Yesterday’scelebration of Mother’s Day kicked off National Women’s Health Week, an annualreminder for all women -- moms, daughters, sisters, girlfriends, wives -- tomake their health a priority. This is something all of us should be thinkingabout year-round, of course, but a refresher is never a bad idea.
So listen up, ladies:Even if you exercise and eat right, you may still be skipping some of the mostimportant steps to good long-term health. Here, Stacey Rosen, MD, vicepresident of women’s health at Northwell Health’s Katz Institute for Women'sHealth, shares the top five things she wishes more women did.
Stop skimping on sleep.
Too often, womentrying to “have it all” forgo shuteye in order to squeeze more into their days.But adults need six to eight hours of sleep a night; getting less than that cancontribute to both short- and long-term health problems, from trouble withmemory to weight gain. “Bragging about how little sleep you need has become abadge of courage for women in our culture,” says Rosen. “The truth is, your wellnessis dependent on getting the right amount.”
Find a doctor you trust.
“Women are soparticular about finding the right child care and hairdressers and all kinds ofother services, but too often they don’t feel empowered to identify a doctorwho really becomes a partner in their health,” says Rosen. That’s concerning,she adds, because if you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor you may beless likely to ask questions, bring up symptoms that worry you or stay up-to-dateon check-ups and routine medicalscreenings.
Know your heart disease risk factors.
Heart disease is thenumber-one killer of women, yet many people still consider it a man’s problem.“It’s never too early or too late to find out your risk factors,” says Rosen.That includes knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers; your doctorcan recommend how often you should be tested.
Add strength training to your workouts.
“Women have atendency to love aerobic activity and be less comfortable lifting weights ordoing resistance exercises,” says Rosen. But adding strength training to yourroutine at least twice a week is important: Among other benefits, it canprotect against muscle and bone loss that can occur as women get older. It’seasier than you think to get started. You don’t need dumbbells or a gymmembership -- you can get a great workout using your own body weight or smallprops, like soup cans or bottles of water.
Schedule time for yourself.
“Stress relief andsocial support are vital to women’s health,” Dr. Rosen says, “but they’re oftenthe first things we drop when we get busy.” That’s especially true for womenwho are raising children, caring for aging parents, juggling a career andpersonal life, or all of the above. Rosen makes sure her patients regularly setaside time for things that make them happy, whether it’s pursuing a hobby orlaughing with girlfriends. In other words, consider this a reminder to schedulea walk with friends or a girl’s night out … doctor’s orders!