Healthy habits are the best way to avoid disease, prolong your life, and live more happily. But in the chaos of a woman’s daily life, healthy living may take back seat to chores, work, busy schedules, and more. Take these simple steps toward a longer, healthier life.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women. In the United States, 1 in 4 women dies from heart disease. Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent heart disease and keep your ticker strong. It’s also beneficial for your mental and bone health.
Aim for 30 minutes of movement at least four days per week. Aerobic, or cardio, exercise is best. This includes:
Mix routines up and keep your exercise plans exciting by trying different activities. Invite a friend to join you for accountability and encouragement.
Cardio alone isn’t enough for optimal health and fitness. You should combine it with some type of strength training. Strength training builds muscle, boosts metabolism, and helps you maintain stronger bones. This is especially important in postmenopausal women.
Eat a balanced diet
A nourishing diet is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Beyond weight loss and maintenance, eating a balanced diet is crucial to a woman’s overall health. Good foods provide vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are important for growth, well-being, and development.
Eating a balanced diet starts with avoiding unhealthy foods. Packaged and processed foods are often full of sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and calories. Avoid the fake stuff, and opt for the good stuff, such as:
- fresh fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- fiber-rich foods such as beans and leafy greens
- fresh fish
- lean cuts of meat and poultry
- healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, and olive oil
- low-fat dairy
Here’s a grocery shopping tip: Shop the perimeter of the store. This is where you’ll find fresh foods. Try to avoid the inside aisles, where most of the boxed and processed foods reside.
Also, be sure to make a list and stick to it, and don’t shop hungry. You’re more likely to make unhealthy choices and pick up foods you don’t need when your tummy is rumbling.
Additionally, a balanced diet is a cornerstone of weight loss. Carrying around extra weight can increase your risk of several conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
You can take a daily multivitamin but eating vitamin-rich foods serves up the extra benefits of healthy fiber and minerals. Eat a variety of foods in a variety of colors and you should meet your vitamin, mineral, and fiber requirements without the need for a supplement.
Aging is part of growing older and wiser, but that doesn’t mean you have to take the inevitable aches and pains lying down.
For women, healthy aging depends largely on healthy living. That’s great news because so much of what you can do to be healthy today will prevent you from feeling beyond your years tomorrow. That includes eating a healthy diet, staying active, and having regular health screenings.
Healthy aging also emphasizes things you shouldn’t do, such as using tobacco products and drinking excess alcohol. You can also help slow aging by learning to manage stress and cope with mental health issues that will naturally arise throughout your life.
Aging isn’t just how your body feels, however. It’s also how it looks. You can prevent little spots and dots that make our skin look older than we feel. The skin-related choices you make in your 20s, such as tanning beds and long days at the pool, will rear their ugly heads as you age.
To protect against wrinkles, age spots, and even cancer, slather on sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Wear protective clothing and sunglasses and try to avoid the sun entirely in the middle of the day. If you spot any changes in freckles or new or unusual spots, see your dermatologist.
A healthy sex life
Sexual health is a lifelong issue for women. A woman’s sexual health needs span decades and encompass a variety of issues, from preventing unintended pregnancy to boosting a sagging libido.
In the beginning of your sexually active years, the emphasis of sexual health falls primarily into these categories:
- protecting against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- finding a birth control or family planning method that works for you
- having regular STI screenings, Pap smears, and pelvic exams
Later in life, your needs may change. Many of these changes coincide with other physical changes you may be experiencing. These issues include:
- low libido or sex drive
- inability to reach orgasm
- reduced response to sexual stimulation
- not enough natural lubrication for sex
- uncomfortable or painful sex
A healthy sex life carries many rewards, and it’s not just about the calories burned between the sheets. Women with a healthy sex life may have a lower risk of cardiovascular events — high blood pressure and heart attacks — than men. Women can — and should — reap the reward of a robust sex life throughout their years.
Time for baby
Whether you’re pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or just starting to consider it, a healthy life for your baby starts with preparation. Even before you take a pregnancy test, you can take significant steps to protect your future baby’s health.
Caring for yourself takes care of your future babies. Some behaviors, including drinking alcohol and smoking, could hurt your baby. They can also increase your risk of complications. If you need help stopping, talk with your doctor about proven methods or support groups.
Likewise, you can increase your chances for a healthy baby by eating a balanced diet, taking prenatal vitamins, being active, and watching for early signs of pregnancy. Start here if you’re curious about what you can expect during pregnancy.
Being a parent is tough, hard work. However, it’s also incredibly rewarding.
You’ll have questions, and you’ll need help. A strong support network of friends and family members you can call on is vital. When you need someone to pick up your sick child or show up at a soccer game so your little one has a fan, this group of people will be an essential resource.
However, there will come times when even these people can’t provide the support and help you need. That’s when you can turn to an online community of parents facing the same ups and downs, questions and concerns, and worries and woes as you. While they may not be your neighbor, the community aspect of online parenting forums may become your go-to resource when you’re at your wit’s end.
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in American women. If you have a family or personal history of breast cancer, your risk for developing this condition is higher.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women of average risk have a mammogram screening every two years between the ages of 50 and 74. They also recommend women with an average risk of developing the cancer have their first screening in their 40s.
However, many doctors and medical groups disagree with USPSTF and still recommend yearly mammograms starting at age 40. Your doctor may recommend you start earlier if you have a family history of breast cancer. Likewise, these medical professionals also encourage women to conduct self-exams on a monthly basis starting at age 20.
Deal with stress
Career. Kids. Family. Friends. Volunteer work. Many women are swimming in stress and responsibilities, which can manifest more than just gray hairs. Excessive stress can translate to:
- high blood pressure
- upset stomach or other gastrointestinal issues
- back pain
- relationship conflicts
- sleeping difficulties
- abdominal weight gain
You can manage stress with relaxation techniques such as:
- yoga or tai chi
Avoid known health risks
Many health issues are common among both men and women. However, some conditions may be more common in women or impact women differently than they do men. These include:
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women. Additionally, women are more likely than men to die following a heart attack.
Women are more likely to have a stroke than men. Men and women share many of the same risk factors for stroke, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. However, women have several unique risk factors. These include:
- birth control use
- hormone replacement therapy
Urinary tract issues
Women have a shorter urethra, which means bacteria have a smaller distance to travel before they reach your bladder and start an infection. For that reason, urinary tract problems, including infections and incontinence, are more common in women.
Men are more likely to abuse alcohol and become dependent upon it. However, the impacts of chronic alcohol use are greater on women than men. These complications include heart disease and breast cancer. Additionally, babies born to women who drink alcohol during pregnancy may have a condition called fetal alcohol syndrome. This can cause brain damage and learning delays.
Women are more likely to show signs of depression than men. From ages 14 to 25, women are twice as likely than men to have depression. That ratio narrows with age.
While this common form of arthritis can occur in both men and women, it’s more common in women over age 45.
One way to prevent disease and infection is to avoid smoking. You should also avoid those who do. Secondhand smoke can be as dangerous as smoking.
Other known risks to health include drugs and alcohol. For women, a moderate amount of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or about 1 ounce of spirits each day. One five-ounce glass of wine a day may help cut heart disease risk, but more than that increases your risk of cancer and other conditions.
Good dental and oral health goes beyond a blindingly white set of teeth. Daily brushing and flossing keeps away cavities, gum disease, and even your physician, as having healthy teeth and gums might reduce your risk of heart disease.
Visit the doctor
Other than breast exams and gynecological visits, you should make sure to visit your doctor regularly for checkups and screening exams. You should have blood work, biometric data such as blood pressure and weight, and other preventive testing measures done at your yearly physical. These tests can nip potential issues in the bud.