As women race to keep up with their hectic lives and daily demands, it’s easy to forget about one of the most important items on their “to do” list: their own health and wellness.
National Women’s Health Week, May 13–19, 2018, is led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health. This week is an important time to encourage and empower all women to take control of their health. And, as the week begins on Mother’s Day, it’s also a good reminder that you can’t take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
Here are seven steps women can take to lead a healthier life at any age.
1. Schedule a well-woman visit. A yearly preventive checkup with your doctor is a great time to see how you’re doing, discuss what you’d like to change, and work together to make a plan for reaching your health goals.
WPS Health Insurance includes a 100% benefit for preventive services when performed by a preferred provider—that means no deductible, copay, or maximum dollar limit for routine exams and preventive services.*
This is especially important for women’s health, as this includes many routine medical exams, like pap smears and one routine mammogram of a covered person per calendar year; many routine immunizations; and other services, such as comprehensive lactation support and counseling, annual counseling on sexually transmitted infections, and annual interpersonal and domestic violence screening and counseling for covered women. Visit our Preventive Services page for more information on the services covered by your health plan.
*Preventive care services include routine exams, screenings, immunizations, and other services ranked A or B by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
2. Get active. One of the best things you can do to stay healthy is physical activity, which means moving for at least 30 minutes every day. Regular exercise can:
- Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
- Lower your risk of dying early
- Help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight
- Improve symptoms of depression
- Improve sleep
- Lower your risk of diseases like breast cancer, colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke
3. Eat healthy. Choosing nutritious foods and limiting unhealthy foods is good advice for everyone. But women have some of their own unique nutritional needs, as well.
Most times, for example, women need fewer calories than men. (This changes, of course, depending on how active you are, as well as age, height, and weight.) Women also need certain vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, like calcium, iron, and folic acid. And a woman’s nutritional needs change throughout her life, especially during pregnancy or after menopause.
4. Get a good night’s sleep. All adults need seven to eight hours of good sleep each night. Getting enough quality sleep can help improve your health and well-being and fight health conditions from diabetes and depression to obesity and heart disease. It can also help you manage stress, fight memory loss, and improve mood and motivation.
Some tips for better sleep:
- Go to sleep and wake up around the same time on weeknights and weekends
- Give yourself time to unwind and get ready for a full seven to eight hours of sleep
- Prepare your bedroom by making it cool, dark, and quiet
5. Take care of your mental health. This is an important part of your overall health. Feeling stressed for a long period of time can hurt your mental and physical health. The hormones that are released when you feel stressed can raise your blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels, and can lead to bigger problems over the long term, including acne, obesity, heart disease, and menstrual problems.
It’s totally normal to experience stress. Many things in our lives can cause stress, from a death in the family, losing your job, or separation and divorce to a major illness or injury, retirement, and even pregnancy. It’s important to find ways to relieve stress, which could include meditation, exercise, or volunteering.
And if you reach a point where you can’t cope on your own, talk to your doctor and ask for help!
6. Protect yourself from the sun. Regularly wearing sunscreen and taking other steps to prevent skin cancer have an added benefit too: keeping your skin looking beautiful and preventing premature aging. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can be very dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers some tips to protect your body:
- Wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher and reapply every two hours
- Stay in the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim and wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays
7. Break bad habits and unhealthy behaviors. Along with all the “Do’s” mentioned in this blog, there are also some “Don’ts” to ditch:
- DON’T smoke
- LIMIT alcohol use to one drink or less per day
- DON’T use illegal drugs or misuse prescription drugs
- DON’T text while driving
- DON’T skip wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet
A woman’s health needs change as she ages. Here’s what you need to know to be healthy in your 20s, 50s, or 90s!