Written by Olivia Cohen
Beginning this Mother’s Day, rally your sisters, mothers, friends, and wives to partake in National Women’s Health Week from May 14 to May 20. According to the Office on Women’s Health, the goal of Women’s Health Week is “to empower women to make health a priority” and to serve “as a time to encourage women to take steps to improve their health.”
Celebrate the 18th annual Women’s Health Week by putting your physical and mental health first. Get together with a group of fellow females to support each other in reaching your goals for the week — goals you can extend beyond May 20 and incorporate into your lifestyle.
The Center for Disease Control breaks down health goals into five categories: get screened, get moving, enjoy healthy foods, prioritize mental health, and practice healthy behaviors.
As we age, it’s important to keep on top of recommended tests and screenings — preventative measures that are more effective than trying to treat an established condition. Women over 60 may consider annual tests for blood pressure, cholesterol, Hepatitis B and C, osteoporosis, sexually transmitted infections, colorectal cancer, and diabetes; talk to your doctor to determine what’s right for you, and check which tests are appropriate as we age. Regardless of age, a yearly wellness visit to check in with your doctor is highly recommended and is covered under Medicare. In addition, an annual breast exam or mammogram can help catch signs of breast cancer.
Exercise is one of the most important things we can do to keep our hearts healthy at every age. The CDC recommends that adults get 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise every week, spread out for at least 10 minutes at a time. If the thought of building an exercise routine makes your palms sweat, relax. Try taking a walk around your neighborhood to enjoy the spring weather, or going for a leisurely weekend bike ride in a park; no running or gym equipment required.
In addition to aerobics, it’s especially important for women to practice strength and balance as they mature. This will help maintain bone density, prevent falls, and support daily functioning for healthy aging. Engage your major muscle groups in at least two days per week of strength training, like yoga or water sports.
Enjoy Healthy Foods
Women and men alike need to eat a healthy diet to remain in good health. Not only does a healthy diet boost the immune system and contribute to resistance against chronic disease, including heart disease and diabetes, but it also affects emotional health and daily energy levels, and has been shown to improve mental function and even prevent the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
As we age, it’s vital that we keep 50% of our plates at each meal full of fruits and vegetables, replace refined grains with whole grains, stick to lean meats, and limit sugar and alcohol intake. Some mature bodies will find that they need more fiber or water than they used to in order to digest more easily; try a natural supplement like psyllium husk to keep you moving.
Women in particular need about 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, which helps your body produce and maintain new cells. It can be found in most multivitamins as well as in fortified breakfast cereals.
Prioritize Mental Health
Researchers are increasingly finding a link between mental and physical health. And because women are more prone to anxiety and depression than men, it’s vital to be aware of how your daily habits affect your mental and emotional well being.
Keep your mind healthy by getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night, exercising regularly, and finding healthy ways to deal with stress. Make mental health a habit by finding time to do something that brings you joy every day, whether it’s reading a book before bed or taking 10 minutes to meditate during your lunch break. In addition, staying socially engaged and pursuing your interests, from learning a new skill to mentoring a child, will help your brain stay healthy and sharp.
If you’re having trouble figuring out what you like to do or need support in reaching your optimal state of mental health, don’t be afraid to reach out. Talking to a counselor, friend, or family member about your concerns is a good first step toward a healthy mind. Your mind and body will thank you!
Practice Healthy Behaviors
Practicing health is a habit. The more we engage in healthy behaviors on a daily basis, the easier it is to remain healthy as we age. Although it may seem overwhelming, practicing self-care through small daily rituals can make a large impact on overall health. Habits like flossing your teeth every night before bed, protecting yourself from the sun by wearing SPF lotion and sunglasses every day, and staying smoke free all contribute to a larger picture of a healthy lifestyle.
Not sure where to begin? Try setting SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Talk to your doctor to decide what goals are appropriate for you and create a plan to help you make them a reality.
For more ideas about how to celebrate National Women’s Health Month, check out ideas from the Office on Women’s Health or search for the hashtag #NWHW to see how other women are celebrating.
If your loved one needs help maintaining daily healthy habits, consider bringing a qualified care provider into your home. American In-Home Care always refers qualified, screened, and insured care providers that are compassionate and ready to help. Contact us at 1-844-505-0004 to schedule your free in-home consultation to discuss which care options are right for you and your family.