Back in the day, if a woman spoke of her personal health, she could end up in a mental asylum or subject to bloodletting by leeches. In the centuries long before employee wellness programs and biometric screenings, some diseases were blamed on night air and expressive emotions. And women who pursued an education were warned that intellectual aspirations damaged their reproductive health.
Women across the globe have progressed in moving their health to the forefront of everyday conversations and medical advancements. This betterment is evident in the celebrations of March as Women’s History Month in the United States and March 8 as International Women’s Day, yet countless females remain in the dark about their ongoing health and fitness. Many are at high risk for the top five health concerns of women, including heart disease and osteoporosis, but do not know it.
What steps can you as a woman take to bolster your own personal health?
- Understand your own body. What makes you energetic or sluggish? What are your optimum hours of sleep? How much exercise is enough without causing muscle fatigue or strain? If you are in menopause, how is your body adjusting? The more you are a student of your own body, the more you’ll be prepared if something seems off-kilter and you need to seek medical attention.
- Educate yourself on health issues. With ever-expanding technology and instant access to information, women of all ages can stay up to date on pertinent health topics. Local physician offices and hospitals often host health programs and forums just for women. The federal government’s Office of Women’s Health — womenshealth.gov or 1-800-994-9662 — shares a wealth of facts about women’s health and wellness. Healthfinder.gov is another national-level resource for organizations and services available to assist with a woman’s well-being.
- Know and act on your family health history. Did your grandfather have diabetes? Do your siblings have high blood pressure? Collecting an accurate health history on your family of origin can give your doctor a better picture of your current health and your risks for disease. Ask relatives from both your father’s and mother’s sides about any medical conditions they have or have had. Record the ages when these conditions first occurred.
- Seek preventative health information. Stay current with your doctor on the screening tests for the following health conditions that often increase with age:
- High blood pressure – manual or digital blood pressure monitor
- Cholesterol – fasting lipoprotein panel
- Heart disease – blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index and other cardiovascular tests
- Diabetes – fasting blood glucose level, or A1c test
- Colorectal cancer – fecal occult blood test (stool-based), colonoscopy
- Breast cancer – clinical breast exam, mammogram
- Ovarian cancer – pap smear
- Skin cancer – annual skin test
- Osteoporosis – bone mineral density test
- Glaucoma – eye exam with dilation of pupils
As our country and world lend special honor to women this March, you are encouraged to be proactive about your own health. And you can be grateful for all the ladies who lived before you and helped changed the tide on physical conditions being attributed to night air, expressive emotions and educational pursuits.
What have you found most helpful in staying proactive with your health?
An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.