Do you know what steps you can take to be your best self at any age? You probably know the basics: eat right, exercise regularly, reduce your stress, but do you know how often you should get a Pap test or when you should start getting screened for colorectal cancer?
There's no better time than now (and National Women's Health Week) for a refresher course on the "regular" stuff and a reminder that we have resources to help you answer these questions and manage your own health.
Reduce your stress and mind your mental health. Good mental health can mean good overall health. In fact, stress is linked to heart disease, cancer and many other major illnesses. The trick may be finding what helps you squash it (breathing exercises, a hobby, a long weekend) and knowing when to ask for help.
Visit your healthcare provider for a well-woman exam AND preventive screenings. It may take more than one visit to get all of your recommended screenings and services, but as the old saying goes "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." An annual exam and discussion about your health can help identify serious health concerns before they become life changing.
Get moving. Exercise gives back by reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and improving concentration. The current recommendation? 30-40 minutes of aerobic exercise most, if not all, days per week and resistance or strength training two days per week.
Eat Healthy. "Love the food that loves you back." We can't stop thinking about this simple concept from our own Christie Naze, R.D., C.D.E. When it comes to eating, good nutrition should come from within. We need to find the strength and confidence in our own abilities to trust our bodies and find what helps us feel our best.
Sleep. Thanks to our hormones, women tend to suffer from poor sleep more than men. Everyone has different sleep needs, but if you think your sleep patterns are affecting your health, it's time to talk with your health care provider.
Eliminate or reduce unhealthy behaviors. Change is a process, but most likely you have a few lifestyle changes you've been considering. If you've been thinking about quitting smoking, reducing your alcohol intake or making sure your phone is put away before you drive, keep working towards your goal! Making positive lifestyle changes can directly benefit you and your health, and your family and friends as well.
Your best health as you age
By now you've probably realized that different things happen to your body as you age; your skin changes or your senses aren't as sharp. Getting older doesn't necessarily mean you need to start making a bunch of major adjustments to how you care for yourself, but understanding what changes are a natural part of aging and knowing what preventive measures you should take can help make the process of getting older easier on you and your body.
Luckily, the National Office of Women's Health DOES have a cheat sheet with health tips, disease and condition information and recommended screening suggestions (including reminders for Pap tests and colorectal cancer screenings) for women from their 20s through their 90s.
Here's to better health at every age!