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When you’re last on your own to-do list

Published: December 19, 2017

The Prime of Your Life educational series focuses on women’s health.

Ten years ago, Gladys Velarde, MD, had a moment of realization. She was putting the needs of everyone else in her life ahead of her own.

“I’m a mother, sister, aunt and friend before I’m even me,” Velarde said.

She decided to make her health a priority and recognized many of her patients and friends needed to do the same. Many women serve as the head of the household, and they put their families and careers before their own health.

That moment was the beginning of a journey for Velarde, and the Prime of Your Life women’s health series was born. At the time, Velarde lived in New York and was a physician at the University of Rochester. Her goal was simple, but strong — to empower women to take charge of their health. She held several group discussions and presented her expertise on heart health alongside several colleagues from other medical specialties, who shared their insights. By partnering with fellow physicians, she was able to organize discussions on educational topics that covered all stages of a woman’s life.

The series was a success and now Velarde, who is the medical director of the UF Health Women’s Cardiovascular Program, brought Prime of Your Life to Northeast Florida.

Several Prime of Your Life events have been held at UF Health North.

Participating specialists included:

Mariam Louis, MD, associate professor of pulmonology, critical care and sleep medicine, and Laila Samiian, MD, chief of breast surgery, spoke about sleep and breast health before, during and after pregnancy.

Brent Seibel, MD, medical director of UF Health Women’s Specialists – North, and LaRae Brown, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, discussed health and nutrition during pregnancy.

Andrew Kaunitz, MD, medical director of UF Health Women’s Specialists – Emerson, and, Kim Bartley, ARNP, women’s health provider, elaborated on hormonal health before and after menopause.

Holly Hamilton, MD, medical director of UF Health Family Medicine – Amelia Island, provided ways women can maintain their health and fitness after age 40.

Velarde participates at each event and explains how the discussion topics affect the heart.

“We know more and more in the medical community that many organs affect the heart,” Velarde said. “The heart doesn’t work in isolation. I tell my patients we are an orchestra — if there are parts of the group that are out of tune, it affects the heart.”

Some of the biggest contributors to poor heart health are diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lack of exercise, obesity and stress. Velarde chooses topics based on these factors and frames them around a unique health need or stage of a woman’s life, such as pregnancy or menopause.

Velarde still has friends and former patients in New York who share with her what a difference the educational series made in their lives. With Prime of Your Life now established in Northeast Florida, Velarde hopes bringing women together here will have the same impact.

Upcoming Prime of Your Life discussions for 2018 include managing stress, dermatology and metabolism. For more information and to register for the next event, visit UFHealthJax.org/POYL.

LaRae C. Brown, M.D., FACOG
Holly L. Hamilton, M.D.
Andrew M. Kaunitz, M.D., FACOG
Mariam Louis, M.D.
Brent E. Seibel, M.D., FACOG
Gladys P. Velarde, M.D., FACC, FAHA

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