Women who fret about their children's doctor appointments and their husband's aches and pains often put their own health last. Not a good idea.
Here are some tips from medical experts on easy things a woman can do, starting today, to stay healthy and strong.
• Cut it out: Just say no to smoking. Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk for breast cancer. And throw out the fad diets, as many leave out important nutrients.
• Eat better: Fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, beans and nuts and seeds can help with weight control (which improves your overall health). These foods also help give you the fibre you need (21 grams daily if you are over 50 and 25 grams if you are under 50). Women are prone to irritable bowel syndrome because they tend to get less fibre as a result of eating less food than men do.
• Vitamin reminder: Menstruating women should eat iron-rich foods or take an iron supplement to prevent iron deficiency anaemia. Vitamin C helps with iron absorption. Other vital nutrients are calcium, to prevent osteoporosis, and vitamin D, to help with calcium absorption.
• Accumulate 150 minutes of aerobic exercise throughout the course of the week. Sound daunting? Not if you break it down into 15 sessions of 10 minutes each, or five 30-minute sessions.
• Clock yourself daily and don't forget to go for "moderate intensity" - that's when you can carry on a conversation while being a little out of breath and having a slight sweat.
• Easy ways to fit it in: Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work.
• Look for the farthest spot rather than the closest when you park and walk to your destination.
• Begin and end your day with a walk around your block. Do some exercises while you watch television. Give the kids a thrill (and a laugh) and play Wii Fit with them.
• Don't forget muscle-strengthening exercises to fight osteoporosis. 10 to 15 minutes twice a week will do it. Weight-bearing exercises include squats, lunges, push-ups, sit-ups and weights.
See your doctor for an annual check-up and make sure you get these tests: blood pressure, cholesterol, bone density, pre-diabetes and thyroid. Breast exams, mammograms, Pap smears and pelvic exams should all be carried out periodically according to your age and family history. Talk to your doctor about when these tests should be done.
Some doctors recommend that women perform monthly self-exams of their breasts. You should know what's normal for you, and if your breasts deviate from how they ordinarily look and feel, talk to your doctor.
Feed Your Soul
Don't let these new tips add to your overload as you struggle to balance work and family. One of our most important tips is to relax and find time for yourself.
• Slow down: Ask for help when work and family are stressing you out.
• Rest up: Sleep at least seven to eight hours nightly (exercise and a good diet will help.)
• Find a hobby: Consider reading, gardening, or taking care of an animal. Can't resist multitasking even when you're supposed to be relaxing? Gardening and taking care of an animal can also help with exercise, plus growing herbs and fresh vegetables can improve your diet.
Women need to do things that are soul-feeding that aren't aimed at gratifying others. Women need to take care of things, to do things that promote emotional growth. Find a satisfying hobby. It will increase your sense of self-worth, which leads to better health all around.