Women’s Health and Nutrition: Risks & Advice
Living a healthy lifestyle is important to improve overall health and wellness for all women. Healthy eating, physical activity, managing stress, self-care, and managing weight are important to stay healthy and happy throughout life.
Staying healthy and managing weight can also affect the costs and coverage for life insurance and health insurance. It can be possible to obtain life insurance for overweight individuals as long as there are no other health issues. But prevention and good self-care is always preferable.
Women face unique health and nutritional concerns, especially as they age. Heart, bone, and mental health issues, cancer, and hormone and autoimmune disorders are some of the conditions that can affect women. It is important for women to take care of their health so they have the energy and well being to enjoy life and keep up with the demands of a family, career, and relationships.
Women’s Health Concerns
There are some health concerns that just affect women, but there are others that can affect both men and women. These conditions may look different in women or may affect women more seriously or disproportionately than men.
Osteoporosis and osteomalacia are both bone-related conditions that can affect women. Osteomalacia means soft bones and osteoporosis means porous bones. Both can result in low bone density, which makes women more at risk for a fracture or other issues.
Peak bone mass happens in the late teens and early 20s. During the 30s and 40s, bone mass stays relatively stable. Middle-aged and older adults tend to lose bone mass as they age. Weight-bearing physical activities like walking, jogging, and strength training can help prevent the bone loss that can occur in older age.
Getting enough calcium and vitamin D throughout life is also important for women’s bone health. Take a calcium supplement if you do not consume dairy products regularly.
Vitamin D is not abundant in our diet but can come from regular sunlight. A vitamin D supplement may be necessary during the winter months when sunlight is not abundant.
Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke
Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans for both men and women of all ages. Women are plagued with a higher incidence of premature death and more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases.
Women tend to be underdiagnosed when compared to men. The symptoms of a heart attack may also differ greatly in women. Men may feel chest pain, whereas women may feel jaw pain, shoulder pain, nausea, or shortness of breath.
Women are more likely to have a stroke than men. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are risk factors for stroke, but it is also thought that birth control use, pregnancy, and hormone replacement therapy may also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Breast cancer and skin cancer are the most common types of cancer in women. Lung cancer is the number one cancer leading to death. Reproductive cancers like ovarian, endometrial, and cervical cancer are unique to women.
Prevention of cancer is important, but early detection is one of the best options for fighting cancer successfully. Breast self exams, skin checks, and other screenings help catch any abnormalities or issues early to set up a successful treatment plan.
Menstrual cycles, pregnancy, birth control, and menopause are just a few of the causes of hormonal issues. These hormonal changes occur from the pre-teen years until after middle age. Along with these imbalances come a number of uncomfortable issues, like hot flashes, acne, irregular or heavy bleeding, or irritability.
Mental Health Issues
Depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety are common mental health issues that women face in higher numbers than men. These conditions also affect women differently than men. While there is no cure for most mental health issues, they can be treated and controlled.
Disordered eating also occurs more commonly in women. This can take the form of anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, or other conditions. There are usually underlying mental health issues that occur with disordered eating. Professional help from trained professionals is the best bet when dealing with these conditions.
Autoimmune disorders affect more women than men and include conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. These disorders can affect well being and may limit daily activity like exercise or work.
Autoimmune disorders are not well understood and there is no one clear cause that leads to these conditions. It is important to seek the advice of health care professionals and follow their recommendations for the treatment of autoimmune disorders.
Best Ways to Live a Healthy Lifestyle
While some health conditions are related to genetics, hereditary factors, and other things that are not under our individual control, there are lifestyle changes that any woman can make to be healthier and happier.
Women also tend to put family in front of their own needs, sometimes sacrificing a fitness routine, self care, or sleep for taking care of children or family members.
Regular Medical Visits
Follow your health care professional’s recommendations for annual screenings, like Pap tests, annual skin checks, mammograms, and colonoscopies. A health care provider may also recommend screenings for cholesterol or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Breast self-exams and monitoring any skin changes are important as well.
If hormonal issues or postpartum depression are affecting you or someone you love, it is important to reach out for medical advice. If mental health issues are interfering with daily activities, you should reach out for counseling, therapy, or medical advice.
Eating plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables and whole grains are great ways to get a variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These colorful foods have antioxidants and phytochemicals that can help lessen inflammation in the body and help lower the risk for many chronic conditions.
Other healthy eating strategies include limiting processed foods, limiting sugary foods and beverages, and reducing portion sizes. Lean protein, beans, nuts, seeds, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products are also great sources of many vitamins and minerals to keep muscles and bones strong.
A regular physical activity routine is one of the best things that women can do for their overall health. Benefits of regular physical activity include strong bones, strong muscles, improved cardiovascular health, decreased stress, weight management, improved energy, better sleep quality, and improved mental health.
Women should do cardiorespiratory endurance activities like running, jogging, walking, cycling, dancing, or swimming. It is also important for women to do regular strength training to strengthen muscles and bones. It is a myth that women will bulk up when they do strength training, so women should not be afraid of strength or weight training.
Flexibility should also be a regular part of a regular exercise routine with stretching or yoga. It can be difficult to fit in physical activity when you are busy with family and career responsibilities, but finding a balance between work and exercise is important for well-being.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important to lower the risk for many chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. Healthy eating, physical activity, and behavior modification are the three important factors in weight management.
Take Care of Your Skin
Sunscreen, limiting exposure to ultraviolet rays, and staying away from tanning beds are the best ways to lower the risk for skin cancer. It is also important to do regular self-checks of your skin and get a yearly skin check from a dermatologist.
Get Enough Sleep
It is very easy for women to become sleep-deprived, especially when caring for babies and young children. Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, lack of concentration and focus during the day, low energy levels, and moodiness.
Try to get into a good sleep routine and eliminate or lessen distractions that impact sleep quality. Cutting back on caffeine and having a good bedtime routine can help improve sleep. Regular physical activity can also help improve sleep quality.
Social and emotional health are also important factors in living a healthy lifestyle. All women should determine the activities that are enjoyable and improve their social and emotional health.
Self-care can look different to different people. For some, self-care might be taking a walk alone or with a friend or family members, taking a long bath, getting a manicure, pedicure, or massage, or spending time with a close friend. Self-care could also involve therapy or counseling with a qualified professional.
Self-care activities should revive and refresh you. Every woman should know what self-care activities they enjoy best and make sure to incorporate them into their life.
Stress is an inevitable part of life and can manifest in many different ways. Stress can come from work, family, relationships, or life in general. Physical activity, self-care activities, getting enough sleep, meditation, and spiritual practices are all great options to manage stress. Work-life balance is also important for managing stress.
No matter the age, all women can take steps to manage their health and nutrition for life. Women who are healthier also tend to be happier and more engaged with families and career.
Melissa Morris writes for the life insurance comparison site, EffortlessInsurance.com. She has a master of science in exercise science, is an ACSM certified exercise physiologist, and an ISSN certified sports nutritionist.