It’s no secret women love to look and feel great. And that’s no easy task, since they have to juggle jobs, houses, children, spouses and other responsibilities.
Dr Donna Matthew, a medical doctor and owner of the Caribbean Weight Loss Clinic And Spa says a healthy woman is not just in tip-top shape on the outside, as she hastens to dismiss the ever present media images of the perfect size 6 model, acne and wrinkle-free faces, and arms and legs free of cellulite.
She asserts that good health is a complete lifestyle: mind, body and soul, and it’s within the reach of every woman.
“Women are under a lot of stress . . . . A lot of women become bogged down with the stress of work, stress of kids, stress of the house, stress of the husband; and because of that, they don’t find time to refresh and replenish the soul; and because of that the things they take on mentally are manifested physically.
“. . . So the first thing I find that women have to do is to get away to de-stress mentally; to just take sometime out for themselves. The other thing for a woman to be healthy is to have a strong spiritual base to cope when the pressure of work or home starts to hit.”
The doctor shares the view that women with a positive outlook and a strong, spiritual foundation pretty much have the basics –– but she notes it’s not that simple for women who seldom spend time taking care of themselves.
“What I find happens with a lot of women is that they put God first, husband, children, job, puppy, neighbour’s children in that order, and then they put themselves, and by doing that they don’t look after themselves.
“I always tell my patients: God, then you, and then anybody else after. If you put yourself first you will find you look after yourself better, and by looking after yourself better, then you can actually help your family because you look after your family better, and because they are getting good treatment from you, they now in turn treat you better.”
Once these basics are covered, Dr Matthew advises women to ensure they know their family history. This, she believes can make a world of difference.
“ The same way that we get looks and brains from our family, we get our health from our family. So sometimes you would see a family where the mother is diabetic, the father is diabetic. Chances are the kids are going to be diabetic; so you have to know where you come from. If you know where you come from, you will know what diseases you can get genetically.”
The doctor is concerned that Barbadian women are most afflicted by lifestyle diseases: hypertension, diabetes, strokes and cancers of the reproductive organs.
She makes it clear that healthy eating, exercise and regular medical checks are a must for every woman whether you’re young, middle-aged or elderly. She pointed out that while every stage was different, women must pay attention to their bodies.
Starting with the early age groups, the 20s and 30s, Dr Matthew recommends women seek medical checks, which would include a blood test to measure full blood count, as well as an HIV test, along with your partner to know your status.
In addition, she says young females should have their pap smears and the CA125 blood test –– which screens for cancer of the ovaries. Women in the 30s will need to additionally seek liver and kidney tests
Dr Matthew says it’s in the 40s when most women are going through hormonal changes in preparation for menopause that they need to pay closer attention.
“Make sure you have your mammogram for early screening to make sure there is no breast cancer. You also want to get your colonoscopy done . . . . So what women have to do to make sure that there are healthy is to supplement. If they are going through the menopause they want to be taking things that can help with that . . . .”
For ladies in the 50s, 60s and beyond, Dr Matthew recommends ongoing tests on a yearly basis.
“Because the idea now is to focus on prevention –– if we can pick up something and nip it in the bud. We do that now, as opposed to waiting for the disease to come.”
Overall, she stressed that women needed to focus more on prevention by keeping their weight down, exercising, eating properly and tuning in to their bodies.
“Most women know their body, they know what it is the norm and they know when something is not right; and I think we as women have that power of intuition. If you feel that something is wrong, go the doctor.”