- What is NWHM and Why is it Important?
- Covid-19 Effect
- Talk With Your Doctor and Health Providers
- Healthy Diet and Weight
- Getting Active
- Prioritizing Mental Health
- Domestic Violence and How to Help
What is NWHM and Why is it Important?
May is known as National Women’s Health Month. This year, Mother’s Day is May 8th, and not only is it important to show all the mothers in our lives how much we love them, but we need to remind women everywhere to take care of themselves and prioritize their health.
Did you know that 2 out of 3 caregivers are women? Women are natural caregivers, but they tend to put their own mental and physical health on the backburner when caring for others. We need to start showing women that their health should be a priority and that they are a priority all year round.
The Women’s Health Movement has been an uphill battle for years. From the 1960’s feminist movement on improving healthcare for all women, to women protesting on the streets for equality at home, the workplace, and even now to women fighting for rights over their own reproductive systems. Some of our achievements have been the introduction of Planned Parenthood, ensuring contraception as an essential health benefit under the Affordable Care Act, and trying to end sexism in the contemporary health system with more women getting into the healthcare system. Women’s Health has been an issue for years, and we need to start fighting back not only as a woman for yourself, but for the women around you that you love.
Due to the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, many women are still working from home and trying to keep themselves and their families safe. It is not easy trying to adjust to this new way of life, but there are ways to still stay safe and healthy.
Starting with the Covid-19 vaccine to protect yourself and being less likely to contract the virus, this is the first step to staying safe. There are a few types of vaccines available, and there are resources you can find to get you and your family vaccinated. Prevention starts with you, and it will end with all of us. Read and ask your doctor if the vaccine and what vaccine is right for you.
Talk With Your Doctor and Health Providers
Annual check-ups are super important, but now with a pandemic, is it possible? Absolutely. There are several, if not almost all, health care locations that will have Telehealth, which is a virtual consultation with your doctor when needed. Now that more people have been trying to return to normal, you can still go into a doctors’ office and ask the right questions pertaining to you and your body.
If you are unsure of what to ask your doctor about, here’s a quick list of things that you should be able to openly talk about. (Disclaimer: you should feel safe talking to your doctor about these issues without any judgment. If you do not feel safe, there are several resources that can help you change to a reliable and trustworthy healthcare professional.)
-If you are taking birth control, discuss what type is best for you and how it is/will affect you.
-If you are trying to become pregnant, discuss with your doctor anything regarding your safety and the safety of a future baby.
-Talk to them about your tobacco, alcohol, and drug use and how it could be affecting you.
-Your diet and physical activity is important to discuss and if they have any recommendations on either.
-Mental health concerns are important to discuss, many women suffer from depression, anxiety, etc. Ask your provider about options that could work for you.
-Tell your doctor about your family health history, especially regarding cancer, heart issues, and diabetes.
-Older women should ask about perimenopause and menopause symptoms.
-Lastly, discuss who will make health decisions for you if you are unable to.
While all of the questions above are important, there are also screenings and exams that you will have to take as you get older. Ranging from a pap smear, to a mammogram, to others that will be able to keep you healthy as you get older.
Healthy Diet and Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight and diet is important for every person’s life. However, depending on the stage a woman is in during her life, there are special adjustments that she will need to make in her diet to stay as healthy as she can. For everyday foods, women should be eating a balanced meal from all 5 food groups. This includes at least two cups of vegetables, two cups of fruits, five ounces of protein, three ounces of whole grains and three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products. This can also vary depending on body size for different women depending on physical activity and the amount of calories they need.
Folate, foods containing folic acid, are also very important for women, especially during reproductive years. Folic acid helps prevent birth defects, therefore pregnant women need around 500-600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid per day, while a woman who isn’t pregnant only needs 400 mcg. There are many foods that can help with this vitamin B intake such as oranges, beans, peas, and even cereals. If you are not getting enough folic acid, your doctor might even recommend taking supplements while you are pregnant to make sure you have a healthy pregnancy. Iron is also important depending on a woman’s stage in life. For example, women who are pregnant need to have a higher iron intake so they need to eat iron rich foods. Women who have reached menopause don’t need as much iron, so they don’t need that many iron rich foods.
Daily calcium and vitamin D requirements are one of the few things that you need regardless of the stage you’re in. You need calcium for healthy bones and teeth, it also reduces your risk for osteoporosis. Vitamin D is also important for healthy bones and the higher intake you have of both, the stronger your bones will be.
Getting exercise can sometimes be the last thing you want to do, but it is important for your health. Even just working out for 30 minutes a day can improve your overall health immensely. You can do several different exercises, and the longer you work out, the better. There are different combinations of exercises that you can do at a gym or even from the comfort of your own home.
The two main physical activities you should do is aerobic activities and muscle-strengthening activities. Aerobic activities can be anything like cardio, it makes your heart beat faster and make you breathe harder. For muscle strengthening you could use weight machines, or you can even do exercises that use your body weight like yoga, push-ups, and sit-ups.
Exercising will improve your health in several ways. It can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. It can also help you lose weight depending on your calorie intake as you get older. It also improves depression and sleep patterns and lowers your risk of diseases such as breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and strokes. Getting active becomes more and more important the older you get because you want to stay as healthy as you can as you get older.
Prioritizing Mental Health
The most common mental health issues that affect women are depression and anxiety. Some mental issues are also unique to women, such as perinatal depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and perimenopause-related depression. There is also trauma, where women are exposed to higher levels of sexual violence and PTSD related to sexual violence, as well as a higher number of women with eating disorders. With Covid-19 and several lockdowns, the number of women with mental health issues has spiked even higher than before. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, talk to your health care provider about your mental health to get help. Some of the symptoms include but are not limited to:
-Persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness
-Misuse of drugs and alcohol
-Changes in eating, sleeping, and energy habits
-Appetite and weight changes
-Constant and unusual irritability
-Excessive fear or worry
-Mood swings, especially severe highs and lows
-Seeing or hearing things that are not there
Mental health is a hard issue to talk about, but it is necessary to talk about them in order to get help. Therapy has helped a lot of people, and now there is Telehealth, where you can talk to a therapist online from the comfort of your home. Your doctor can also provide medicines that can help. Your mental health is important, so it’s important to get the help you need by reaching out and looking for warning signs in others.
Domestic Violence and How to Help
One in three women has experienced a form of physical violence by a partner. This does not include mental or sexual abuse. Domestic violence is an issue that we are struggling with, especially with a pandemic that has made it even harder to leave your partners in unsafe situations. Both men and women are affected by domestic violence, and we need to start taking a stand against this. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, here are some resources that could help:
National Domestic Violence Hotline
800-799-7233 : Call
88788 : Text “START”
CT Safe Connect
Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Women’s Support Services