The Mix Tape: Ep. 10 — Advocating For Women’s Health

The season two finale of The Mix Tape finds our Practice Leader Mishka Symonette discussing this topic with LaReesa Ferdinand. Ferdinand is a board-certified OB/GYN, and the Owner/CEO of the Thrive Beyond Wellness Center. She helps women in all stages of menopause, perimenopause to post, improve their hormone balance so they can live more productive, powerful, and performance-driven lives.

Transcription

Unison:

Welcome to the Mix Tape.

Valerie McCandlish:

I’m Valerie.

Natalie Taylor:

And I’m Natalie. And it’s our final episode of season two.

Valerie McCandlish:

No.

Natalie Taylor:

I know. It went by so fast and we have had some incredible guests, and it’s not stopping today.

Valerie McCandlish:

It’s been amazing.

Natalie Taylor:

Yes. Today we have another incredible duo, Mishka Symonette Jameson and Dr. LaReesa Ferdinand. Mishka is a practice leader at Mix and an incredible leader on our team. We’re so lucky to have her. And she is hosting a dear friend of hers, Dr. LaReesa Ferdinand, who is a board certified OBGYN and the founder and CEO of the Estrogen Doctor Company.

Valerie McCandlish:

With women’s health month right around the corner in May, this is perfect timing to discuss these important topics and inspire wellness for all of us. And with that, here’s Mishka and Dr. LaReesa to round out season two of the Mix Tape.

Mishka Symonette:

Welcome everyone. My name is Mishka Symonette, a practice leader here at Mix Talent. As we end season two of the Mix Tapes and enter the month of May, we celebrate women’s health week with the goal of encouraging women and young girls to prioritize health and wellness. To help us drive the discussion, I am honored to introduce our guest, Dr. LaReesa Ferdinand. To get you acquainted with our guest, a few fun facts. Dr. LaReesa Ferdinand is a board certified OBGYN, menopause health expert, and owner CEO of The Thrive Beyond Wellness Center. Dr. LaReesa helps women overcome the sea of overwhelm and all stages of menopause, peri to post so they can live more productive, powerful, and performance driven lives. In 2020, she was named one of the top OBGYN physicians in the Orlando Family Magazine. She’s a best selling contributing author of the Codes of Longevity, Be Ageless, Live Limitless, and serves as women’s health advisor to Bossa Bars, a snack food service company that promotes healthy eating and lifestyle.

Mishka Symonette:

Dr. LaReesa serves as a physician business consultant in the emerging global market of fem tech. In these roles, she uses her medical background and integrative position, wellness training to help create a diverse, personalized and inviting healthcare ecosystem. Her values driven mission is to create a transformative experience through a whole body connection and be an agent of change in the landscape of the delivery of healthcare for women. Dr. LaReesa, we are so fortunate to have you and welcome to the Mix Tapes.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

Thank you. I feel like you might have to take a breath or something. That was a lot, wasn’t it?

Mishka Symonette:

I know. I-

LaReesa Ferdinand:

Oh my goodness. I’m sorry.

Mishka Symonette:

I know you’re a humble spirit, so I wanted to give you full credit for-

LaReesa Ferdinand:

I am. Thank you for that.

Mishka Symonette:

The treat that our audience would have today.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

Absolutely. Thank you. I love being here.

Mishka Symonette:

As we start our conversation, I reflect on the quote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So framing the concept of prevention, how has diagnostic testing evolved to allow women insight into their cellular health to support good habits and food choices to prevent disease?

LaReesa Ferdinand:

I think a best way to answer that question has to do with, it’s still one part, it’s an integral part, but there’s so many other things as far as really connecting with women of where they are in different reproductive cycles. So how we address certain things with a woman who could be 20 something or 30 something or 40 something or 50 something, has to do with what are those areas we are going to target? What are those particular tests that are going to make a difference?

LaReesa Ferdinand:

Because at the end of the day, when we look at that global picture of the delivery of healthcare to women, everybody’s experience is a little different. Their exposure may be a little different. There might be frustrations from how the system is set up versus experiences that women have had that have that have allowed them not to embrace a particular medical plan or change the trust within a certain system. Because we tend to have areas that are more fragmented because of the different, like between areas of the insurance care model, what a patient or a woman may get exposed to, and then what particular areas that may focus more importantly for them. The other thing has to do with what are those areas about this whole body connection, the things that I’m talking about? And in simple ways, I put that as what are the integrative solutions? What are like the mind body spirit type things?

LaReesa Ferdinand:

So actually April is stress awareness month. So how are we going to tie in things that are going on with hormonal fluctuations of a woman that could be in perimenopause and menopause and life circumstances that could be from grief of a dying parent or divorce or relationship changes, how does that go into it? And then following trends, which kind brings in that part of the diagnostic test, because regardless it’s still something that is a part of a whole. And if we start looking at it from that lens and utilizing how these environmental changes have impacted women at these different stages, and ideally, see where these gaps can be followed, how we can mend these areas through diagnostic testing, then we’ve kind of changed the trajectory of health outcomes because now we’ve mixed more innovation possibility other than just saying, “Hey, I got pap, I got a mammogram check. I’m good for the year.”

Mishka Symonette:

Good point. So when I think of cancer, most cancers, 5% to 10% of them, according to the American Cancer Society, are caused by inherited mutations, but then many are caused by acquired mutations, such as environmental factors that you’re talking about, such as tobacco, radiation, viruses, and even age. What do you see in your practice around being able to identify those factors and influence a better outcome for women?

LaReesa Ferdinand:

I love this question because one of the things that I’ve started to do when I partner with women, and I like to use the word partner, because when we start seeing it as a bidirectional relationship that builds trust and envelopes this innovation of where advancing a medicine is, and most importantly, it allows a woman to understand that whoever this trusted healthcare provider is someone who values them, understands them, and most importantly, wants to hear them. And so if there’s areas within the environment that can be changed, I like to do what we call a genomics testing. So a lot of times we know as far as the genetic testing, I’m just going to use an example, if we’re trying to find out if we have a higher or increased incidence or chance of getting breast cancer, when majority of breast cancers are not inherited. They’re not inherited by a defective mutation or gene. But that’s what we think about in terms of mainstream or to the lay public if someone says that we have some type of genetic abnormality.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

Or prenatal testing. Many women are familiar. You know, those who are listening, Hey, I got a genetic test from my doctor. My baby looks like it doesn’t have Down’s syndrome or has an abnormal chromosome defect, it doesn’t necessarily rule out all things. What the canvas that we need to develop and unfold a lot is how our behavior changes, our traumas, how nutrition, how areas are changing, what we call our genetic blueprint. So I use something called a genomics testing that focuses on epigenetics. So it’s not something where we’re saying we’re changing the blueprint of the DNA sequence itself, but we’re understanding how are this areas of our DNA sequence modified or altered or changed based on the environment that our genes are exposed to? Because all of us have a certain amount of variations within what we call our genetic code, but there’s certain genes that are going to be turned on or turned off. And that is very much influence, backed by science and many of things as we continue to understand our human genome. And one of those has to do with our environment.

Mishka Symonette:

Excellent. Excellent. So let’s think also, as we tie that into mental health of our women. Women are, we’re doing so much. We wear multiple hats. We’re workers, we’re mothers, we’re wives, we’re teachers, we’re mentors. So an interesting statistic that I found according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America is that women are twice as likely than men to suffer from anxiety disorder. And so hearing what you’re speaking about, like our food choices, there’s so many things that could influence our mental health, but how do you encourage your patients to keep an eye on that from a preventative standpoint?

LaReesa Ferdinand:

I’d like to relate to a couple of statistics here, because I think that’s important. Mental health disease, or many of the array of mental health disorders are getting the recognition that they deserve right now. But the thing is, it’s something that we’ve always known impacts us. So let’s just say, for example, many of us have experienced if we’ve had multiple nights of lack of sleep that we feel altered, we feel off, we are just not together. So compound that with life circumstances, the truth of the matter is many women are breadwinners. Majority of them may live in dual households or them as the single parent, but 50% of those could be what we consider the breadwinners. On top of that, women may tend to always, over 75% of the time, be considered the caregiver. So if that’s the nature of it, it could be the caregiver and a gap of two different generations or a generation that doesn’t have grandma or grandpa. And that’s the change in the nuclear family. You have women who are working their careers longer waiting to have babies later.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

Me myself, I had my baby and my only one in my late thirties. And how those areas impact with stress, with what you said, the multiple hats. I always say the only badge of honor we should try to wear is if you were a Girl Scout or a Brownie, or you have served in our military forces. So I thank you for your service right now because many women definitely put their lives on the line, and men. But the badge of honor of wearing multiple hats has its cost. And the body wants to reach home. It always wants to have a state of Adaptation, and that’s the beauty of our bodies. It’s going to want to reach a time of being able to be more resilient. However, when we continue to adapt and adapt and always say at some point, your body will show signs of dysfunction before it totally malfunctions.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

And that’s when most likely women, because we will find ways, we will try to do what we need to do in the gap. But with that, that can add to our mental stressors. That can add to our depression, our anxiety, our feelings on an edge. Where for an example, it can look like some people say, “Well, I don’t feel down. I don’t feel out,” but if you had a red light and you’re having road rage, that could be a sign. If you know that you had a child who didn’t do well, but they usually do well, but you felt like you had a short fuse, that could be a sign. Because you are relating certain different coping mechanisms where there could have been multiple areas where therapy, being able to talk to someone, being able to have an hour to yourself and know that you can go to the bathroom and not have someone tugging on your skirt.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

I like to give visual canvases of that because you had used something, and in a way that I thought painted it well, that we have in a way, a stigma of what mental health disease should look like. And it’s not. Sometimes it’s just the matter of we’re not coping as well. And it shows up in overeating and therefore it links to obesity. It shows up in short fuses and panic attacks and anxiety, where all of a sudden we end up on a pill course and feeling more down, gaining weight, have loss of energy. And all of these things impact us, impact our hormones, impact how we show up for ourselves and show up for others. And all of a sudden we’re look looking at it, okay, where was my oxygen mass when we started.

Mishka Symonette:

That’s beautifully said. And something that we talked about is that a life coach or a therapist is somewhat of a stigma. And if you cry out for help, can you handle it, versus the shift of paradigm to that it’s a standard to ask for help. And it’s a standard to seek out a life coach or a therapist. So it’s beautiful awareness for our audience to take care of your mental health and your body at the same time. And speaking of the movement, we think of heart disease. We touched on that, and that it is still, although improving, many women, their lives are cut short because of heart disease. So I think of Zumba and group exercise, the pandemic is now still here, but we haven’t been able to get out and move, and move and groove, as I say, with other women. What do you recommend to your patients as good, appropriate forms of exercise as we age?

LaReesa Ferdinand:

It’s interesting you mentioned the pandemic, something that we’re still in. And you remember how we were in college and I don’t know if you were ever told, like when you were in college or starting college, something about the freshman 15.

Mishka Symonette:

Yes.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

So did you do the freshman 15?

Mishka Symonette:

I sure did.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

Okay. All right. It’s interesting because I end up losing weight starting college, but that’s a story for another episode so you can ask me about that one. That’s a whole nother big state within itself. But you have like now the COVID 20, and some people even said, Hey, I had the COVID 45, kind of putting in with the Colt 45s. But I think this is a great question because as the pandemic persisted, the snack industry like catapulted. It went through the roof. And there were many stories of not only families who snacked through, but every time they turn around, you had little kids wanting snacks too.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

And so that added on to it, finishing their snacks or the time where you just have, Hey, I’m trying to get all this as much as I can in my pantry, because we might run out of a shortage. But back to your question, I think the best thing, especially when we’re talking about women who may or may not be well off into their career, but regardless, your CEO of home, boardroom or bedroom, that’s what I like to call it, and your CEO of your life. And fitting in something is probably that first thing. Understand it’s not only an impact act of weight and reducing risks that are affiliated, like cardiovascular disease that obesity can tag on. It’s the brain health. The number one thing that I often get from women as they age is concern that they’re going to lose their mind, concerned that they won’t be able to have the memories.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

And so instituting something, even if it’s a little bit, even if it’s 10 or 15 minutes a day, I think of recognizing the importance of valuing that time. The second one is, it’s a little strange. I get a lot of feedback when I say it is I love to reclaim recovery. There are a lot of exercise programs out there that are not necessarily should be one size fits all. And especially when women could be going through a lot of hormonal dysregulation or imbalances. And especially if their cortisol hormone is too high. Or their nervous system, I like to speak in terms of nervous system, what we call the excitatory response, what we call a sympathetic nervous system. And that can mount more stress, that can mount more sleepless nights. You don’t sleep well, you’re not going to lose the consistent weight that you’re you’re looking for and it can impact your brain function.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

And so reclaim and recovery means that you’re going to take the necessary breaks between fitness programs. So whether it’s yoga, deep breathing, doing something that is going to allow your body to relax and set things in motion for the next day, and be okay with it. And the thing that offsets it is don’t sit there and snack all day and get the COVID 20. And then the third one is I love HIT, or high intensity interval training. Mixing that with some resistance training, even if it’s not something that you have to do for 30 minutes. And I like to make sure I mention different things because a lot of people focus on just walking. And if that’s all you can do, hey, we’ll take it because it’s better than nothing. But when you’re able to stabilize your musculoskeletal system at your joints or challenge your heart as in the high intensity, like meaning that you’re going to bring your heart level up, rest for a little bit, bring your heart level up again.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

And those challenges help train your body to not only maximize how you utilize your oxygen and your tissue based on these metabolic pathways, but also the beauty of it, it maximizes our mitochondria. Mitochondria, the energy of ourselves, they’re the powerhouses of our cells. And a lot of the implications of accelerated aging and the tools that we’re using now in the longevity space have to do with improving our mitochondrial function. Because we are able to reduce what we may know as skin sags or brain fogginess or areas where we get more gut dysfunction and all those type of things. All of that can play out of how our, what we call our cellular health, being able to get rid of the garbage that we don’t need anymore and be able to keep the things we did. So like Shrek said, it’s better out than in. For those who have ever seen Shrek, I guess.

Mishka Symonette:

Or have children, they should know.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

Oh my gosh.

Mishka Symonette:

Beautiful, beautiful. As we think about that, we’ve covered genomic testing, the importance of just moving beyond our traditional forms of testing. When we go to our physician or our annual physicals and our mental health. When we think of transgenerational wealth, how do we transpose that to transgenerational health? What do we say to our daughters, our nieces, and the younger generation on how to really transcend to a culture of health awareness beyond the traditional methods that we’ve used today?

LaReesa Ferdinand:

I think it’s a good question because it’s deep. It’s one of those where we live in a microwave society. We want things as of like two seconds ago. And there are many things, even in its marketing, that really favors like let’s do that quick bandaid now. Let’s go to the next fad or fix. And oftentimes we have to be, well, what I like to say, we need to be more targeted because of those implications of outcomes. And that’s a lot that not only with epigenetics testing, but what we call functional testing or metabolic testing, where you can do more advanced salivary screens, where you’re taking saliva and looking at cortisol levels. You’re doing more urinary samples that are looking at how your body’s breaking down. And that information could be so pivotal where you’re identifying areas of what I like to call your KPIs, key performance indicators that you can follow yourself, trends within your body.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

But that transgenerational component is the science is showing us that if we start making those changes that are more targeted, that are less one size fits all and more customized to how our body’s performing, that that can make not only trans general changes physically because kids are learning by observation. They’re seeing what their parents do. So kids that grow up vegan or vegetarians, it’s not hard for them because that’s how they were raised. That’s the environment they, they were raised in. But for a woman to do so in her preconception period, we are owning some of the factors of our mom’s moms, because what science is telling us that these genomic changes are something that potentially are passed down. But there’s still opportunity to change how these modifications, so these variations, could be expressed. So as we are thinking of transgenerational changes, it’s a shift in mindset.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

It’s a shift of understanding that I can be able to take care of something that’s a pain point for me now, but know that the additional steps that I can integrate can make a more significant change of how I live, the reduction of heart disease, or potential improving my body’s defense system against cancer, or autoimmune type dysfunction, the fact that as I change my environment, my children or my family members are picking up on these cues or these examples. Or I’m sharing that education, because it becomes so much more than saying, “Okay, I just want to lose 10 pounds.” Now it’s finding out, “Okay, I was able to lose the 10 pounds. Why haven’t I been able to sustain it?” So that diagnostic testing is, “Hey, I’m going to see what’s going on in my gut. I’m going to see if I need to have urinary testing or saliva testing.” There’s something that I was sharing with Mishka earlier, just from my own genomics, a couple of things. It definitely defines that, Hey, something I’ve known that I’m lactose deficient, but how are my detox systems working?

LaReesa Ferdinand:

What are the supplements that I need to take that work better for me so my body can adapt and do what it needs to do to fight the environment that exists with chemicals and all the things that we’re exposed to in our foods? And so it has to do with education. It has to do with awareness. It has to do with really embodying that the targeted solutions are there. We just have to shift the mindset and know how do we integrate them? What are the pathways in order to change and shift that paradigm of thinking that we just wait till we get it? We just wait till we get diabetes. We just wait till we get hypertension. We just wait to know that, hey, I have a heart problem. Knowing that I probably had preeclampsia twice in my pregnancy. Where there’s been links, showing that what hits that can happen, childbirth, that can affect women later, even though they may not acutely show it.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

So I think if anything, it’s the awareness and education and the mindset shift that the waves of the delivery of healthcare for women or for anyone, has to do with how to embrace and know that we are us as much the CEO of our body, we have our own self advocate tools, we have control to a certain degree of starting to change the outcomes. And now we just need to fittingly be with that trusted healthcare advisor, someone who is willing to carry on that bidirectional exchange or culture that develops over time because it’s not going to be overnight.

Mishka Symonette:

Well said, well said. So we could probably talk all day.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

I know I get so excited about this.

Mishka Symonette:

For hours and hours. It’s such a good topic. But as we close, the goal of this podcast was to power women to change their trajectory of not just themselves, but their children or their loved ones. And there’s probably so much more, we can leave for the audience to research, which we will. But we want to thank you, Dr. LaReesa, for joining us today on the Mix Tapes. It’s been an honor to share your pearls of wisdom with both myself and our audience. So traditionally, as we close all of our podcasts, we have two very important questions to ask you. So the first one being, what is your favorite interview question?

LaReesa Ferdinand:

Okay. My favorite interview question is actually what is my favorite quote that I live by?

Mishka Symonette:

Okay.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

And that would be Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Mishka Symonette:

All right. Very appropriate for what we’re talking about.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

Yes. Very much so.

Mishka Symonette:

When you know better, you do better.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

Yes. Absolutely.

Mishka Symonette:

And our last, very important question. What is your favorite song?

LaReesa Ferdinand:

I love this question. I’m really excited about this question because I knew exactly what I wanted to say. There’s so many, but I thought what was really appropriate for just everything that we’ve talked about. So I have one of my favorite movies back in the day, in 1980s was The Last Dragon.

Mishka Symonette:

Okay.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

And so I, what was the guy’s name? Something with a T, but I don’t know. He was the finest thing on earth as far as I was concerned. He was all over my wall. And anyway, there was this song called The Glow. And it was by, I believe Willie Hutch, 1980s.

Mishka Symonette:

Okay.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

But it ended up being a remake in a way that was used on a soundtrack for Insecure. And it was by Victoria Monet and it’s called The Glow. So you can find it either way.

Mishka Symonette:

Okay.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

But what I love, it just really embodies just some really good words. Like when you have that glow, you just feel like no one can defeat you basically. And then it has a part where it said, “When you reach that upper level, your mind, body, and soul feels as one.”

Mishka Symonette:

Oh, I like that. I like that.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

It’s just a good song.

Mishka Symonette:

Okay. Okay.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

And it’s very fitting for women’s health month. And as you take your sons and daughters to school or to work, because tomorrow’s take your daughter or son to work, the 28th of April.

Mishka Symonette:

It is.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

So when you have that glow, it’s just, mm.

Mishka Symonette:

Contagious.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

It’s contagious.

Mishka Symonette:

It’s contagious.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

And the little kids will see it and they’ll absorb it just the same. It’s a beautiful thing.

Mishka Symonette:

Yes. Yes. Well thank you. That will be added to our mixed podcast. So thank you Dr. LaReesa.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

Thank you, my friend.

Mishka Symonette:

We will welcome you again as we continue our Mix podcast.

LaReesa Ferdinand:

Absolutely.

Valerie McCandlish:

Thank you so much to Mishka and Dr. LaReesa for joining us on the mix tape. Something I really loved about this episode was when Dr. LaReesa quoted Maya Angelou saying, “When you know, better, you do better.” And my mom always said this to me growing up and I absolutely love this quote. She still says it to me today. And I think it’s just such a realistic and relatable mantra in all aspects of life, particularly as it pertains to this topic of health and wellness.

Natalie Taylor:

Definitely. And I think we can all do a little bit better at taking care of ourselves. I think that that’s a big takeaway from myself from this episode, because I think in general as women, we try to take on a lot because we’re trying to be the best coworker, we’re trying to be the best partner, we’re trying you the best mothers. We’re trying to be the best in all of these different areas of our lives, where sometimes it gets to the point where you’re really not your best in all of them, where really the best is to just sit down and take care of yourself. And then that will feed into all these other areas of your life. So much of this episode really hits home for me too, because breast cancer does run in my family. My grandmother passed away from breast cancer. So it’s one of those things that always sits back in your mind. But a little bit that gave me some peace of mind was a statistic that Dr. LaReesa shared about the actual realities of genetics and cancer. So feeling a little better after this content.

Natalie Taylor:

But it is one of those things that always kind of hangs out in the back of your mind thinking, is this something that my mom could have? Is this something that could happen to me? And I think in general, knowing the realities of the situation and just paying attention and taking some time to take care of yourself in the end is going to be the most beneficial for you.

Valerie McCandlish:

And a lot of this information that they discussed today is helpful for us to share with all of the women in our lives too, which I think is really valuable.

Natalie Taylor:

And I think we talk about this as women’s wellness, but this is applicable to everybody because in today’s age, we’re all trying so hard to be the best that we can. We’ve lived through a really difficult past couple of years. And I think we all deserve a little bit of time to ourselves to just put ourselves first and check in.

Valerie McCandlish:

Yeah. I also loved Dr. LaReesa’s song and the meaning behind that. I thought that was beautiful. So we’ll be adding that to the mix tape.

Natalie Taylor:

Definitely. And in general, just I’ve looked back and it’s been so wonderful to host this season. I cannot have ever predicted that we would be able to have such amazing guests and come this far and have this really relatable content week in and week out. And I feel like we’ve got some beans to spill.

Valerie McCandlish:

We’ve got some beans to spill. Mark your calendars, season three is coming. Woo, woo.

Natalie Taylor:

My gosh, we’re spending too much time.

Valerie McCandlish:

We’re spending too much time together.

Natalie Taylor:

That was not rehearsed. So season three is coming. It will be out later this coming summer. And we look forward to sharing some more fabulous guests with everybody. It’s been an honor to host the Mix Tape here with Valerie. And we’re so thankful for all of you for listening. Please like, share, subscribe, send to your friends and family. A very big thank you for being in the mix. We’ll see you next season.

 

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