Living Columns & Blogs

Women, take charge of your health


Every October, the United States is covered in pink to bring awareness to breast cancer. Almost everyone knows someone who has been impacted by breast cancer. The good news is there are some simple things that can be done to keep the ta-tas cancer-free.

A combination of screenings and simple lifestyle changes can decrease the risk of breast cancer. Screening involves having mammograms, clinical breast exams and breast self-exams. Regardless of how uncomfortable it feels — or how apprehensive you are — an annual mammogram is the champion of early detection. Mammograms help find lumps or growths that are too small for you or your health care provider to feel when conducting an exam.

While it’s important to bring awareness to breast cancer, I would also encourage women to take control of their overall health.

As a woman of a certain age, I have begun to notice definite changes that my 25-year-old self would have attributed to being “old.” One huge change I have noticed is the “fire from within.” Some of you know the feeling — the intense heat and sweats (and don’t forget night sweats). I have also noticed anxiety, mood swings (oh, my poor husband) and, like all of the “older” women in my family, I have reading glasses in every room.

Imagine my surprise when I spoke with my physician and he mentioned perimenopause. What?

In my mind, I am still 25. Not so, says the doctor. According to the Mayo Clinic, perimenopause is defined as “around menopause. It can also be called the menopausal transition. It can begin as early as your thirties, but some women experience it in their forties.”

The Mayo clinic goes on to advise, “The level of estrogen — the main female hormone — rises and falls unevenly during perimenopause.” The fluctuating hormones affect the menstrual cycle, causing it to be irregular, last longer or be shorter. Other symptoms include hot flashes (the “fire from within”), mood changes and problems sleeping.

The best rule of thumb is to talk with your physician if your symptoms affect your life. For instance, if you are having trouble sleeping and are irritable to the point of not being able to function, or if a loved one (thanks, honey) points it out to you, then it may be time to speak to a doctor. The good news is there are natural remedies as well as prescription medications to help decrease the impacts of perimenopause (shudder).

As women, we are generally the cornerstones of our families. It’s incumbent upon us to take care of ourselves. In cases like mine, this includes speaking honestly and openly with all of your physicians, taking note of symptoms and providing feedback to choose the best options for a healthier you.

Contact county Extension agent Keishon J. Thomas at 478-751-6338 or