The two biggest barriers for women not maintaining a healthy lifestyle is ‘lack of time’ and ‘health not being a priority’. Often as women we are so preoccupied with everyone else’s needs or too busy being busy – filling our spare time with things we feel we ‘should’ be doing either to please others or live up to expectations.
We’re here to tell you that your health is a priority. You matter and in order to be able to look after everyone else and do all those things you feel are important, you first need to look after yourself.
Here’s some of the main health concerns for women…
This may surprise you, but heart disease is the leading cause of death for Australian and New Zealand women and causes more deaths in women than in men. It can occur at any age, but the risk does increase around the time of menopause.
There is no one single cause of heart disease, but many factors can increase your risk. Some things you can’t change such as your age, being a female and your family history. But healthy living, including balanced eating, managing your weight, regular physical activity and reducing your sedentary time can all reduce your risk factors. If you’re a smoker, taking steps to quit will also have a big impact on your heart health.
DO THIS: Having regular health checks from a young age is important to increase your awareness and pick up risk factors early.
Our childhood and teenage years are the most important time for bone growth with 90% of bone growth being complete by the age of 17. From our mid-thirties, we start to break down more bone than what is being made which leads to a gradual decrease in bone strength as we age. Because oestrogen plays a big role in maintaining bone strength, when women go through menopause it results in an increase in this bone loss due to the significant fall in oestrogen levels. Unfortunately, this increases your risk for osteoporosis.
DO THIS: To help protect your bone strength make sure you include calcium rich foods such as dairy and calcium fortified alternatives, get adequate vitamin D with around 10 minutes of sun exposure a day and include weight bearing exercise on most days of the week.
Mental & Emotional Health
There are many things that occur in different life stages that can contribute to emotional stress and leading to depression and anxiety in women. These include social pressures, social media, caring for or supporting others, relationship breakdowns, violence, discrimination, job stress, infertility and loss, pregnancy, becoming a mother and menopause.
There are many things you can do for yourself to enhance your mental well-being. It’s important to check in with your own needs, listen to your body and do your best to honour what you need by practicing self-care on a regular basis.
DO THIS: Self-care means different things to different people and can be anything from taking a hot bath or having a massage, to mediation, exercising or spending quality time with friends. Whether it’s 5 minutes a day or 30 or 60, the key is to stop and take the time to reflect on what you need and re-charge your batteries. And don’t forget to take some time off from social media too.
DO THIS: Seeing a mental health care professional, such as a counsellor or psychologist, is a good way to help you through life’s challenges and deal with stress, depression or anxiety.
Most women reach menopause between 45-55 years of age. The symptoms of menopause are created by the changes to the levels of oestrogen and progesterone in the body. Common symptoms include hot flushes, mood swings, anxiety, joint or muscle pain, tiredness and sleep disturbances and weight gain, particularly around the abdomen. Not all women will have problems with menopause symptoms, but some may have a combination of a few or many symptoms.
DO THIS: One of the best things you can do is to educate yourself – increase your understanding of what is happening and how you can help yourself. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms, and different types of therapies that may help you including HRT, other medications or other complementary therapies. Other things you can do to help include having a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water and avoiding too much alcohol (as it can cause hot flushes), being active, keeping cool with fans and loose clothing and ensuring you are practicing self-care regularly.
So ladies, we know you’re busy taking care of everyone else, but you matter too – if you haven’t had a proper check up for a while or something just doesn’t feel quite right, it’s time to see your doctor or other trusted health care professional.