For women, a good doctor-patient relationship means that you talk… really talk. After all, when it comes to women’s health and wellness, you need to do a lot more than just “open up and say ahhhh.”
According to Dr. Varnado, a Cornell-educated physician and regular on-air medical and health expert in which she’s known as “Dr. V,” these five topics are conversation musts:
1 – “Are my sleep patterns (or lack thereof) seriously impacting my health?”
How much do you sleep? Do you wake up feeling exhausted even when you go to bed early? Do you suffer from insomnia? “Sleep is one of the most powerful ways we heal our body naturally and keep it healthy, and disruptive sleep patterns could be putting your health at risk,” says Dr. V. The topic of whether you need to (or do too much) counting sheep is definitely one to put at the top of your doctor to-do list so that any sleep issues can be identified and then resolved. Not only does lack of sleep affect your professional and personal life and performance, Dr. V. explains, it could be the sign of something more serious, such as sleep apnea.
In addition to sleep issues and mouth-breathing at night, other symptoms of sleep apnea, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and heart attacks, include experiencing difficulty waking up in the morning, falling asleep during the day, emotional changes like irritability or feelings of sadness or depression, or difficulty concentrating. “Approximately 22 million Americans have sleep apnea, and most people don’t know they have it.”
2 – “Am I at risk for heart disease? What are my ‘numbers’?”
“Women are four to six times more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer and heart disease kills more women than all cancer combined,” warns Dr. V. It is also the number one cause of death for women. This is not something you want to put off until your later years!
Heart disease is a silent killer, so know your numbers, she urges: “Get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked regularly.”
3 – “My sexual health is one of my number one priorities! Can I be tested regularly?”
It’s important that you keep your sexual health in check, says Dr. V. “As a woman, this should be a top priority. Don’t hide your head in the sand if something feels ‘off’ – talk to your doctor about anything that looks or feels different than the norm.” She also encourages women to be proactive and get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, all of which are statistically on the rise. “The good news is most STDs are treatable, but the sooner you discover them, the better – in fact it could save your life!”
4 – “Do I need more vitamin D?”
“A lack of Vitamin D may be the reason you are feeling tired and fatigued,” explains Dr. V. Your body makes vitamin D when the skin is expos ed to the sun, but cloudy days, spending considerable time indoors or having darker skin limits the amount of vitamin D your skin can make. “It’s important to get Vitamin D from other sources because it’s necessary to build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis,” says Dr. V. “Studies have shown it’s also important for preventing depression, cancer, even asthma.”
5 – “Could I be living with anemia? Can I get my levels checked?”
Iron deficiency anemia can be common among women who have heavy periods or fibroids, says Dr. V. However, anemia can be a symptom of other issues like sickle cell disease or more ominous causes such as colon cancer Anemia can cause significant issues such as shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, and an “ashen” pale appearance. These symptoms are not normal and should be investigated. She encourages patients to request that hemoglobin and hematocrit levels be checked.
Dr. V is also the founder of the Get Checked for Life, a non-profit that assists underserved communities and ethnic groups in improving their quality of life by educating and giving them access to the necessary tools and medical resources to live a long healthy life.