In Our Experience
Discover Rush recently spoke with three female health care professionals at Rush University Medical Center about their experiences with growing older, the insights they’ve gained and the advice they can offer others.
CHERYL RUCKER-WHITAKER, MD
Preventive medicine specialist Age: 40
ON BALANCING WORK AND FAMILY: It was initially difficult. Then, after talking to many friends, I figured I could have it all, just not at the same time. For now, I’ve cut back on my career so I can manage time with my kids more effectively. I value the simple things with them: packing their lunches, helping them practice the violin.
ON WORKING OUT: I used to exercise sporadically and maintain my weight. But after having kids, my routine was thrown off, and I did gain weight. Now that I’m in my 40s, I’m trying to get back to a more healthy weight. I do what I tell patients: “Walk, walk, walk.” I also work out with a trainer, because weight-bearing exercise is so important to maintaining muscle tone and mass.
ON MAKING YOURSELF A PRIORITY: When it comes to your overall health, at this age you have to start thinking, “I’m going to do this for me.” And you make some decisions that might seem selfish. But being selfish isn’t really being selfish: It’s about putting yourself first sometimes so you can be healthy for your family.
ON WHAT WOMEN IN THEIR 20s CAN DO FOR THEIR HEALTH: In addition to finding an exercise plan you can stick to, explore your family health history. If your parents and grandparents are deceased, find out what they died of; if they’re living, ask what medical conditions they have. If you know what diseases are in your family tree, it will help you focus your efforts. For example, if diabetes runs in your family, you might be more likely to stick to that physical activity plan, especially if you know that in two-thirds of women, type 2 diabetes can be prevented through an increase in activity.
MARY WOOD MOLO, MD
Reproductive endocrinologist Age: 51
ON FEELING COMFORTABLE IN HER OWN SKIN: It’s important to me to age well, so my goal is to be healthy and fit. I’m willing to accept that my body is different than it was 20 years ago; if I’m a little lumpy in some areas, that’s OK.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY TIME: Today, medicine is a good part of my life, but it hasn’t taken over my life, because years ago I made the conscious choice to practice smarter, rather than harder. I spend a lot of time with my patients, but I rarely schedule more than six patients a day. So I’m able to have evenings and weekends with my family. It was a question of figuring out how to run my practice so there was a balance between my work and personal life.
ON WANTING TO BE A HIP GRANDMA: Because I was older when I had my kids, I’m going to be an older grandmother. But I want to be a fun, active grandma. That’s why I’m doing things now — exercising, making sure I have good bone density and cholesterol levels — to ensure that I won’t be a frail elderly person.
ON PLANNING AHEAD: Every woman should create a life plan that involves being a responsible owner of her body. You can’t indulge in bad behavior for 40 years and then, suddenly, do a complete reversal and expect to undo the damage. You must start thinking about your 50s, 60s and beyond when you’re in your 20s and 30s. People look toward the later years as a time to relax; you don’t want to be in ill health when you get there.
LOIS HALSTEAD, PHD, RN
Vice provost and vice president, University affairs Age: 61
ON WHY CHANGE IS IMPORTANT: The kinds of exercises that women do, the kinds of goals they set, should constantly change. Our bodies are not soda machines: You don’t always put 75 cents in and know what’s going to come out. You have to go with the changes and modify what you’re doing. It’s hard work. Living longer requires investment, whether it’s maintaining relationships or maintaining your body.
ON WHY STRONG BODIES ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN BEAUTIFUL BODIES: Looking good in a bathing suit is fine, but upper body strength and balance become so important as you move through life. Women notoriously have poor upper body strength, which can contribute to shoulder and upper back injuries. Picking up toddlers can make you strong, but eventually you lose that.
ON CHANGING EXPECTATIONS: I realized around age 55 that whatever I wanted to achieve, I had already achieved. If other things came up, it would be icing on the cake. I realized that the person I was at that point was the person I was going to be, and that felt great. I found it very freeing.
ON MANAGING STRESS: Finding a spouse, making a career choice, having children — these are extremely stressful things. Once you get past them, you don’t have as many sources of stress. When there is a stressful situation, I don’t internalize it. If there’s a decision to be made, I make it. I’d rather make a wrong decision than have it linger.
By educating yourself and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with your physician, you can alleviate unneeded anxiety and take measures that will help you navigate changes in your life.
For more words of wisdom from these and other health care professionals at Rush, click here.
Women: Get Inspired, Get Healthy!
Rush is holding a class covering many different aspects of women's health as we age. See our Upcoming Events to learn more!
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