healthy habbits

Health Tips for Women and Can Improve their Health

Women frequently put their own health on the backburner to care for others. Healthy habits can make a huge difference in taking better care of yourself.

Taking care of our physical health can be a challenge during the pandemic. Women may experience changes in eating and exercise habits, have limited alone time (or too much alone time), and be multitasking work and family needs. This can all take its toll physically.

Women Can Improve their Health

See your doctor every year.

Make sure you get a Pap test to check for cervical cancer every 3 years if you are 21 or older. If you are 30-65, you can get both a Pap test and HPV test every 5 years. Older than that, you may be able to stop testing if your doctor says you are low risk. If you are sexually active and have a higher risk for STDs, get tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis yearly. Take an HIV test at least once, more frequently if you’re at risk. Don’t skip your yearly checkup. Your doctor needs to annually assess many other issues such as potential infection, your need for contraception, and sexual complaints.”

Appreciate birth control.

“Birth control gets a bad rap, but not only can it keep you from getting pregnant before you’re ready, studies show it can lower the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer as well as regulate your cycle.”

Think about fertility.

“While many women have no problem getting pregnant in their late 30s and even into their early 40s, a woman’s fertility may start to decline as early as 32. So if you want to have kids, talk to your doctor about options, like freezing your eggs.”

Do more than cardio.

“Women need a mix of cardio and resistance or weight-bearing exercise at least three to five times a week to help prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Exercise also promotes good self-image, which is really important to a woman’s mental health.”

Don’t “OD” on calcium.

“Too much absorbed calcium can increase the risk of kidney stones and may even increase the risk of heart disease. If you’re under 50, shoot for 1,000 milligrams per day, while over-50 women should be getting 1,200 milligrams per day mainly through diet — about three servings of calcium-rich foods such as milk, salmon, and almonds.”

Stop dieting.

“Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to forgo your favorite glass of wine or a piece of chocolate cake now and then. The key is moderation. Get a mix of lean proteins, healthy fats, smart carbs, and fiber.”

Zap your stress.

“The biggest issue I see in most of my patients is that they have too much on their plates and want to juggle it all. Stress can have significant health consequences, from infertility to higher risks of depression, anxiety, and heart disease. Find the stress-reduction method that works for you and stick with it.”

Sleep

Sleep deprivation isn’t pretty, as any mother of a newborn can tell you. “There’s no substitute for good, solid, dream-inducing sleep,” says Kelsey Shanahan-Prendergast, MD, Internal Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. “The lack of good sleep has been linked to weight gain, heart disease, and reduced brain functioning, such as poor memory and concentration.” So, try your best to get in at least eight hours of sleep a night (even if it means not watching just one more episode). As a last resort, catch up on the weekends by napping or sleeping late.

Move

You may be tired of hearing it, but exercise is one of the easiest things you can do to stay healthy. “Just 30 minutes of daily exercise, even broken up into 10-minute increments, can significantly reduce your risk of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis,” says Joi Findley-Smith, MD, FACOG, an OB/GYN at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. “Exercise also reduces or improves the symptoms of menopause, PMS, diabetes, and numerous other conditions.”

Floss

“Approximately 25% – 40% of women have gum disease, which has been associated with premature births, heart disease, and some kinds of cancer,” says Dr. Shanahan-Prendergast. You may have a lovely smile, but compare the time and money you spend whitening your teeth to the time you spend flossing. If the whitening wins, consider spending more quality time with your dental floss. You should floss your teeth at least once a day.

Get checkups

There are two doctors our experts would advise you to see on a regular basis – your OB/GYN and your primary care physician. “An annual well-woman exam includes the very important Pap test and breast screening, but it isn’t a comprehensive physical,” says Dr. Findley-Smith. “In addition to your annual well-woman exam, you also need an annual physical with your primary care physician.” All women need a comprehensive routine physical every one to two years to screen for serious health conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease (which is, by the way, the leading cause of death for American women).

Eat Breakfast

When you wake up in the morning, you’ve probably been fasting for about 12 hours. “Studies have shown that decision-making, learning, and memory are impaired when breakfast is missed,” explains Dr. Shanahan-Prendergast. So, reach for high-fiber cereal, low-fat milk, or cheese and energizing fresh fruit.

Wash Your Hands

Five seconds of soap and water isn’t quite enough to wash away germs. “To avoid illnesses, scrub with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds, which is about how long it takes to sing the ABCs,” says Dr. Shanahan-Prendergast. “Or, if you aren’t near water, carry and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel, such as Purell.”

Take Calcium

“Not only does calcium protect against bone-thinning osteoporosis later in life, but it also has been shown to significantly reduce the symptoms of PMS,” says Dr. Findley-Smith.

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Consider genetic testing.

“Doctors can now screen people with a family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and chronic diseases to assess their risk — and then consider preventive measures. Talk to your doctor.”

Control Portions

Do you heap food on your plate? Are second helpings the norm? Doing so can significantly increase the caloric intake for the meal. “If you’re still hungry after a normal-sized meal, wait at least 20 minutes and give your stomach time to tell your brain that you’re full,” suggests Dr. Shanahan-Prendergast. In general, portion control is one of the easiest ways to reduce your chances of weight gain, which can lead to high blood pressure, gallstones, diabetes, and heart disease.

Quit Smoking

“Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in this country, and about 140,000 women die from smoking-related causes each year, such as cancer and heart disease,” explains Dr. Findley-Smith. “Smoking has also been associated with infertility, miscarriage, and other reproductive health issues.”

Recharge

Remember that line from the airline safety speech: “In case of emergency, put the oxygen on yourself first, then assist the other person”? The idea is if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be in any condition to care for others. “Even if you have to schedule it on the family calendar, make time to read a book, take a bubble bath, work on a favorite hobby, or just relax,” says Dr. Findley-Smith. “You might be surprised how much better you feel when you make time to recharge your own batteries.”

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