The Imperial Women’s Network kicked off their ‘personal growth’ 2018 programme with an inspiring presentation from Dr Victoria Harmer, Macmillan consultant nurse at Imperial College Health Care NHS Trust. The audience of alumni, students and guests heard from Dr Harmer on issues including mindfulness, personal well-being, how to take control of our health and essential guidance on spotting the signs of breast cancer – her specialist subject.
"We all need to take more responsibility for our own health as we can impact it hugely in terms of lifestyle and diet. We need to look after ourselves and our emotional well-being. There is nothing new to this, but in our busy lives it is more important than ever to remember to do it."
Dr Harmer outlined 5 ways to well-being that we can all practice:
- Connect with people – building connections will support and enrich your everyday life, invest time in developing relationships with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours
- Be active – exercise makes you feel good
- Take notice – be curious, be more present, savour the moment and reflect on your experiences to help determine what matters to you
- Keep leaning – try something new or rediscover old interests, set yourself a challenge. Learning news things makes you more confidence as well as being fun!
- Give – get involved in a local community group, volunteer your time or expertise, or simply take the time to say thank you to someone.
“Elements that make us resilient and improve our well-being include having a positive mindset, a purpose and being fulfilled, as well as nurturing supportive relationships. It is important we know how to manage problems and expectations, and on top of this keep physically fit and active,” advised Dr Harmer.
In terms of diet, the key issues Dr Harmer pin-pointed were:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Limit alcohol
- Limit energy-dense food (such as sugary drinks)
- Eat foods of plant origin
- Take regular physical exercise
- Ensure good vitamin D intake
On the issue of breast cancer Dr Harmer highlighted: “40-45% of cancers can be avoided by lifestyle – such as not smoking, exercising, having a good diet. About 55,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK, yet a third of breast cancer diagnoses could be prevented by lifestyle changes.”
Dr Harmer went thought the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and the importance of being breast aware, knowing what is normal for you and swiftly reporting any aberrations of the norm. You can find more guidance on breast cancer, including information on how to check your breasts here: Breast Cancer Now and Oncology Central.
The Imperial Women’s Network is an alumni-led professional interest network which host professional development and informal networking events throughout the year.
"Dr Harmer offered a holistic view of the tools that women have at their disposal to take good care of their health. She paid particular attention to cancers which experts estimate could be prevented, in more than 4 in 10 cancer cases, largely through lifestyle changes,"
Dr Victoria Harmer has a degree in nursing from King’s College London, an MBA from Westminster Business School, a Doctorate from King’s College London and she holds an Associateship of King’s College London. She is a Macmillan Consultant nurse (breast) at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. She is proactive in raising awareness and health promotion through teaching, publications and media interviews.