I found a quote by the poet, Maya Angelou, that I thought suited the beginning of this post. “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes” As we hit the halfway mark of celebrating National Women’s Health Week, I think it is important to keep in mind all of the “she-roes” that are involved within our lives. Each individual has at least one woman in their life that they want to see maintain a healthy lifestyle and although we are surrounded my plenty of female celebrities and idols, we must acknowledge the everyday heroes who go unnoticed. Women often serve as caregivers for their families, putting the needs of their spouses, partners, children, and parents before their own. As a result, women’s health and well-being becomes secondary. Communities have a responsibility to support the significant women we know and provide assistance in any way to encourage longer, healthier, and happier lives. With that, I felt it was necessary to provide 5 easy steps for women to take towards a healthier lifestyle!
1. Get a mammogram at least once a year
The most effective way to detect breast cancer is by mammography, and a clinical breast exam can complement mammography screening. Every woman has a chance of getting breast cancer. About 1 in 8 women will find out she has breast cancer at some point in her life. This might sound scary but today, most women with breast cancer survive it. With breast cancer screening, including mammograms, doctors often can find cancer early.
- Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing as long as a woman is in good health.
- For women in their 20s and 30s, clinical breast exams (CBE) are recommended about every 3 years.
- Breast-Self exams (BSE) are something that should begin among women in their early 20s and continue regularly for life. The breast self-exam is a way that you can check your breasts for changes (such as lumps or thickenings). It includes looking at and feeling your breast. Any unusual changes should be reported to your doctor.
2. Improve your daily food choices
A healthy diet gives you energy, supports your mood, maintains your weight, and keeps you looking your best. It can also be a huge support through the different stages in life. Healthy food can help reduce PMS, boost fertility, combat stress, make pregnancy and nursing easier, and ease symptoms of menopause.
How to make better food choices:
- Use canola oil when baking.
- Try low-fat frozen yogurt instead of regular ice cream.
- Add lettuce, tomato, and other vegetables, rather than cheese, to your sandwiches.
- Eat broiled, baked, roasted, or grilled chicken without the skin instead of fried chicken.
- Try whole-wheat or multigrain bread instead of white bread.
The USDA (US Department of Agriculture) recommends an adult daily diet to include the following:
- 3 ounces of whole grains and 6 ounces of grains total
- 2 cups of fruit
- 2 1/2 cups of vegetables
- 3 cups fat-free or low-fat dairy
3. Jumpstart your exercise routine
After just a few days of exercising, you can start to feel better, gain more energy, and even increase your chances of living a longer life! The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore. The positive effects from regular exercise routines among women are widely available, no matter their age, experience level, or body type. Here are a few easy ways to get up and get moving.
- Use stairs instead of the elevator.
- Walk or bike to work or to the store.
- Take a break at work to stretch or take a quick walk.
- If you have children, make time to play with them outside. Set a good example!
- Go dancing with your partner or friends.
- Wear a pedometer (a small tool worn on your belt) that counts the number of steps you take.
- Try to walk a little more each day or week
- Set specific, short-term goals, and reward yourself when you achieve them
4. Find ways to maintain healthy stress levels
Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her surroundings. Stress can sometime have positive effects by making you more alert and giving you a burst of energy, but too much stress can be detrimental to your overall mental health which can easily make an individual put their own health needs aside. Everyone responds to stress a little differently. Your symptoms may be different from someone else’s. Here are some of the signs to look for:
- Not eating or eating too much
- Lack of energy/focus
- Poor self-esteem
- Short temper
- Trouble sleeping
- Back pain
Ways to relieve stress:
- Get organized: start making daily to-do lists’
- Take deep breathes and stretch: taking some tension off your muscles can help a person feel more in control.
- Take time to do something you want to do.
- Get enough sleep: most adults need 7-9 hours to feel well rested
- Exercise: it can help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Share your stress: talking about problems with a friend or family members can help provide constructive feedback
- Help others: volunteering can help you feel better about yourself
5. Learn more about health risks among Women
In order to stay healthy, it is important to know what health risks you might have a higher risk of developing. Although each individual has their own unique health risks, the demographic of women have been found to have a higher chance of developing conditions such as depression, osteoporosis, and many heart related diseases. Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to women’s health and definitely speak with your provider about your own personal risks as well. Education is the key to knowing certain steps of prevention and early detection!
- Osteoporosis threatens 44 million Americans, of which roughly 68% are women.
- The American Heart Association lists risk factors for heart diseaseas:
- Increasing age
- Family history
- High blood pressure & cholesterol
- Depression appears to affect more women than men. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that about 12 million women are affected by a depressive disorder each year compared to about 6 million men. Some common risk factors are:
- Family history of depression
- Substance abuse
- Loss of a job or death in the family
- Recent illness or surgery
- Marital or social problems
- Autoimmune diseases are a group of disorders in which the immune system attacks the body and destroys or alters tissues. There are more than 80 serious chronic illnesses in this category, including lupus, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), about 75% of autoimmune diseases occur in women. Since autoimmune diseases are not very well understood, pinpointing specific risk factors is difficult. Symptoms can also be nonspecific, hampering proper diagnosis.
These are just a few of many health conditions that women should be keeping on their radar, but there are plenty more that require attention. If you want to know more, ask your primary care provider or check out http://www.womenshealth.gov/. To read more about Women’s Health Week, National Women’s Check-Up Day, and Teen Pregnancy Prevention month, please visit our patient resource page of our website: http://chc1.com/Transformational/PatientResource.html