Women are strong, capable, and brilliant – so much so, we should consider them modern-day superheroes. Whether a woman focuses on travel, career development, raising a family (or all and more), staying healthy should be a priority.
But healthy living and disease prevention can feel like intimidating topics to master alone. This is why the support of a family doctor can play a big role.
For women, there are certain concerns – like sexual, reproductive, and mental health among others – they have most often. The key to addressing them is through an integrated approach of preventative and reactive care.
A primary care physician can offer both forms of care throughout a woman’s life. They can also play an active role in her health to encourage a balanced, optimal lifestyle.
We sat down with one of our family physicians, Dr. Stephanie Lue-Quee, to learn more about women’s top health concerns and her suggestions for healthy living.
Preventative vs. Reactive Care
At HealthOne, we believe in providing a complete approach to healthcare. “A lot of medicine nowadays is reactive care. You take care of people once the problem is there,” Dr. Stephanie says.
Reactive care comes into play when health problems are noticeable. A patient presenting cold symptoms might be given antibiotics, for example. This addresses the illness at hand. But what about preventing that cold in the first place?
“An equally important part of our job is preventative care. If we can stop the problems before they happen, or catch them early, that’s better than waiting.”
A family doctor may suggest lifestyle changes, for example, that give the woman a stronger immune system and a lower likelihood of developing that illness. Examples could be a healthy diet, immune-boosting supplements, and adequate sleep.
An integrated approach can be applied to all areas of well-being. But which health concerns for women are most common, and what can be done?
From menstruation to conceiving to menopause, sexual health is always an important area of health. One of the main concerns Dr. Stephanie hears from female patients is sexually transmitted infections.
Prevention here is key through the form of regular STI checks – even if a woman isn’t presenting symptoms. “It’s important for women especially because some STI’s can go undetected. It can cause problems with fertility or their health down the line.” she shares.
Examples include the risk of more serious diseases, such as cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer can develop if a woman’s body is exposed to an STI called the human papillomavirus (HPV). It can be difficult to notice symptoms early on. This is why prevention is so important.
“Once women are sexually active and when they turn 21, they should be having regular pap smears every three years,” Dr. Stephanie advises. “And all women can get Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. It protects against cervical cancer.”
Women should also be screened if they do notice symptoms. Any changes such as period irregularities, pain during sex, or other changes should be shared with a medical professional.
Discussing sexual health, however, can be a personal and sensitive topic. The entire experience will feel more comfortable if a woman visits a doctor she likes and trusts.
It’s also helpful if she wishes to discuss questions, issues with her partner, or other topics surrounding her sexuality.
“In the past, I think women have been afraid to talk about themselves and their sexual health or sexuality. So, it’s important for them to feel comfortable. That way if there’s an issue, they can talk to their doctor about it.”
A woman’s reproductive health also becomes a priority as she matures. Many concerns that come with the decision to conceive can be addressed with her family physician.
Preconception counselling is an option worth considering. This is where a doctor can review any preexisting conditions that she or her partner should be aware of. The couple can also review their overall health and hear lifestyle suggestions to aid in getting pregnant.
“During the pregnancy, care can also include managing how the pregnancy goes, doing prenatal testing, and answering any questions. Especially if they’re first-time parents,” says Dr. Stephanie.
Through motherhood and as a woman ages, disease prevention should remain a priority. Preventative measures against breast cancer should be taken, especially during late adulthood.
“The screening program starts at 50. Women should be getting mammograms every 2 years once they hit that age – unless they notice any lumps or changes in their own breast,” says Dr. Stephanie.
A family doctor can offer unique preventative measures depending on medical history. If she has family members who have had breast cancer, her doctor might suggest starting the screening process sooner.
If multiple family members have had the disease, a doctor might also send her for genetic testing.
It goes without saying that if a woman notices any abnormal symptoms, she should bring them up. It’s through preventative and reactive measures like these that a family physician can provide complete care for women.
On top of physical health, women often have concerns about their mental health. Regardless of age, this is an equally important factor in an inspired life.
The most common issues Dr. Stephanie sees are depression, anxiety, and high levels of stress. Considering the shifts in society and the ever-changing demands of work or family life, it’s no wonder why they're feeling this way.
“Women (or men) will feel like they have to do it all. With things like having a full-time job and taking care of kids, they often put themselves last. They’re not looking after their needs. Whether that’s their diet and not eating properly, exercising less, or even just what they enjoy or find important gets put last. It can weigh on people.”
Again, this can be much easier to manage when you confide in a health practitioner you trust. Mental health challenges can be nerve-wracking and even scary. Especially if you haven’t faced them before.
A family doctor can help you get on the right path in more ways than one.
“I think a lot of people think if they talk to their doctor about this kind of stuff, the doctor will automatically suggest they go on pills. But that's not the case. It doesn’t have to be like that. There are a lot of things you can do. A big one is seeing a doctor, psychologist, counsellor or therapist.”
Our primary care physicians act as trusted resources for patients to share their mental health concerns with. When necessary, they also refer patients to other HealthOne practitioners – such as a Psychotherapist on our Mental Health team – for more individualized treatment.
Methods used may include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Narrative Therapy, and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) among others. They will aim to understand the woman’s unique needs and circumstances. Then, they will determine the best approach.
You can meet our mental health team by scheduling a complimentary Meet & Greet appointment! Click here to learn more.
Healthy Living with a Family Doctor
We all know we should be living a healthy lifestyle. But it’s easier said than done. From infancy to adulthood, the needs of our bodies are always adjusting.
In other specialties, you’ll see a practitioner for specific treatments. You might work with a Physiotherapist to treat an injury or see a Dentist for emergency tooth surgery.
A family doctor will play an active role in your care and provide suggestions for healthy living during all of life’s transitions.
“Lots of things can help. Tips on helping you sleep better, getting enough exercise and a proper diet, yoga, and meditation,” Dr. Stephanie suggests.
These choices will benefit both your mental and physical health. They will help you prevent disease and the onset of health problems.
At HealthOne, we’re driven by our mission to live the same life we recommend to you. Dr. Stephanie and the rest of our practitioners strive to lead healthy, inspired lives so we can help you do the same.
Women’s concerns surrounding sexual, reproductive, and mental health are common. An integrated approach of preventative and reactive care, supported by a family physician, can help them live an inspired life at any stage.
Our family physicians work with female and male patients virtually and in person. Click here to book an appointment at our Medical & Walk-In Clinic.