This year, National Women’s Health Week begins on Mother’s Day, May 12, and continues through May 18. During Women’s Health Week, all women are encouraged to be as healthy as possible and to be aware of conditions that disproportionately affect women.
“Women are more susceptible than men to serious conditions like breast cancer and osteoporosis and should be aware of healthful habits and precautions that can encourage a long, happy, and healthy life,” said Dr. Melvina Patel, primary care physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group Queens. Dr. Patel shared the following tips for better overall women’s health:
- Manage stress. We all encounter a lot of pressure and stress throughout our lives. Take a few minutes every day to relax. Additionally, make sure you get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Meditation is a great way to forget about daily pressures and can also help improve your mental health.
- Check for breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that, beginning at age 40, women should have the choice to begin annual breast cancer screenings; and, between the ages of 45 and 54, women should get mammograms each year. Women, 55 years or older, should consider biannual or annual exams. All women should also know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a healthcare provider right away.
- Eat a healthful diet. Try to fill your diet with four to five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day and fewer processed foods. Choose whole grain, high-fiber foods, and lean cuts of meat, poultry, and fish. Healthful eating will help you maintain a proper weight and avoid diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and pregnancy problems.
- Monitor calcium intake. Women under 50 should be getting 1,000 milligrams per day, while women over 50 should be getting 1,200 milligrams per day, mainly through diet. Calcium-rich foods like low fat milk, salmon, and almonds are recommended and can help women avoid osteoporosis.
- Exercise. Women need a recommended mix of cardio and weight-bearing exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Aerobic exercises like walking, swimming, jogging, bicycling, and dancing can help prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
- Consider genetic testing. Doctors can screen patients with a family history of certain diseases. These tests can assess your risk for diseases that are common in women (for example, breast or ovarian cancer).
- Understand postpartum depression. In the United States, one in seven women develops PPD. If after pregnancy you experience mood swings, trouble bonding with your baby, or signs of depression, you may be experiencing postpartum depression (PPD). If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consider speaking with a physician or consulting with a behavioral health professional.
- Avoid cigarettes. According to the American Heart Association, exposure to tobacco smoke contributes to about 34,000 premature heart disease deaths each year. If you smoke, try to quit, and don’t spend time around others who smoke.
- Ask your primary care doctor about vaccinations. There have been sporadic outbreaks of pertussis, mumps, and most recently measles. This information suggests that some women may need booster shots. Women may also benefit from vaccinations for Human Papillomavirus or HPV, a leading cause of cervical cancer. Ask your physician for advice on which vaccinations make sense for you and your family.