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E1: 7 Domains of Women's Health

Nov 16, 2020

Women's health is so much bigger than just one problem. The seven domains of women's health—physical, emotional, social, intellectual, financial, environmental, and spiritual— are interconnected and come together to make the whole person. Women's health expert Kirtly Parker Jones, MD, looks in-depth at how each of the seven domains of a woman's health affects her overall wellbeing.

Episode Transcript

This content was originally created for audio. Some elements such as tone, sound effects, and music can be hard to translate to text. As such, the following is a summary of the episode and has been edited for clarity. For the full experience, we encourage you to subscribe and listen— it's more fun that way.

Introducing "7 Domains of Women's Health" - The Show

Check, check. Welcome, welcome. Now, this is going to be about a half an hour. If you don't have a half an hour, I have about 300 short pieces and you can check in and listen to other topics in women's health. But if you have a half an hour, we're going to be expanding topics and see how they affect the whole lives of people who have a particular issue or condition.

So today, get a cup of coffee, sit down, or a tea or Diet Coke, or just water. Make it fizzy water so that we can be popping with some ideas about the seven domains of your health.

This is the "7 Domains of Women's Health" and I'm Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones from obstetrics and gynecology at University of Utah Health.

I'm a reproductive endocrinologist, which means I'm an OB/GYN who's interested in ladies' hormones, girls' hormones, pregnancy hormones, all ladies' hormones. Over the years, over the 40 years that I've been taking care of women, I've seen children and young women and middle-aged women and older women, and they have all taught me that they are so much more than the problem that they bring in. Their health is so much bigger than just one problem, and it affects every aspect of their health. They've taught me this. I've listened, and now I'm telling you that the seven domains of women's health are all things that touch women's health.

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Intellectual
  • Financial
  • Environmental
  • Spiritual

Take Responsibility for Your Physical Health as You Get Older

When we're young, we take our health for granted. The saying "when you're 20, you have the face God gave you, and when you're 50, you have the face you made yourself," is true for the rest of your body, not just your face.

Healthy aging includes:

  • Eating modestly — Mostly fruits and veg, with whole grains and lean protein.
  • Drinking moderately — No more than one drink a day, and probably less. Three to five a week in our 50s, and less in our 70s as we metabolize alcohol more slowly than men and more slowly as we age.
  • Keep moving


Now, I'm going to pull Chloé in. Chloé is the producer for the "7 Domains of Women's Health". And she helps me see the world through millennials' eyes. I'm old and traditional and a white girl, and she is cosmopolitan and hip, young, fit, and strong, and only eats vegetables and rice. I never see her eat any bad things. And she has a beautiful face that God gave her.

Dr. Jones: So what do millennials think about their physical health? Do they do checkups or not so much?

Chloé: So... I don't. But I think most millennials do. I think there's a shift in prioritizing wellness and health now with millennials and people my age, you'll say. But I think it's not so much as going to the doctor, but it's more checking your diet, making sure you eat healthy, making sure you exercise, making sure your mental health is on check, on point, stuff like that. I think it's wellness rather than it is health.

Dr. Jones: Right. And actually, I think that's a very encouraging sign. We're worried definitely that millennials and Gen Xers will not live as long as the boomers, and probably because there's more obesity, there's more diabetes. Whether there's more stress and that leads to more heart disease, we don't know, but it's not looking that good. But we do know that, as a group, millennials and Gen Xers have more mental health and substance abuse problems and are dying young.

However, the picture of the millennial is someone who has a smoothie for breakfast, makes sure she gets her yoga in a couple of times a week, takes good care, only uses organic and good stuff on her face. She's so much better at taking care of herself than the boomers were.

Chloé: I think millennials want to be more healthy, but there are so many diets out there and there are so many exercise routines and there are all those sort of things. And at the end of the day, you don't really know what is right, what's wrong. And then the thing too . . . and I don't want to discredit millennials because I'm a millennial, but I think we have such short attention span that we tend to try . . .

Dr. Jones: Have a varied diet.

Chloé: Yeah, we tend to try a lot of things. We don't stick to a lot of things.

Dr. Jones: Well, I think the other thing is we can't lump everybody into the millennials just because the ladies' magazine do.

Chloé: Right. And I think a large population of people who think millennials are this and that based off of social media, Instagram . . . there are all those pretty models and bloggers, and that's what people are based millennials off of, and I don't think that's really fair.

Dr. Jones: No. And it's certainly not fair when we actually look at the average weight of millennials or boomers, and it isn't what we see in social media.

Developing Emotional Intelligence Builds Resilience

Women and men have similar rates of mental health problems, but women are more likely to have anxiety and are more likely to express their emotional state, and good for them.

Some emotional states are internal and some are caused by external stressors, like kids and finance, but often there's a combination. And poor emotional health leads to stress, and stress leads to poor emotional health, and stress leads to poor pregnancy outcomes and to more high blood pressure and more diabetes, more inflammation, more Alzheimer's, and less physical resilience.

No matter what your age, developing emotional intelligence builds resilience and makes you an easier person to live with. Take time to apply the RULER principles that we should teach our little kids:

  • Recognize what you're feeling.
  • Understand the triggers.
  • Label your emotion.
  • Express your emotion to others. Let them know with words what you're feeling.
  • Regulate your response to your emotions.

Having Supportive Friends is One of the Best Predictors of Healthy Aging

We are social beings, very social beings, and women are more social than men. Women who were enrolled in the women's health longitudinal study, and this is 90,000 women 50 to 79, who were just followed for more than 20 years and their life habits and their health and disease were measured, women who said they had strong social support were 20% less likely to have heart disease than women who didn't. That's significant.

And you always see pictures of the great apes sitting next to each other and kind of picking out little . . . grooming each other. They touch each other all the time. And they have a social network of girls that will go to bat for them.

I know we aren't great apes, but we sort of are and we like to touch each other and social touch and emotional touch. It doesn't have to be a spouse, but when you look at what happens to people when they're sick, they're going into a scanner, and you follow their heart rate and their blood pressure, and you let someone hold their hand, you look at what the brain is doing, and we look at the blood pressure, if someone they love, a friend or a spouse that they love . . . remember spouses aren't always loved, but there you go. If they're holding their hand, their blood pressure goes down and their pulse goes down and their brain calms. It's often what we do.

Laughing is Good for the Brain

The habits of curiosity and brain exercise start early, but it's almost never too late. And in some complicated ways that we don't understand female hormones, estrogen, are good for the brain.

There are a number of studies that suggest that women with earlier menopause have a greater chance of later dementia and Alzheimer's disease. And some studies suggest the use of estrogen replacement early in menopause may decrease the future of dementia.

So how do you keep your intellectual health?

  • Be curious — Read, discuss, think about what you read. It is hard brainwork to listen to others' thoughts, compare with your own thoughts, thoughtfully respond. This is hard and it's good for your brain.
  • Aerobic exercise
  • No excessive alcohol
  • A good time with friends — Moderate drinking, and laughing and talking about stuff is good for the brain.
  • Manage blood pressure and blood sugar — Hypertension and diabetes are associated with early dementia.

Financial Insecurity is a Major Cause of Stress in Women

Many women feel financially unhealthy, and they don't know what to do about it. Some women don't even know what their financial resources are, and if they're married and their spouse does all the financial stuff, they don't know if they're in good shape or bad shape and that makes them feel uneasy.

I'd like to say that my dad and my mom taught me about finances, but in fact, my mother used to borrow my babysitting money to buy food at the end of the month because she didn't have any money left and I did. So what I learned from my parents was not the following five things that I'm going to tell you:

  1. Find out where you stand. Check your credit score. You know how you and your husband or your family or your spouse is actually doing, and you should kind of know what's going on in your financial background.


  2. Be responsible with your credit card. Make a budget and be accountable for yourself. Know where your little swipes or clicks on your credit card are taking you and decide if you really need that or can make it at home. Think about your latte habit that can cost thousands of dollars a year.


  3. What can you expect when you get into your mid-60s? Do you have any retirement plan? Do you want to have a retirement plan? Will Social Security actually be there when you get there? So find out what you've accumulated and think about how you can save a little bit more.


  4. Start an emergency fund and fund it regularly. It doesn't have to be in big chunks. Just saving the equivalent of one latte a day comes up to $120 a month, $1,500 a year. Put it in the bank account and leave it alone unless it's an emergency. Aim to have six months' worth of living expenses in an emergency fund.


  5. If you are in financial trouble, get help. Each state has programs to help people who cannot buy food, pay electricity and heating bills, and even temporary help with rent. has a handout on government assistance with links to each state, or go to So if things are tight, get help. If they're not tight, find out where you've got some extras, put it in an emergency savings account, and be responsible for the way you spend your money.


Women are Exposed to More Environmental Toxins than Men

Women are exposed to more types of environmental toxins than men usually. Certainly, men's exposure in a toxic workplace with particulate and volatile chemicals can be deadly. Think about male shipyard workers and asbestos. Think about male coal miners.

However, women are exposed to relatively toxic household cleaning products. They put mildly toxic chemicals on their skin and nails in the form of cosmetics. And they're exposed to fumes from cooking more than men, except, of course, don't forget the very toxic barbecuing.

So how do you know if what you're cleaning with or putting on your face is good or not? So you can check out the Environmental Working Group's website, and their Skin Deep database will help you look up many common skin products. There's a link to common cleaning products and what might be concerning and what you clean with, or maybe what your housekeeper is cleaning with. And there's a link to a national safe drinking water database.

Being Part of Something Bigger Helps You be Resilient

A person can be healthy by all of our traditional medical measurements, blood pressure, cholesterol, but not be well. And a person could have a grave illness, but still be alive and well and in the world.

Now, spirituality is hard to define sometimes. It's one of those things maybe like pornography. You know when you see it or when you feel it. On the one hand, it may mean an inner quality that facilitates connectedness with yourself and others, and each person may define it individually.

And traditionally, it's that ability to connect with something much bigger than yourself, often a supreme being. Traditionally, spirituality is defined as the basic or inherent quality in all humans that involves a belief in something bigger and a faith that positively affirms life. This is really important.

We know that women who have a strong sense of spirituality and have a way to practice that domain have lower blood pressure, less stress, and are more resilient in the face of disease. So spirituality is very important. It helps women become resilient.

Health Haiku

More than blood pressure
Bigger than paps and mammos
Women are much more

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