Written by Laura Roe Stevens
By nature, women are caretakers and jugglers who notoriously look after
the needs of others more than their own. However, women need to prioritize
their own health to live longer and more vibrant lives. With that in mind,
Sunetris Fluellen, MD, and
Joseph Roofeh, MD, both OB-GYNs with Torrance Memorial Physician Network Women’s Center
How important is the annual OB-GYN exam?
Dr. Sunetris Fluellen: The annual exam is imperative. It is a preventative care visit which allows
patients and healthcare providers an opportunity to identify potential
issues early and allows optimization of overall health.
Dr. Joseph Roofeh: The annual exam is vital to a woman’s health. It provides an opportunity
for women to access preventative services and discuss strategies to achieve
a healthy lifestyle and minimize health risks including family planning,
prepregnancy counseling, the timing of pregnancy, and diet and exercise
regimens to improve overall health.
Many doctors believe there is a link between hormones and stress. What
advice do you have for women to better monitor their hormone levels during
times of high stress—particularly as we endure this pandemic—to
determine if mood swings are stress- or anxiety-related or indicate a
Dr. Fluellen: Stress can definitely cause a hormonal imbalance that can present in anxiety,
depression, irregular menstrual cycles, sleep disturbance, vaginal dryness,
night sweats and more. The best way to optimize hormone levels at home
is to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, exercise at least 150 minutes
per week and attempt to decrease stressors in your life.
Dr. Roofeh: I agree. It’s hard to decipher if anxiety and mood swings are from
increasing stress or hormonal imbalance. Timing of the mood swings can
shed light on whether they are related to hormonal imbalance. Mood swings
resulting from hormonal imbalance usually arise four days before through
the first two days of a woman’s cycle and almost always resolve
once her period is over. Mood swings related to hormonal imbalance are
often accompanied by other physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms
such as irritability, depression, food cravings, breast tenderness, headache,
hot flashes, swelling and bloating. One good way to distinguish is to
keep a daily calendar to see if mood swings come during periods. The best
ways to optimize hormonal levels and reduce stress/anxiety are through
adequate sleep, well-balanced diet and regular exercise.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in America today,
according to the American Cancer Society. How important is the annual
Dr. Fluellen: The annual breast exam is very important and strongly recommended. Therapies
have improved over the years, but earlier diagnosis is typically associated
with better outcomes. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology
(ACOG) recommends beginning annual mammograms at age 40, or 10 years before
a first-degree relative was diagnosed with breast cancer. The American
Cancer Society recommends annual screening for women aged 40-54, with
biennial option for screening in women 55 and older.
Dr. Roofeh: Breast exams are very important! According to most medical societies’
recommendations, women should routinely get clinical breast exams by a
trained provider. The websites cdc.gov/cancer/nbccedp/screenings.htm and
freemammograms.org are good places to find affordable or even free mammograms.
What are the biggest health concerns women should monitor?
Dr. Fluellen: Female-related cancers (cervical, uterine and breast), pelvic infections,
high blood pressure and diabetes. Taking a multivitamin, eating a well-balanced
diet (incorporating a DASH diet—Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension—or
low-carb diet if needed) and exercising regularly are essential to decreasing
risks of high blood pressure and diabetes. Staying current on your annual
exam is important.
Dr. Roofeh: In medicine there is a saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth
a pound of cure.” The biggest health concern today is chronic illness
such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol leading
to heart disease, which is the leading killer in women. A close second
is breast cancer. A good diet, regular exercise and annual screenings
are the best preventative measures.
5 Tips to Boost Women's Health
Lower stress. Stress is linked to high blood pressure, stroke, ulcers, sleep disturbance,
infertility and heart disease. To reduce stress levels, download a meditation
app, take nature walks, lighten your load (it’s OK to say no!),
start a gentle yoga practice and listen to fun music when doing chores
around the house.
Exercise. Physical exercise reduces your risk of osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s,
depression, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. So get moving in the right
direction with a mix of cardio and resistance or weight training three
to five times a week.
Diet. Lose weight, feel good and reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes
and autoimmune diseases by limiting sugar, red meat and processed and
fried foods. Fill your diet with the colors of the rainbow: fruit, vegetables,
legumes, whole grains, nuts and fresh fish. If you are dairy-intolerant,
consider taking a calcium supplement and eat more fruits, greens and beans
that have calcium (such as strawberries, broccoli and tofu).
Sleep. A good night's sleep is vital for good health, but many of us don’t
get enough. Consider earlier and lighter dinners, exercising more, lowering
your caffeine intake and taking a warm bath instead of doing chores and
work before bed.
Hydrate. It’s good for your skin, digestion, memory, mood and weight control.
Carry a water bottle with you and opt for water over soda and coffee as
much as possible.
Sunetris Fluellen, MD, is an OB-GYN specialist at Torrance Memorial Physician Network Women’s
Center in Torrance at 2841 Lomita Blvd., Ste. 200. She can be reached
at (310) 784-6822.
Joseph Roofeh, MD, is an OB-GYN specialist at Torrance Memorial Physician Network Carson
Obstetrics at 824 E. Carson St., Ste. 203. He can be reached at (310) 543-5488.
Both doctors also practice at Torrance Memorial Physician Network Women’s
Center in San Pedro at 24909 S. Western Ave. in Rancho Palos Verdes.