Women Urged To Take Care Of Themselves During Women's Health Week
May 14, 2013

National Women’s Health Week 2013 In Full Force

Rayshell Clapper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, it is National Women´s Health Week. It started with Mother´s Day, May 12, 2013, and ends on May 18, 2013. This year, the focus is on women taking care of themselves. As the US Department of Health & Human Services stated, “Women are frequently the health care decision-makers in their families.” From caring for elderly parents to taking care of sick kids to helping out spouses and partners when they are ill, women do it all. Women figure out how to pay for it, how to make it to the appointments and how to help heal their families. Only they don't really take care of themselves.

So this National Women´s Health Week is all about helping women do just that: take care of themselves. The womenshealth.gov website explained five easy steps all women need to take in order to improve their physical and mental health as well as lower their risks of certain diseases:

1. Receive regular checkups and preventive screenings.
2. Be active.
3. Eat healthy.
4. Be mentally healthy by getting enough sleep and managing stress.
5. Avoid unhealthy behaviors.

In an effort to really drive home the importance of these five steps, the Federal Occupational Health website broke each one down.

1. Receive regular checkups and preventive screenings

Women must take care of themselves and that includes going to the doctor regularly. So often women forget to do this for themselves, but receiving regular preventive screenings like mammograms and Pap tests can detect disease early, thus making them easier to treat.

Moreover, regular checkups help women to lower their risks of many health conditions including heart disease, which is the leading killer of women. The American Heart Association showed heart disease rates in men have declined steadily for 25 years but women´s rates have fallen at a slower rate. If regular checkups and preventive screenings can help women´s rates slow more, then all women need to go to the doctor as soon as possible.

2. Be active

According to the Federal Occupational Health website, women need to get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or a combination of both per week. The best advice is to do what you love. Do not start a running regimen if you hate to run. If you are not a good swimmer, then do not choose swimming as your activity. If you choose activities you enjoy doing (gardening, walking, running, swimming, biking), it will feel less like work and more like fun, which will make you more likely to complete your activity.

Being active not only helps physical health, but it can provide some support for mental health as well. Activity and exercise can help women deal with stress, think things through and make them feel better – the endorphins released see to that. Plus, if women exercise, then they set a good example for the other people in their lives to be active and healthy.

3. Eat healthy.

Sometimes women spend so much time keeping the people in their lives healthy that they do not give themselves time to be healthy. Well, that cannot happen any longer. Women must eat healthy, too. A nutritious, balanced diet will help support physical health. Women should talk to their doctors about what that means for them individually. For this writer, that means a gluten-free diet high in fruits and vegetables and eggs. What does a nutritious, balanced diet mean for you?

4. Be mentally healthy by getting enough sleep and managing stress.

Sometimes getting enough sleep is easier said than done for women. While juggling their careers, parenting and their relationship with their partner, sometimes sleep is what women give up. Sleep is crucial to a healthy mind and body though, so when women do not get enough sleep, they compromise their mental health as well as their physical health. If women do not get enough sleep, this also adds to their stress level because their minds and bodies are not allowed to reset during sleep.

Managing stress can be as difficult as any of the other steps. On another page from the Federal Occupational Health site, it explains women must take time to relax and recharge and combat stress. To do the latter, the site suggests:

• Recognize when you don't have control, and let it go.
• Don't get anxious about situations that you cannot change.
• Take control of your own reactions, and focus on what makes you feel calm and in control. This may take some practice, but it pays off in peace of mind.
• Develop a vision for healthy living, wellness and personal/professional growth and set realistic goals to help you realize your vision.

In order to take time to relax and recharge, the site further supports the following:

• Take a walk
• Read a book
• Go for a run
• Have a cup of tea
• Play a sport
• Spend time with a friend or loved one
• Meditate
• Do yoga

Both the advice on how to combat stress and how to relax and recharge are very valuable. Each can help women to consider their mental health as well as their physical health. These are also just suggestions, so each woman must figure out what helps her to relax and recharge as well as how to combat stress when it is present.

5. Avoid unhealthy behaviors.

Women should avoid risky behaviors like using tobacco, risky alcoholic drinking or not wearing a seatbelt. These are obviously unhealthy behaviors, so women just need to avoid them. Sometimes the easiest steps to health consist of eliminating bad behaviors first.

This National Women´s Health Week, women nationwide need to stand up for their own health and take charge of themselves. That means caring about their own health as much as they do their loved ones. That means setting a good, healthy example for themselves and their families by eating right, being active, going to the doctor regularly, taking care of their mental health and avoiding unhealthy behaviors.

Now more than ever, women should and can do this. With the Affordable Care Act, women can take control of their own health. As the womenshealth.gov infographic shows, the Affordable Care Act addresses the unique health needs of women. The time is now for women to get healthy and to stay healthy. One step at a time, women can consider their own health just as much as they do their loved ones. We all deserve healthy, happy lives, but we must take control of that; we must for our own our health.

"As women, we do it all - in the workplace, in the home, in our communities. Unfortunately, we are often last on our own lists. National Women's Health Week serves as a reminder for women of all ages that there is no time like the present to become empowered champions of our own physical, reproductive, mental and emotional health. With growing awareness about a number of priority women's health issues and increased access to care, we can all take steps for ourselves, our mothers, daughters and sisters, and all the women in our lives to ensure we are taking control of our own health - lowering risks, improving wellness, raising awareness, being educated and making ourselves a priority," said Heather C. Guidone, the Surgical Program Director of the Center for Endometriosis Care in Atlanta, GA and an NPAF President's Council member.