May 9–15 is National Women’s Health Week

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Each year, the week following Mother’s Day is celebrated as National Women’s Health Week in an effort to encourage women and girls everywhere to make their health a priority. Certainly, the last year has had health at the forefront of everyone’s minds. As we start the return to some sort of normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to remain focused on one’s health. For women in particular, the following are especially important to keep in mind.

Screenings and Preventive Care

Annual physical exams and, as you age, proper screenings for various health concerns are incredibly important. The pandemic certainly through a wrench in receiving medical care and screenings for some. In fact, a TIME/Harris poll conducted earlier this year found that of the more than 1,000 individuals surveyed, 78% of respondents indicated they had put off at least some medical services during the past three months of the pandemic, with regular oral care being most frequently missed, followed by annual physicals. 

That said, many exams and check-ups were done virtually via phone or teleconference throughout the past year, and now more doctor’s offices and other facilities are open again with more regular hours and services.  If you are due – or especially, if you are overdue – for the regular health screenings recommended for your age group, be sure you schedule your appointments sooner than later to ensure you help maintain your health. If finances or insurance coverage are a concern, reach out to your doctor’s office or even your health insurance company to better understand what is or is not covered for you.

Healthy Diet and Exercise

The importance of a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise has been engrained in our brains but it doesn’t mean every person abides by it. For women in particular, there are various studies that tie consumption of different foods to an increased risk in different cancers or other health ailments. While genetics certainly plays a role, ensuring that you encourage the women and girls in your life to do what they can to eat well and stay active can go a long way.

When it comes to diet, any allergies or other reactions to certain foods should always be front of mind. In general, maintaining a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, proteins and ‘good’ fats is always a good approach. If you lead a very active lifestyle, you may need to focus on calories consumed. There are many different health experts that can assist with dietary questions or concerns for women of all ages.

Many may think the past year has made it difficult to maintain a regular exercise routine, with so many gyms and fitness facilities being closed down or with limited capacity rules and availability. However, virtual fitness classes, online videos and at-home gyms became common themes throughout the past year with many having to shelter in place and avoid regular outings. Whatever the situation, ensuring you maintain a regular exercise regimen, ideally balancing cardiovascular and strength, can do wonders for your health.

Mental Health

The past year has undeniably been difficult and has taken a toll on the mental health of millions. When it comes to overall health for women and girls, mental health is certainly a priority. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression – and depression can form at any age.  There are a number of reasons for this, including:

  • Women are more likely to be the primary caregiver for children and often older/disabled relatives;
  • Women are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence, socioeconomic disadvantage, low income or low social status

To ensure you maintain good mental health, it’s important to be well-rested, eat well, exercise, meditate and do enjoyable activities that help reduce stress. Those may include joining local clubs, organizations or support groups – even if it has to be virtual. Most importantly, if you think you need help, reach out to someone or the many organizations available via phone, online or text.

During this year’s National Women’s Health Week, make sure you reach out to the women and girls in your life and encourage them to take proactive steps to improve and maintain their good health during this week and throughout the year.