With so much on their plates – careers to pursue, homes to run, kids to raise and elderly parents to look after – women often forget to take care of themselves. If that’s you, and your health is taking a serious backseat, it’s time to put things right.
1. Take charge of your health
Start by finding out about your family’s medical history and identifying any possible health issues you may find yourself facing in the future. Then, educate yourself about the signs and symptoms and start looking at preventative measures you can put in place. Finally, listen to your body – and take action when it’s telling you something’s wrong.
2. Cover the basics
Regular exercise and a balanced diet are essential for healthy living. So find an exercise you enjoy – it makes it easier to stay motivated – and stick to these nutritional guidelines:
-Eat a good amount of protein, fresh fruit and vegetables
-Choose wholewheat options where you can
-Avoid sugar and processed foods whenever possible
3. Manage your stress
Stress can cause infertility, depression, anxiety and heart disease, so it’s important that you keep your levels under control: get regular exercise, take up a stress-relieving hobby like gardening or cooking, focus on managing your time better and learn to say ‘no’ when your schedule is already full – we can’t be wonder women 24/7!
4. Get your health checked
No-one enjoys check-ups, but they are key in helping you identify problems early on, when the chances of beating them are highest.
If you’re aged 21–65 and you’ve ever been in a sexual relationship, you need to visit your gynecologist once a year for a pap smear.
Once you’ve celebrated the big 4-0, it’s time to schedule annual mammograms. In between your check-ups, make sure that you do a monthly breast self-exam a couple of days after the end of your menstrual cycle.
All women over the age of 45 should have their cholesterol checked at regular intervals. If you’re not yet in that age bracket, you may still wish to consider it if:
You’re a smoker
You have diabetes
You have high blood pressure
There’s a family history of heart disease
It’s advisable (and convenient) to have your blood pressure checked every time you visit your GP. If you’re one of those people who’s seldom sick (or avoids the doctor at all costs), try to get it checked about once a year. If your blood pressure is high – 140/90 or above – your doctor will probably advise that you have it checked every few months.
All women aged 50 plus should have a blood sugar test every three years as a matter of course.
According to the The National Osteoporosis Foundation of South Africa (NOFSA), one in three South African women will develop osteoporosis. Often referred to as the ‘silent disease’ as a broken bone is typically the first symptom, a bone density scan can confirm whether you are suffering from reduced bone strength.
5. Get enough sleep
According to sleep neuroscientist Prof. Jim Horne, in an article published in the Daily Mail, women need more sleep than men – about twenty minutes more in fact. The reason? Women multi-task more than men do, which means we use more of our brain, too – hence the need for those extra twenty minutes. If you struggle to get to sleep at night, here are a few strategies worth trying: establish a bedtime routine, make sure you get enough exercise during the day and watch the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume in the evenings.