Many women fall into the habit of taking care of others’ health and wellness needs before they take care of their own.
But the fact is that you’re actually in a better position to provide care for the people most important to you when you make your own healthcare a top priority.
No matter what your age or overall health status is, these 7 health tips can help you increase your chances of better health throughout your life:
1.) Stop smoking. Doing so will greatly reduce your chances of developing lung and heart disease.
2.) Stay on top of your annual wellness checks*. This habit can increase the chances of early detection of disease or chronic conditions, which in turn increases your chances of doing something about any health problems you develop.
3.) Don’t skimp on sleep. Besides fighting the signs of aging, regular sleep promotes mental alertness and helps keep your stress levels in check.
4.) Avoid the sun during 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. When you do have to be outside, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher.
5.) See your doctor every year. Even if you are feeling fine, regular wellness checks and health screenings can increase your chances of early detection of problems.
6.) Make physical activity* an important part of your life. Even if you only have time for 20 minutes of exercise a day, a lifelong habit of regular activity benefits your healthy heart and helps you stay on top of your weight and your stress levels.
7.) Make good nutrition a priority. Avoid crash diets or overindulgence in favor of a realistic diet that features plenty of fruits and vegetables.
MORE ABOUT NUTRITION:
Regardless of a woman’s age, nutrition experts generally recommend a diet that is focused on fruits, vegetables, fiber and protein. Your physician can direct you to appropriate resources- such as choosemyplate.gov – to help you tailor a diet that best supports lifelong health.
Women of childbearing age also need foods with folic acid (like leafy green vegetables, beans, and citrus fruits) to help prevent birth defects.
For women who have gone through menopause, it’s recommended that you increase your intake of foods with calcium and Vitamin D (such as seafood, fruit, low-fat dairy, and egg yolks) in order to prevent bone disease.
MORE ABOUT PHYSICAL ACTIVITY:
Throughout your life, a physical activity regimen that includes 20-30 minutes of daily cardiac activity (such as walking, running, swimming, hiking, or biking) is recommended for heart health, weight management, and stress reduction. Particularly as you get older, it may be beneficial to supplement your exercise routine with weight lifting or other strength training activities that help prevent loss of bone density and muscle mass.
The good news about exercise is that it’s never too late to start. Even if you’re past 50 and don’t have much of a history of physical fitness, you can still “start small” and work your way into a regular routine of exercise that helps you improve your overall health.
MORE ABOUT RECOMMENDED SCREENINGS:
Cholesterol and Blood Pressure: Women ages 20 and up should consider annual cholesterol tests and blood pressure checks a part of their regular health care routine. Your physician may recommend a more frequent schedule if you have a family history of problems in these areas or other risk factors.
Pelvic Exams and Pap Smears: Women ages 21-65 should have annual pelvic exams and a Pap smear at least every three years. These screenings may performed by your family medicine doctor or your OB-GYN.
Breast Exams and Mammograms: Generally, all women should receive a breast exam every year beginning at age 20. Most healthcare providers recommend annual mammograms from age 40-50, and every-other-year mammograms after that point. Also, you should get into the habit of monthly self-exams of your breasts. Your physician can show you the correct way to perform them.
Osteoporosis Screenings: Women 65 and older are at greater risk for problems with their bones, which is why most doctors recommend annual bone density screenings beginning at age 65.
Colorectal Screenings: Once you turn 50, ask your physician about recommended screenings (such as colonoscopies) for colorectal cancers and other potential problems.
Skin Cancer: Women of all ages should develop the habit of paying attention to changes in the skin or changes in moles and birthmarks. Be sure and report anything that seems different when you have annual wellness checks. If you have risk factors for skin cancer, such as a family history, fair skin, or a history of childhood sunburns, you should ask your physician if he or she recommends regular screenings.
Diabetes: Besides knowing the signs and symptoms of diabetes and managing your risk factors, you may need regular screenings from age 40 onward, depending on your family history and risk factors. Ask your physician for advice.
*Talk to your physician about recommended health screenings. Guidelines for health screenings vary and your physician may recommend a schedule that differs from the guidelines based on your medical or family history. Also, be sure to consult your physician before beginning any exercise routine.