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7 Ways Women Can Improve Their Health

7 Ways Women Can Improve Their Health

7 Ways Women Can Improve Their Health

Women tend to put themselves on the back burner, but a woman's health should not be ignored. Take control of your health and choose one thing at a time to improve it.

1. Protect Your Bones

Osteoporosis can be an elusive disease. Most people won’t have any symptoms until they break a bone. But falling and breaking a bone is not a normal part of the aging process. It’s important to be proactive about protecting bone health before you run into trouble.

A combination of good health and exercise, supplementation with calcium and vitamin D3, and possibly a regimen of either hormone therapy or a prescribed bone therapy can treat osteopenia (less than average bone density) and prevent osteoporosis.

To maintain strong, healthy bones, you have to consume a diet rich in calcium throughout your life. Your need for calcium becomes even greater as you age. The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) for calcium is 1,000 milligrams per day. Postmenopausal women who are not taking estrogen should get 1,500 milligrams per day.

Besides dairy products, other good sources of calcium are:

  • salmon with bones
  • sardines
  • kale
  • broccoli
  • calcium-fortified juices and breads
  • dried figs
  • calcium supplements

If you can’t get the proper amount of calcium through your daily diet, supplements are an accessible, relatively safe choice. In addition, adults need at least 1,000 to 2,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D3 daily in order to absorb calcium. Always consult your physician before beginning a supplement routine.

2. Take A Critical Look At Your Diet

The adage, “You are what you eat,” is based on fact. Many diseases are directly related to your diet:

  • high blood pressure
  • high blood cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • obesity

Opt for the types of foods below to keep your heart healthy:

  • fish (broiled, not fried)
  • nuts
  • variety of fruits and vegetables

Fish, particularly oily fish like salmon, has omega-3 fats that can help control your blood pressure and triglycerides. This keeps your arteries more elastic and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory.

Snack on nuts such as walnuts, almonds or peanuts. Emerging evidence links the consumption of nuts to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. The fat in nuts is primarily in the monounsaturated form. When substituted for saturated fat in the diet, it can help reduce total and LDL, or “bad” cholesterol levels while maintaining the “good” cholesterol, HDL.

And you really DO have to eat your vegetables! The nutrients in vegetables (whether the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and/or polyphenols) fight disease in a variety of ways. Vegetables can help keep your blood pressure and your weight under control, and they may help keep your arteries younger, especially when they are consumed in place of lower quality foods. As always, look for a variety of colors when choosing vegetables, emphasizing dark green and orange vegetables on a daily basis whenever possible.

3. Get Moving

You don’t need to run a marathon to improve your fitness. The safest, best exercise of all is one in which most of us can participate: walking. The health benefits of walking are well documented, including stress reduction, and reduced risks of developing heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke and breast or colon cancer.

Start slowly and work up to a nice pace. For maximum health benefits, you need to walk briskly, as if you were late for an appointment. Try to incorporate walking into your daily routine by getting up once an hour to take a short walk. Or head outside during your lunch for a half-hour stroll.

4. Quit Smoking

Despite recent bans on smoking in most public areas, Ohio has one of the highest smoking rates in the country. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. There are no redeeming qualities of smoking. Quit. If you need help, talk to your doctor.

5. Get On A Lifesaving Screening Schedule

The right screening plan for you is one based on your medical history, family history, personal preference and lifestyle. You and your physician should work together to develop a specific preventive health screening plan for you.

6. See Your Physician Regularly

While it’s easy to put off seeing the doctor until you’re sick, your primary doctor can play a vital role in keeping you well. Unfortunately, one in five Americans don’t have a family doctor, which translates into higher rates of illness and higher costs. Find a doctor you feel comfortable with and schedule routine visits.

7. Get The Lowdown

Many women are reluctant to discuss “female problems.” Don’t suffer in silence. Help is available. If you are struggling with infertility, suffer from symptoms of prolapse, incontinence, heavy bleeding or fibroids, or have been diagnosed with breast cancer or gynecologic cancer, find a specialist in your area.

Dr. Holly L. Thacker is the founder of the interdisciplinary Cleveland Clinic Center for Specialized Women’s Health and is a trailblazer in women’s health. She is the executive director of Speaking of Women’s Health, a national program that educates women to make informed decisions about health, well-being and personal safety for themselves and their families.