Women: Time to start putting your health first

Stephanie Maryeski, M.D.

If you’re like most women, you’re probably too busy taking care of your children, significant others, extended families, households, finances and jobs, to celebrate – or even realize – that it’s National Women’s Health Week.

Sadly, your own health and well-being is often last on your priority list. So this Women’s Health Week, try to add the following priorities to your to-do list:

  1. Prevention – While women usually schedule appointments with doctors when they are ill or have concerns, it’s common to skip the preventive visits. But those visits are an opportunity for your doctor to learn about anything that has changed since your last visit and make sure your medications are accurate and up-to-date. It’s also the time to screen for age-appropriate conditions and vaccinations, as well as counsel you on conditions that may put you at risk.
  2. Safety –We take many risks often in the name of convenience or when stressed, such as driving while texting, drinking too much, not wearing seatbelts, not using sunscreen, using recreational drugs.. My advice to patients? Life is precious, beautiful, and short so slow down and consider the consequences of your actions. Ask yourself if the risk is really worth it.
  3. Fitness -- “I just don’t have time!” Sound familiar? Believe me, I get it. So, I’m going to give you the same lecture I give myself: Your health doesn’t care how busy you are and how many other responsibilities you have. And it’s not going to take care of itself without some effort on your part. Making time to exercise and live a healthy active lifestyle will likely reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, diabetes and metabolic syndrome, depression and anxiety, as well as colon, breast and possibly lung and endometrial cancer. It will also likely build bone density, reduce your risk of falls, and improve sleep quality. Exercise doesn’t have to be expensive, inconvenient or involve a lot of machines or gear. Try a brisk walk in the morning, 10 minutes climbing stairs at work, or dancing to your favorite song.
  4. Nutrition – There is no “best” diet. It’s important to remember that food is just fuel for our bodies. The best approach to improving our eating habits is to bring consciousness and awareness to the table, literally.
    1. Only eat because you are hungry, not because you are happy, sad, anxious or stressed.
    2. Try tracking your calories. You’ll be surprised how much you’re eating when you become more aware of calorie intake.
    3. Finally, don’t let convenience replace nutrition. Try to make healthy choices, even when you’re in a hurry.
  5. Sleep – Getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night is recommended, but for many women, it’s another area that is sacrificed for other priorities. Keep in mind that chronic sleep deprivation, even at a very low level, can have negative effects on your productivity, your memory, your mental health and your immune function.

To improve the quality and quantity of your sleep, I recommend:

  • cutting down on caffeine and alcohol
  • stepping away from television, laptop and phone screens prior to bed
  • dimming your household lights at night to get you in the mood for a good night’s  sleep.

So focus on your health as a top priority. Then you’ll be able to take care of all those other priorities in your life.

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