May 13-19 is National Women’s Health Week. This year’s theme is “It’s Your Time,” as organizations come together to encourage women to make health a top priority. You can visit www.womenshealth.gov/whw/ to find a few steps you can take to help improve your health and decrease risk of particular diseases, including the following: scheduling regular checkups and preventive screening with health care providers, being physically active, eating healthy, focusing on mental health, and avoiding unhealthy behaviors.
Schedule Regular Checkups/Preventive Screenings: The website listed above has a helpful interactive screening chart for women, which provides you with screening guidelines recommended by the US Preventive Services Task Force. Disease processes that are common in women, and may require screening, include: osteoporosis, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and diseases involving reproductive system (including cervical cancer). Physical therapists may also assist in treating pelvic floor weakness and back pain with pregnancy and can provide intervention to those with osteoporosis and with cancer associated weakness and deconditioning.
Be Active: There is evidence showing that engaging in regular physical activity can lower your risk of early death from many causes including certain diseases, including type 2 diabetes, falls, depression, cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. Adults should engage in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity at least 5 days a week. During pregnancy and the postpartum period, women should continue to engage in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days/week, but you should consult with a health care provider. It is recommended that adolescents engage in moderate intensity activity 60 minutes per day. Exercise can help prevent adolescents from developing type 2 diabetes, as research evidence shows those who exercise regularly utilize blood sugar more efficiently than those who do not regularly engage in fitness activities. Type 2 diabetes has become a major health problem for adolescents. Type 2 diabetes was once called “adult-onset diabetes,” but the name has since changed with the recent development of type 2 diabetes in so many young people. “For example, 15 years ago type 2 diabetes was rare among adolescents, but now it accounts for almost 50 percent of new cases of diabetes in young people.” Visit www.girlshealth.gov/fitness/whygetfit/ for more information.
Eat Healthy: Studies show that only around 30% of women are meeting USDA and American Heart Association Dietary Guidelines. Those that are noncompliant with dietary guidelines and who have a history of smoking have more than double the odds for arterial stenosis, which may lead to stroke and/or heart attack. Eating healthy is a big first step in improving your overall health and function. There are many diet trends that we come across in the media, but the most important thing to remember is to have a well-balanced diet that consists of a wide variety of foods. Women especially need to ensure they are getting enough calcium, iron, and folic acid in their diet. Calcium is an important mineral for bone health to help build/maintain bone mass and reduce risk for developing osteoporosis, which is often called a “silent” disease due to a person’s ability to have the disease without ever knowing as a result of minimal symptoms. Osteoporosis can be very debilitating as it increases susceptibility to fractures of the spine, hip, and wrist. In turn, fractures can lead to inactivity and subsequently other cardiovascular/pulmonary disease processes, including pneumonia. Iron is important particularly for women as they lose iron through menstruation. Iron is built into the hemoglobin in your red blood cells, and aid in the oxygen carrying capacity of your these cells. Low levels can lead to anemia, and can lead to significant fatigue, difficulty working and performing exercise. Folic acid is particularly important during pregnancy to help decrease baby’s risk of neurological malformation, such as spina bifida. Visit www.choosemyplate.gov for more information on nutritional needs, and as always, consult your health care provider with any questions/concerns.
Focus on mental health: Make sure that you are getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night. Find productive ways to manage your stress. Consult health care providers if you suffer from depression, as it can seriously hinder function in everyday life.
Image courtesy of: http://www.womenshealth.gov/whw/