When it comes to our health, aside from eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly, one size does not fit all. Women can benefit from paying attention to certain health needs over others throughout their lives.
Here are the top ten health tips every woman should know:
- Understand HPV (the human papillomavirus) and how to prevent it in kids, teenagers and adults. HPV is considered a sexually transmitted infection and is so common that almost all men and women who are sexually active will get it at some point in their lives. For women, it’s especially important to be aware of HPV because it can cause cervical cancer. Boys and girls ages 11 to 12 should get vaccinated, and women through age 26 should get catch-up vaccines.
- Take calcium and vitamin D, but not too much. There are more than three million people in the U.S. with osteoporosis, and that condition can’t be cured. The good news is you can start working to prevent osteoporosis even as a child. Women younger than 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium and about 600 international units of vitamin D every day; if you’re older than 50, bump that up to 1,200 milligrams and 900 international units, respectively. However, those numbers include the calcium and vitamin D you get from food and sunlight, and you can also take too much and make yourself sick, so be sure to balance the supplements you take with your diet and lifestyle.
- Pay more attention to your hormones. Even if you’re in your twenties or thirties, you should know that changes to your body are going to start happening years before menopause ever begins. You can watch out for a few key hormone-related symptoms throughout your life. Take note of night sweats, hot flashes, tightness or dryness during sex, trouble falling or staying asleep and mood changes, including depression. If you notice any of these changes, check in with your OBGYN or primary care doctor and talk about what they might mean. They could indicate perimenopause, or they could be symptoms of something else entirely.
- Make informed decisions about medication use. Nine out of ten women take medication during pregnancy, but we only know enough information to determine fetal risks for less than ten percent of medications. This doesn’t mean you should stop taking medication, especially if it’s prescription medication. In fact, some medications may do more harm than good to stop taking during pregnancy, depending on your medical conditions. The best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking or might be taking before, during and after pregnancy. Then you can make good, informed decisions together.
- Make time for yourself – especially if you’re a caregiver. In 2015, 60 percent of unpaid caregivers in the U.S. were middle-aged women. As healthcare professionals, we know better than anyone that caregiving can be a wonderful, rewarding experience. We also understand the importance of taking care of our own health so that we can take care of others. If you’re a caregiver and you find yourself getting overwhelmed physically, financially and emotionally, you’re probably experiencing caregiver stress. Manage this stress before it gets the better of you! Do the things you enjoy, eat well and exercise regularly. Also, make regular appointments with your doctor, and tell them you’re a caregiver so they can help you find the resources you need to bring balance back to your life.
- Don’t accept anxiety as a way of life. Women are more likely than men to have generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, some phobias and posttraumatic stress disorder. If you’re experiencing anxiety or fear more days than not, and especially if it’s interfering with your life – get help. There are many resources and options for treatment and management of anxiety disorders, including depression.
- Don’t be a victim – speak up against sexist treatment and gender discrimination. These are real concerns for women in the workplace. Dealing with harassment at work can lead to health problems like anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches and more. If you’re feeling harassed at work, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell your manager, human resources department or other official, and make sure you feel safe at work.
- Focus on your heart. Heart disease kills one in every four women in the U.S., and, maybe more alarmingly, almost two-thirds of women who die of coronary heart disease don’t have any symptoms. Just because you don’t have a family history of heart disease or you aren’t overweight doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk. So take the time to take care of your heart, monitor your blood pressure and get screened for heart disease. Take the first step, and find out your risk for heart disease by taking our free risk assessment.
- Make and keep regular OBGYN appointments. Certain groups of women, including lesbians, are at higher risk of some gynecological cancers. Keeping up a good, consistent relationship with your OBGYN through regular appointments is the best way to catch early warning signs of gynecological and breast cancers, and to maintain good reproductive and sexual health.
For more information about our gynecologic cancer services, please call askSARAH at (210) 507-0941.
- Know your own risk factors. Genetic makeup, family history, geographic location – there are many personal aspects that impact your health risk factors. For example, the leading cause of death in 2013 for Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian and Alaska Native women was cancer, but for African American and Caucasian women it was heart disease. It’s important to talk to your doctor and do some research to see what you might be at risk for, and then maintain a lifestyle to minimize those risk factors when possible. Visit SAHealth.com/healthmatters to take our free health risk assessments.
Ladies, we know you don’t fit in a box – we love that about you! So keep good diets and exercise habits, do what’s right for you and let us help you make the most of your health whatever stage you’re at in life.
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