By Dr. Crystal Moore
With our Mother’s Day festivities still fresh on our minds, there is something important that all women can share in together, whether they are biological mothers or not. Just as we have honored our mothers and mother figures, we have to honor ourselves. What better way than to focus on being there for our families in every way possible, for years to come, than remembering National Women’s Health Week (NWHW)?
Initiated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Women’s Health division, NWHW serves to remind and encourage all women to take proactive steps to maximize their health and wellness. No matter what your current health status, it is never too early or too late to empower yourself to make optimizing your health a top priority.
As a board-certified pathologist, I’ve been trained to diagnose all body systems and to help patients understand the importance of taking care of themselves to improve overall health and wellness, and prevent unwanted diagnoses in the future.
Here are four steps that all women can engage in to improve their overall health and wellness:
- Schedule your well-woman exam and get preventative screening
- No woman has to die of cervical cancer in the U.S. Pap smears are simple, painless exams that can detect precancerous lesions early.
- Mammograms save lives. Schedule yours today. Early detection is your best protection.
- Colonoscopies save lives. If you are over 45 years of age or have a family history of colon cancer, talk with your gastroenterologist and schedule your screening as soon as possible.
- Thinking about the pitter patter of little feet? Talk with your OB/Gyn to take proactive steps before your pregnancy to ensure the best possible start for new life.
- Get your annual physical to screen for hypertension and diabetes, and to check your blood work to ensure you are as healthy for years to come.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a colorful diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Lean meats that are grilled or sautéed supply a great source of protein.
- Limit consumption of salt and alcohol.
- Moderate exercise, just 30 minutes a day, will help maintain your weight and increase your energy.
- If you are struggling with weight issues, know that your health care provider is there to help. Schedule an appointment to seek advice and assistance on your weight loss journey.
- Manage your mental health
- Depression manifests in many ways. Anger, sleeping too much or too little, changes in appetite, and decreased joy in usual activities are just a few of the ways. Talk with your physician if you don’t feel like yourself. There is help. You will be glad you did.
- Decrease stress. Women are busy and often give more than they receive to their family and friends. Take time for yourself and eliminate toxic people and things from your environment.
- Put yourself on your busy to-do list. Schedule your bubble bath or massage. Light your candles and read a book. Schedule time with your significant other or girlfriends. Be sure to stir some play into your long work days.
- Get a spiritual foundation. It is tough going it alone. Reach out to your community, or place of worship. Anchor yourself in something higher than yourself. It will help you get through rough patches in life and make the good times even better.
- Worried about your own problems? One of the best remedies is to get out there and help someone else.
- Volunteer your gifts and talents to help someone less fortunate than you. It is a win-win arrangement.
- Adopt healthy behaviors and kick bad habits
- Smoking cessation saves lives. It is never too late to stop and the benefits of quitting start almost immediately. Talk with your health care provider for help, set a date, and kick those butts.
- Make sleep a priority. A full night’s sleep is essential to optimal health and energy. Choose a bedtime and stick with it. Eliminate distractions like television. If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, talk with your health care provider for assistance.
- Use safety equipment. Seatbelts save lives. Buckle up! If you are getting your exercise on a bicycle or roller blades. Be sure to wear your helmet and protective gear to prevent unnecessary trauma.
- Don’t drive with distractions. Texting can wait. Turn down the music a bit and just enjoy the drive. You will improve your chances of arriving safely at your next destination.
- Practice safe sex. Sexually transmitted diseases are still prevalent in our society. Talk with your partner, use condoms, and take control of your fertility and sexual health.
Health is wealth. During National Women’s Health Week and year around, invest in your greatest asset. Do it for yourself and the ones you love. Investing in your health always pays back great dividends.
Dr. Crystal Moore is a member of the College of American Pathologists. Follow Crystal Moore, MD, PhD, FCAP at DrCrystalMoore.com or on Twitter (@DrCrystalAMoore) for more health information and to receive a Prescription For Life (#RxForLife).