Your concierge family practice doctors at MD 2.0 in Jupiter, Florida, would like to remind you that this week is the 19th annual National Women’s Health Week, when an alliance of government organizations spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) calls attention to the ways women can improve their health.
Not that men can afford to ignore their health, but it’s no accident that this week is timed to coincide with Mother’s Day, and the fact that women are so often called upon to be caregivers to others, but in so doing, may tend to neglect taking care of themselves.
The HHS’s Office on Women’s Health website provides detailed advice that women can take to improve their health from their 20s through their 90s. Meanwhile, here are some steps that women of any age can take to ensure they’re healthy enough to enjoy life to the fullest.
The old computer adage, “garbage in, garbage out” or GIGO, means that what you program into the computer is what you will get out of it. The same holds true of the human body. A diet full of processed foods and empty calories eventually yields a body that can’t perform the demands we put on it, as well as making us more prone to various diseases.
It’s not necessary to become a so-called “health nut” to improve your diet. Minor tweaks like cutting back on (or cutting out completely) sugar, salt, food additives, and trans fats can make a world of difference in your overall health. Focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat or fat-free milk provides the fuel your body needs to operate at peak efficiency.
In addition, women need 400 micrograms (400 mcg) of folic acid daily, either through a fortified breakfast cereal or in a supplement, to replenish hair, skin, and nails, as well as to prevent birth defects. (As always, we recommend you check with us before starting a new supplement.)
More and more studies are highlighting the danger of a sedentary lifestyle. Experts recommend at least 2 ½ hours of moderate physical activity per week. And although women often shy away from weight training for fear they’ll end up looking muscle-bound, studies have shown that weight-bearing exercises are necessary to maintain bone health throughout life.
If you simply can’t manage to squeeze out that much time for a formal workouts, just do something to get you moving. A brisk 15-minute walk once a day will get your blood flowing, and help relieve chronic pain. Exercise lubricates joints, improves the cardiovascular system, and removes toxins. In fact, there’s not a part of the body that doesn’t benefit from regular exercise.
“The single thing that comes close to a magic bullet, in terms of its strong and universal benefits, is exercise,” Frank Hu, epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in the Harvard Magazine.
Pope Francis recently highlighted the problem of the culture we live in, in which he said we’re going at full speed from morning till night, with no time off for relaxation, reflection, and play.
Women, especially those in caregiver roles, often neglect their own needs in serving others. This can lead to burnout, mental health issues, and poor health overall. It’s important to build in some down time on a daily and weekly basis. Find whatever practice or indulgence helps you refresh and recharge, and be sure to include it on your schedule.
And be sure to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep impacts mental as well as physical health. We recommend 7 to 8 hours nightly.
Talk to us about which screenings we recommend for your age group. Regular health screenings can catch small problems before they become big ones.
With just a few small steps, women can take charge of their health by making it a priority in their lives. We can help you devise a health plan that works with your lifestyle and goals.