This content is sponsored by Adventist HealthCare
It’s National Women’s Health Week—but what does it mean to be a healthy woman?
“Every woman is unique and will have different goals for their health,” says Mary Allison Mitchell, DO, family medicine physician with Adventist HealthCare Adventist Medical Group. “But in general, it’s about balance. We need to be healthy overall, by focusing on our breast, mental, heart and gynecological health.”
Monitoring your breast health
“The first step a woman can take in managing her breast health is knowing her risk factors,” Dr. Mitchell says. “Learn your family history and any factors that might make your risk of breast cancer higher.”
Even for women with an average risk for breast cancer, routine mammogram screenings should begin at age 40.
Another important way to stay on top of your breast health is noticing any changes in your breasts. “Even if you’ve had a physical or a mammogram recently, if you notice any mass, lump, or bump, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician,” Dr. Mitchell says.
Mental health is as important as your physical health
Stay on top of your mental health like you do with your physical health. It’s important to ensure you are taking care of your whole self, mind, body and spirit.
“Women have a tendency to overextend themselves,” Dr. Mitchell says. “We often try to handle an overabundance of tasks, but the truth is, our bodies and minds can only take so much, and we need to take care of ourselves as much as we take care of everyone else.”
Destressing is a crucial part of managing your mental health and can include any activity that helps you break away from stress. It could be a hobby or something physical such as walking, running, yoga, meditation, or stretching. Or, it can be as simple as taking a 30-second mental break from any task that might become overwhelming.
“We have to be able to recognize our body and our mind’s limits,” Dr. Mitchell says. “If we don’t recognize them, our body will recognize them for us, and shut down.”
It’s important to pay attention to any potential symptoms of mental distress, such as:
- Extreme fatigue
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- An overwhelming feeling of being “off,” or not feeling like yourself
Don’t ignore these symptoms, particularly if there doesn’t seem to be an underlying cause for them. Recognizing them can help you get get the support you need and prevent more serious health complications.
Keeping your heart in shape
“Heart disease affects women just like it affects men; it’s just that it can present itself differently,” Dr. Mitchell says.
Starting around age 40, it’s important to talk with your doctor and understand your risk for heart disease. Women who have certain risk factors may need to start earlier, so it’s important to discuss with your doctor your health history. Risk factors include:
- Family history of cardiovascular disease
- High cholesterol
- High Body mass index
There are also some unique risk factors that only affect women. Talk with your doctor about if you have Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a history of birth control use and smoking and pregnancy related conditions such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension.
Eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis are important for heart health, but Despite these tactics, some women may still be at risk.
“Some women eat right and work out every day, but still have high cholesterol, or still have a higher chance for heart disease simply because of their family history,” Dr. Mitchell says. “If that’s the case, it’s important to take any medication prescribed by your doctor to keep these factors under control.”
Keep up with your gynecological health
All women should begin having their annual well-woman visits around age 21. Depending on your overall health, family history and previous results, your doctor may only recommend a pap smear every 2-3 years.
You should still stay on top of your annual appointments to keep track of your overall gynecological health, to manage any symptoms and check for any more serious conditions. Dr. Mitchell says to talk with your OBGYN or primary care doctor if you start to experience pelvic pain, or experience more vague symptoms such as bloating.
Keep it balanced
No matter where you are in your journey to health, Dr. Mitchell says it’s important to remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
“Staying healthy is a lifelong journey that we have to work on every day throughout our lives.”
To learn more about Adventist HealthCare Adventist Medical Group and find a doctor near you, click here.