Every October, we are surrounded by pink for Breast Cancer Awareness, a reminder to women about the importance of preventative screening. Annual mammograms are recommended for women beginning at age 40 (those with a family history of breast cancer may choose to start earlier). But what about other health conditions that impact women? The physicians at Gaston Medical Partners are here to provide some tips on ways for women to stay healthy (and happy!).
Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
While breast cancer may be more top of mind in October, heart disease is actually the leading cause of death in women (accounting for one out of every five deaths). Heart disease, also referred to as cardiovascular disease, includes any condition affecting the heart, such as heart attacks and stroke.
Key risk factors contributing to heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol (specifically LDL, known as “bad” cholesterol that can clog arteries, and triglycerides, which are a type of fat in the blood), diabetes and smoking. The good news for women is that establishing healthy habits can help lower your risk. Staying on top of your health with an annual wellness visit will ensure that you’re aware of your blood pressure, cholesterol breakdown and overall glucose level, in case any lifestyle modifications are needed, or if medicine could be beneficial.
Healthy Habits First
In establishing the most healthy lifestyle, try to incorporate the habits below.
Eat a healthy, varied diet that includes fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, with a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat and fiber. Try to limit processed foods and be aware of the amount of saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol you are consuming, as well as your salt and sugar intake. The kinds of foods you eat can have a direct impact on your blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose and weight (adult women should have a body mass index ranging from 18.5 to 24.9). A well-balanced diet will supply your body with the proper fuel and the right amount of vitamins and minerals (vitamin supplements are generally not needed if you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet). For healthy snacking ideas, check out some recommendations from the physicians at Gaston Medical Partners.
Women should make sure to stay hydrated, aiming to drink 11.5 cups of liquid a day (80% from drinks and the rest from food). Proper signs of hydration include not feeling thirsty throughout the day, with colorless or light yellow urine.
Move Your Body
Incorporating regular exercise into your routine is so important for overall health. Exercise can help you manage your weight and lowers your risk of heart disease, as well as certain kinds of cancer. Women should aim for 150 minutes of activity a week, which includes any kind of moderate activity–think a brisk walk around the neighborhood, riding bikes, dancing or playing basketball. Gaston Medical has suggestions for ways to incorporate activity at home. In addition to all of the health benefits, exercise literally helps you “feel” good, as it releases endorphins.
Check Your Vices
Smoking has already been mentioned as a key risk factor contributing to heart disease, but it’s also linked to many other health issues, including lung cancer and emphysema. If you’re thinking about quitting, remember that your body starts to begin the healing process 20 minutes after your last cigarette! Speak to your doctor about a cessation program or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
While drinking in moderation is fine, excessive alcohol consumption is linked to many health issues that impact the liver, brain and heart, as well as put you at an increased risk of breast cancer. It is recommended that women consume no more than one alcoholic beverage a day.
There is no time like the middle of a global pandemic to remind ourselves about the importance of our mental health. Women today have increased daily stressors that can negatively affect the body, impacting overall mood and behavior. Left unchecked, stress can contribute to larger health issues. Try to take time for yourself to connect with friends and family, and spend time doing a hobby you enjoy. Eating right and exercising, as mentioned above, also help with managing stress.
Kids never seem to want to nap or go to bed at night, but it’s something that most adults wish would be forced on them! Adults should aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep a night to help prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and even stroke.
With skin cancer being the most common cancer, it is important to protect your skin when outside, starting at a very young age. When selecting a sunscreen, look for one with broad spectrum protection, which helps block both UVA and UVB rays. Read up on six ways to stay safe in the sun.
Don’t Put Off Preventative Care
It’s important for both you and your primary care physician to be aware of your family health history, as you may choose to begin preventative screening at an earlier age (think cholesterol panel, mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.). Annual wellness visits will help you keep up-to-date on this and any necessary vaccines, as well as routine bloodwork and a physical exam. Our goal at Gaston Medical Partners is to keep you feeling healthy and happy.