If Nancy Van Sloun, MD, could get one message across to all women, it would be this: Love the body you’ve been given.
In appreciating your body, Van Sloun, an integrative medicine doctor at the Penny George™ Institute for Health and Healing-WestHealth, believes you are more likely to take care of it.
And rather than seeing aging and different stages of life as something to fear, Van Sloun advises women to embrace their life’s path. “It’s easy to focus too much on how we look,” she said. “Instead, we should be thinking about what’s next on our life’s journey: How can we best go through it, remain content and do the things that are most important to us?” Van Sloun identified some ways that women can live well throughout their lives.
Twenties and thirties
Whether or not you have children, this is a time when finding balance in your life can be a challenge. Van Sloun encourages women to recognize the importance of balance and to be thoughtful about building it into their lives. “Know what it is that fills you back up, and be deliberate about making time for it,” she said.
If you are planning a pregnancy, check in with your doctor to see what you should do to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Talk about whether vitamins and supplements might be helpful, and discuss any pregnancy risks you may face. If you already have children, remember that you’re a role model. “How kids eat, how physically active they are and how they respond to stress is reflected in what they see in you,” said Van Sloun. “Give your kids the gift of modeling a healthy lifestyle.”
Changes in your menstrual cycle and mood may be signs of peri-menopause. “These changes are easy for some women and harder for others, but overall, women tend to do better if they are exercising and eating a plant-based, whole food diet,” said Van Sloun.
Because we all lose muscle mass as we age, Van Sloun recommends that women include strength training in their exercise routine. “Maintaining muscle mass also makes weight gain less likely,” she said.
This is also a time when your family life may be changing. “It’s time to refocus on yourself and think about what’s next in your life,” said Van Sloun. Don’t overlook the emotional and spiritual components of health. “Maintaining social connections and having a sense of purpose is important to your health. If your focus has been on your kids or your job and that’s changing, you may need to cultivate new interests.”
Fifties and beyond
As we age and after we go through menopause, we are at higher risk for many diseases. At the same time, women are living longer after menopause. These are two important reasons to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a healthy weight.
While women tend to focus on breast cancer, heart disease is a much bigger threat. “As much as 80 percent of heart disease can be prevented through modifying our lifestyles,” said Van Sloun.
With a longer life expectancy, you want to age well, said Van Sloun. “Investing now in eating an optimal diet, staying active and learning how to handle stress will reap benefits as you get older.”
Nancy Van Sloun, MD, sees patients at Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – West Health in Plymouth. For appointments, call 612-863-3333.