoy your drive, and make your phone call or send your text message when you safely reach your destination. Grab your bike helmet when going on a ride and take solace knowing that you will get to your destination safely. Your decisions can help keep you healthy. No matter your age, quitting smoking is the one of the best things you can do for your health. These apps can help!

This National Women's Health Week, I challenge you to say yes — to a healthier you, at any age!

5 Things to Know: Planning for a Healthy Retirement

May is clearly my month! Between Older Americans Month and National Women's Health Week, we get to focus on my kind of people: older women. As wise as my friends and I feel, we certainly agree that there are things we wish we had known when we were younger. Here are a just a few of them.

  1. Don't wait to find out about health problems till it's too late. Focusing on prevention is the key to leading a longer, healthier life. Take advantage of the free preventive screenings offered under the Affordable Care Act. Important cancer screenings, like those for colorectal cancer, are covered without a co-pay, even if you haven't met your yearly deductible. We need preventive care because it helps us catch problems early, when they're easiest to treat. Find out what preventive services are covered for women under the health care law, and then call and schedule an appointment.
  2. Get some exercise at least three times per week. It doesn't have to be extremely strenuous or unpleasant. Ask a friend to go for a walk with you. Listen to your favorite music during exercise. Get time outside with gardening. Park a little further from the mall entrance and add a few more steps to your routine.
  3. Be aware that women's symptoms are unique when a heart attack occurs. Did you hear about Rosie O'Donnell's heart attack? She didn't recognize the symptoms, because they are so different in women than men. Know the seven most common symptoms of a heart attack in women, and if you experience them — or see them in a friend — make the call (to 911!) and don't miss a beat.
  4. It's not fair, but economics has a huge impact on the status of women's health. Researchers suggest several reasons why income, where you live, and how much stress you have affect the state of your health. Better access to medical care and eating healthier foods are major reasons. What can you do to tip the balance back in your favor? Find all the free or low-cost services that best meet your needs, and never let pride get in the way of your health or well-being. I take generic prescription drugs when they are available. Check out your local bargain chain grocery store. (I find some of my favorite items there!)
  5. Speaking of "It's not fair..." Social Security benefits are lower for women. In 2012, the average annual Social Security income received by women 65 years and older was $12,520, compared to $16,398 for men. With longer life expectancies than men, older women tend to live more years in retirement and we have a greater chance of using all of our other sources of income. My advice? Don't put all your assets in a joint account or let your partner handle all the finances single-handedly. Do it together, so you know what's going on. I also like to keep an eye on investments.

My friends and I agree that being older and wiser is pretty great. Knowing how to protect our "health and wealth" so that we can have both of them for many years to come makes it even better.

Barbara J. Easterling is president of the Alliance for Retired Americans. She was previously the secretary-treasurer of the Communications Workers of America. For more information, visit www.retiredamericans.org or call 1-800-333-7212.

An Interview About Breast Cancer: Amy Robach

Good Morning America's Amy Robach got the shock of her life last fall. Read about how a mammogram on live TV saved Amy’s life.

Good Morning America's Amy Robach got the shock of her life last fall. Read about how a mammogram on live TV saved Amy’s life.

Good Morning America's Amy Robach got the shock of her life in November 2013 when she was diagnosed as one of the 1-in-8 women in America who will be affected by breast cancer in their lifetimes. She has confronted her diagnosis of breast cancer by speaking out in support of others facing the disease.

Q: You discovered your breast cancer in an unusually public way. Would you tell us about that? 

A: I was asked by Good Morning America producers to have the first-ever mammogram on live television to raise awareness for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I was very hesitant at first, because I was just 40, had no family history of the disease, and felt uncomfortable doing something so private, so publicly!

I was convinced when producers and my colleague, Robin Roberts, told me they were trying to reach women just like me — women who thought they couldn't have breast cancer. I'll never forget Robin saying to me "If you save one life because of early detection, it's completely worth the sacrifice." I just had no idea then that I would be saving my own life!

Q: What were your first thoughts when you received the diagnosis? 

A: I was in complete shock. I went back in for some follow-up images after the initial mammogram, never thinking just a few hours later I would have a cancer diagnosis. No one is ever prepared to hear those words … I was alone and in a state of disbelief. I've never been so scared, so devastated in my entire life.

Q: You've said that if it wasn't for your co-worker Robin Roberts, herself a breast cancer survivor, you may not have gotten your screening mammogram. What is your message to other women about the importance of screening? Especially younger working women? 

A: I've learned that if you're a woman, and you're getting older, you're at risk for breast cancer. More than 80 percent of breast cancer patients have zero family history. I had no knowledge of that statistic until I became a part of it. Mammograms aren't perfect, but they're what we've got, and a mammogram saved my life. I felt completely healthy, I felt invincible … all the while I had two malignant tumors in me, and the cancer had already spread to one of my lymph nodes. Women have to realize that ignorance is not bliss when it comes to cancer. Get screened. Every year. No excuses.

Q: Can you tell us about your course of treatment and how that has gone so far? 

A: I had a bilateral mastectomy, where my surgeon found a second, hidden, malignant tumor, and further testing showed my left breast had a number of pre-cancerous cells developing. Because of my age and the fact that the cancer had spread to my sentinel lymph node, my oncologist felt the responsible next step was eight rounds of chemotherapy. After seven months of expanders in my breasts, I just had reconstructive surgery with implants. Now I begin 10 years of tamoxifen, starting at the end of June. The mental battle will always be with me, and I will never take my health for granted again. Not ever.

Q: What message do you have for others who have been diagnosed with breast cancer? 

A: Know that you're not alone. There are nearly 2 million breast cancer survivors in this country, and we are thriving, excelling, living. Yes, it is a hellish journey through surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and drug therapy. But you will emerge a better person. I promise. You are stronger than you think, and you will find your inner warrior. Your family and friends will marvel at your strength, and they will weep with you on those days when you just don't want to get out of bed. It gets easier, and after this, there's nothing you can't do!

Q: We know your family and friends have been very important to your success so far. What has been most helpful to you in the support you have received? 

A: Support is everything. No one can do this alone. Every smile, every hug, every kind word, message, letter has had a tremendous impact on my will to keep going. I simply do not have the words to thank everyone who has been there for me in both little and big ways. Collectively, they have kept me in fighting mode and carried me through the toughest time in my life. I am eternally grateful and hope to pay it forward in every way possible. Fight like a girl!!!!

 

The statements and opinions in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health.

Ed. note: This interview is cross-posted from NIH MedlinePlus the magazine. The interview appeared in the summer 2014 issue. Read the original interview.

Make a Difference in the Lives of the Men You Love

June is Men's Health Month. Wait, why are we talking about men's health on a women's health website? Because men's health affects women in some pretty significant ways, and there's a lot you can do to help the men in your life lead longer, healthier lives.

Let's start with the basics. In general, men have poorer health habits and are less likely to take preventive health steps than women. Men are 24% less likely than women to have visited a health care provider in the past year. When they do get medical attention, they often cancel follow-up appointments, don't finish their prescriptions, and play down the seriousness of illnesses and diseases. Men are also more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and make risky choices, such as not wearing a seatbelt. The results? Men are about 60% more likely than women to die of heart disease and over 40% more likely to die of cancer. On average, women live about five years longer than men.

What's heartbreaking is that some of these deaths can be prevented, but for some reason, too many men are unwilling or unable to make the basic (but, admittedly, not always easy) changes that could literally save their lives.

So what can we do as women to help the men in our lives take better care of themselves? Let's start by understanding why it may be difficult for some men to take the same approach to health as you. Traditionally, boys were brought up not to cry, complain, or show signs of weakness. As a result, it's my experience that many men think that what they don't know can't hurt them. Unfortunately, ignorance isn't bliss. I call it the "terrible toos." In their 20s, men are too tough to see a doctor. In their 30s, they're too busy to take time for preventive care. In their 40s and beyond, they're too afraid of what they might find out. Let the men in your life know that preventive care is important for everyone — even if they feel fine — because it catches problems early, when they're easier to treat. If your partner is nervous about getting a checkup, offer to go with him or meet him afterward for coffee or lunch.

There are many other ways you can help the men in your life lead longer, healthier lives. Be a role model for them and set a good example by following these additional preventive health tips. The best part is, you can do a lot of them together!

  • Make time for exercise. Physical activity can help you control your weight and reduce your risk for serious diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
  • Eat healthy. Get plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free milk products. Get more tips for making smarter food choices (PDF, 805 KB), and find tips specifically for men (PDF, 695 KB).
  • Quit smoking. Help loved ones quit, too. It's the best thing you can do for your health and for the health of those around you.   
  • Educate yourself. Learn about common health issues affecting both men and women. Share what you learn with the men in your life. You can get all the information you need at menshealthnetwork.org and womenshealth.gov.  
  • Talk about health. Talking openly and honestly about health can help you and your family feel more comfortable sharing health concerns or symptoms with each other. Take even the smallest symptoms seriously and discuss them with a health care provider.

These changes may not happen overnight. Building healthier habits takes time. Eventually, though, you may be able to improve the quality — and the length — of the lives of the men you love. And in the process, you'll be improving your own quality of life, too.

An Interview With a Woman Overcoming Depression and Anxiety: Karen Lange

Karen Lange has been in treatment for her anxiety and depression for 14 years. Thanks to her treatment, she rediscovered her love for acting. Today, she is proud to be an actor, a singer, an improviser, a producer, and the co-director of an up-and-coming theater company. She’s leading a full and happy life in the Washington, DC, area with her husband.

Karen Lange has been in treatment for her anxiety and depression for 14 years. Thanks to her treatment, she rediscovered her love for acting. Today, she is proud to be an actor, a singer, an improviser, a producer, and the co-director of an up-and-coming theater company. She’s leading a full and happy life in the Washington, DC, area with her husband.

Mental illness can interfere with daily life. Although often neglected by women, mental health is just as important as physical health. Here to tell us about her experiences facing anxiety and depression is Karen Lange. She understands that good mental health is important to her overall well-being. In honor of National Recovery Month, learn why Karen made the decision to take control of her mental health and find support.

Q: How is depression different from feeling down or blue? What type of anxiety disorder have you been diagnosed with?  How do the two diagnoses impact each other?

A: Depression is different from feeling down or blue because it’s persistent. When you’re down because something happens, usually it goes away after a certain amount of time, but depression lingers. 

Diagnoses are tricky to pin down, but I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. My diagnosis is very connected to the fears I had growing up, which led to insomnia because I was afraid of what could happen at night.

When I was a kid, my mom was fascinated by serial killers. We had lots of books around the house and she would share stories. I think she thought being aware would make me more cautious and mindful of my surroundings, but it terrified me. It’s an anxiety that stuck with me for a long time. It wasn’t quick or easy to overcome.

That’s the thing about anxiety disorders; despite rational thought, this was still an irrational fear I couldn’t get rid of. It didn’t help that I’m a creative person with a vivid imagination.

As for how they impact each other, I think not getting enough sleep made my depression worse. I’d wake up not rested and would feel worse about the general state of life. In therapy, I found it more difficult to face up to fears than feelings, but by easing my anxiety, I was better able to work on the depression. I think for a lot of people who are in treatment, it's frustrating. You just want it all to go away. I wanted to work on both issues, but the successes in battling my anxiety opened the door for dealing with my depression.

Q: Before you were diagnosed with anxiety and depression, what was your day-to-day life like?

A: I dealt with a lot of sleeplessness during the evening, and part of my depression was irritability. Irritability is hard to avoid when you don’t get enough sleep, so I would be easily angered or frustrated by things during the day.

With my depression, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, ever. There’s a certain part of depression that isn’t direct emotional sadness, but it was more of an inability to feel deeply about anything. People may think that depressed people spend a lot of time crying, but I didn’t. I used to try to for some kind of release, but I couldn’t. It’s sort of a numbness and an inability to determine how to change it. It’s not as though there’s no ability to enjoy joyful things. I got married and got new jobs, all of which were exciting, but you end up moving back to that weird status of not being super happy or super sad. If you don’t treat depression, it keeps coming back.

Q: How old were you when you were diagnosed?

A: It was my senior year of college. I was 21.

Q: What made you decide to find support?

A: I wanted to get help after breaking up with my boyfriend, who is now my husband. I realized that I had poured everything I was into our relationship and didn’t have a lot left for myself. It made me look at my life, who I was, and who I was becoming. I started seeing a psychologist regularly and went on antidepressants.

I realized how I was feeling was part of a bigger thing. The combination of the therapy and the antidepressants really helped me. The medication didn’t solve all my problems, but they it enabled me to cope better and be more productive with my therapist.

Q: How did you feel when you were diagnosed?

A: I was relieved. I had been worried I was beyond help, but getting diagnosed helped me realize I wasn’t alone. A lot of other people out there get it and struggle with the same things. Also, I was relieved because this was a way to help me make plans.

Q: Can you tell us how you manage your symptoms?

A: It’s been easier to manage my symptoms since I found more satisfaction in what I do with my life. The treatment helped make that possible. Right now I’m not doing talk therapy; it just no longer felt necessary to have a weekly visit. But I am on two medications for depression and I take a sleep aid. A win for me will be to kick the sleeping medication.

Q:What is life like for you now?

A: Life is great right now! After being in treatment for a while, I realized I missed acting. I had acted when I was younger. I took some improv classes and over time moved into musical trouopes. I enjoyed writing songs and being in musicals, and eventually I moved into scripted acting. Then I started getting auditions and roles. It has become a great outlet, and I don’t think I would have been able to do it without treatment. I learned to get over the assumption that no one would ever want to watch me perform. Getting treatment helps you rediscover what you love.

Q: The stigma around mental illness still exists, even with all that’s being done to build knowledge and understanding about mental illnesses. Why do you think that is?

A: I think that people fear mental illness. There seems to be this attitude that you should be able to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and you’re somehow weak if you have a mental illness. I also think when people hear “mental illness,” they think of someone who is violent or psychotic. 

I think people fear telling others or getting help because they believe it’s a sign of weakness, especially taking medication. People should be able to get whatever support feels most helpful to them. 

Q: Have you ever felt discriminated against or embarrassed to tell people about your anxiety and depression?

A: Yes. It feels private. With my insomnia I have trouble getting up early in the morning, and it’s difficult to have people understand that I’m not just being lazy, especially in the workplace. I’ve only ever disclosed this with one job, and my request to work different hours wasn’t received understandingly. I was asked for a written note and diagnosis from my therapist for my personnel file, which didn’t feel right. I think people are nervous to disclose things like insomnia or depression with potential employers. They worry employers might not want to hire them. 

Many of us may have to deal with depression at some point in our lives. If we don’t get the help we need, it can be a lifelong problem. Yes, depression is a lifelong thing to manage, but getting help and developing a toolbox helps you just live your life. It doesn’t have to be something you think about all the time. 

Q: Do you have any words of advice for women struggling with mental illnesses?

A: Do not be afraid to go and get help. And there’s help available even for those who aren’t financially able to find a therapist and just start paying the out-of-pocket costs. There are community services and other ways to find help.

Getting help is not a weakness. It’s a sign of strength. It’s a legitimate illness. It’s about your health and enjoying your life. Be open to trying the things that are out there. Try the different things that are available and find what works for you.

Also, don’t feel like you’re all alone. There are lots of people who feel the way you do. The only difference is some of us are able to get help, while others try to white-knuckle it. I think about it this way: If you’re trying to lift a 2,000-pound weight by yourself, it’s impossible, but if you have a support system helping you lift it, it’s achievable.

To learn more about mental health illnesses, visit the mental health section of womenshealth.gov.

Call our Helpline at 800-994-9662 to order Women’s Mental Health: What it means to you.

To learn more about steps you can take to keep your mind healthy, visit our good mental health page.