Last Sunday, we celebrated our moms. Mother’s Day also marked the beginning of National Women’s Health Week, a national health celebration aimed at getting women to make their health a priority.
A woman’s good health is so vital to her quality of life (and to that of her loved ones) that it deserves our attention not just for a day or a week, but every day of every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease, cancer and stroke together cause more than half of deaths among women in the United States.
Follow the tips below to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health problems.
Get an annual well-woman examination with your health care provider. During the visit, discuss your health habits, family history and family planning if you are in your child-bearing years. Your annual checkup is also the time to get current on your vaccines, have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked, schedule any additional screenings you may need, such as a mammogram, and set health goals. Most insurance plans cover an annual well-woman visit.
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Eat a well-balanced mix of nutritious food such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein every day. Eating well can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, certain types of cancer and anemia. In addition, a healthy diet can reduce high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, help manage diabetes and help maintain a healthy weight.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. Choose activities you enjoy such as walking, hiking, jogging, cycling, taking a class at the gym or following along with a workout DVD. Daily exercise can help control weight. It can help prevent or manage metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression and certain types of cancer; improve your mood, boost energy and promote better sleep.
Take time to unwind. Stress impacts our bodies, mood and behavior. Making time for things we enjoy, exercising, relaxation techniques including meditation, and getting good nutrition can help us manage stress. Having a relationship with a higher power — something larger than ourselves — can make us feel more hopeful and help reduce stress levels. If you have tried these methods and are still having trouble managing stress, talk to your health care provider for support.
Get treatment for depression. Women are twice as likely to experience depression as men. If you are one of these women, discuss it with your health care provider and consider treatment options.
If you smoke, quit, and don’t substitute vaping for smoking. The CDC reports that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and estimates that people who smoke are two to four times more likely to have coronary heart disease or a stroke. Smoking also increases women’s risk of lung cancer by 25.7 times. The SmartQuit App for smartphones is a research-based smoking cessation program that may be more effective than trying to quit on your own. It can be used with or without nicotine replacement therapy. The app is free for download to Washington residents and is private, easy to use and always within reach
Limit alcohol use. According to the National Institute for Health, drinking too much can negatively impact the brain, heart, liver, pancreas and immune system, and can also increase the risk of developing certain types of cancers. More information is available at niaaa.nih.gov/
Get seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night. Too little sleep on a routine basis can affect our mood and ability to think clearly and is also linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and depression. More recent studies also indicate connections between lack of sleep and Alzheimer’s disease. Adequate sleep helps keep the mind and the body healthy
When we take care of ourselves, we can better give our time and support to those we love. Encourage the women in your life to take steps to improve their health and be thankful for all that they bring to your life.