National Women’s Health Week encourages millions of women to make their health a priority and take steps to improve it. The 20th annual National Women’s Health Week starts on May 12, which is Mother’s Day, and is observed through May 18, 2019. The week serves as a reminder for women to build positive health habits to live a safer and healthier life. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health leads National Women’s Health Week.
With all the demands of family and work, many women tend to neglect their health, while booking their partner’s and kids’ annual physicals a year in advance or driving their parents to and from their doctors’ appointments. Women experience unique health care challenges and are more likely to be diagnosed with certain diseases than men. Women’s Health Week focuses on reminding women to carve out the “me time” they need to and make those yearly doctor’s appointments for themselves that are so important. This is the perfect time to get your wellness up a notch with five habits that are the foundation of women’s health:
- Get regular preventive screenings and checkups: Getting regular check-ups is an important habit that can improve a woman’s health. Visit a health care provider for a well-woman visit (checkup), preventive screenings, and vaccines. This can help you get the care you need to prevent disease, disability, and injuries. Similarly, preventive care can keep disease away or detect problems early, when treatment is more effective. It’s important that women talk to their health care provider to learn which tests are right for them, when they should have them, and how often.
- Get active: Exercise is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle, with benefits ranging from mental to physical well being, including lowering your risk for heart disease – the leading cause of death for women. If you are a person who works out regularly, you may benefit from increased strength, improved cardiovascular endurance, fat reduction, as well as an overall decrease in health risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Adults should do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity that requires moderate effort.
- Adults should do strengthening activities at least 2 days a week that include all major muscle groups.
Strength and balance training can help reduce falls, as more than one out of four older people falls each year and women fall more often than men.
- Follow a healthy diet: Food and nutrition play a crucial role in health promotion and chronic disease prevention. The CDC notes that
- A healthy diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat free and low-fat milk and other dairy products, lean meats, and is low in salt, saturated and trans fats, and added sugars.
- Women need to take folic acid every day as it helps the body build the healthy new cells and also helps prevent major birth defects when pregnant. Women who could become pregnant need 400 micrograms (400 mcg) of folic acid each day. Two easy ways you can get enough folic acid are to take a vitamin that has folic acid in it every day or eat a bowl of breakfast cereal that has 100% of the daily value of folic acid every day.
- Always try to get your vitamins and minerals from natural foods, not from supplements (except if your doctor recommended). Food supplements cannot replace a healthy diet.
- Pay attention to mental health: Good mental health is essential to overall well-being. According to womenshealth.gov, more than 1 in 5 women in the United States experienced a mental health condition in the past year, such as depression or anxiety. So, pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.
- Practice healthy and safe behaviors: Daily decisions influence overall health. Healthy decisions and actions can help keep you safe and well and set a good example for others.
- Quit smoking. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and affects a person’s overall health.
- Don’t text while driving.
- Take steps to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions and can lead to the development of chronic diseases. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation, which is up to 1 drink a day for women.
- Get enough sleep which is important for overall health. Adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
- Only take prescription medicine as directed by your healthcare provider.