Women are often taught, either inadvertently or unconsciously, to put the care and nurturing of everyone else first. That line of thinking has to stop. It’s time for women to put themselves first and take care of their health with preventative health screenings.
Preventative healthcare doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. Once you understand what needs to be done, it can become part of your routine.
Preventative Care: What Is It?
Preventative care helps you take steps to prevent illness; catch disease early when it’s more treatable; and save stress, time, and money in the long run. You must be proactive to keep from getting sick or allowing an illness to get worse. In fact, taking steps now when you’re healthy is what preventative care is all about.
In order to ensure you’re doing all you can, you must:
- Identify and understand your risk factors for injury or illness.
- Have regular checkups with a healthcare provider.
- Get screened for chronic conditions such as cancer.
- Practice healthy habits.
The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology encourages women to have annual preventative visits with a trusted healthcare provider. This minimizes health risks and allows for referrals to specialists should a problem arise.
Special Health Concerns for Women
Maintaining good health is a concern for everyone, but there are certain health conditions that affect women at higher rates than men. These conditions include:
- Heart disease: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States, being the source of 1 in 4 deaths of women in 2013.
- Mental health: Women show more signs of anxiety and depression than men, with depression being the most common mental health issue diagnosed in women.
- Osteoarthritis: This common form of arthritis causes joint stiffness, swelling, and pain and tends to impact more women than men. It’s also the leading cause of disability in the United States.
- Sexually transmitted infections/diseases: The impact of STIs/STDs on women can be much more serious than they are in men because symptoms are less obvious or can be confused with another type of infection, such as a yeast infection.
- Stroke: More women than men suffer strokes each year because of risk factors unique to women such as taking hormonal birth control, being on hormone replacement therapy, being pregnant, and having high cholesterol levels after menopause.
- Breast cancer: More women develop breast cancer than men, and the risk only increases as women age.
What You Can Do
If you want to live happier, better, and longer, then it’s important for you to take steps for disease prevention and health promotion. Universal healthcare may not be something you can take advantage of in the U.S., but you can still care for your health by:
- Staying informed: Learn about how to prevent disease and promote healthier habits. Ask your doctor or another healthcare provider for specific information about any concerns you have about your health. Also, learn what your health insurance covers and what it doesn’t.
- Taking care of your bones: Women disproportionately suffer from loss of bone mass as they get older. You can take care of your bones by eating a healthy diet full of whole grains, lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats. And, of course, make sure you get enough calcium. If you’re worried you’re not, then talk to a healthcare professional about supplements.
- Avoiding bad habits: If you smoke or drink alcohol to excess, now is a good time to try to quit. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that moderate consumption of alcohol for women is one drink per day. As far as smoking goes, work with your healthcare provider to take steps to quit for your health.
- Taking medication wisely: For every medication you take, even over the counter drugs, carefully read the instructions and warnings. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about any other supplements or medications you’re taking that could interact. This can help to lower your chances of experiencing adverse reactions to medications. And always be honest about any recreational or illicit drugs you may take since they can have a huge impact on your continued health.
- Being safe: Take care to avoid injuries by wearing your seatbelt in the car, wear a helmet when you skate or bike, have functioning smoke detectors in your home, wear sunscreen, and practice safe sex to help protect against STI’s.
- Exercising: 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day, such as walking or riding a bike, can improve how you look and feel. Regular exercise is also a great way to ensure your health in the future.
A crucial step toward preventing illness is making your health a priority. Listen to your body and report your symptoms to a healthcare professional — and make sure to have health screenings regularly to prevent health issues from developing in the first place. Your health and the care you receive shouldn’t be just a luxury – it’s a necessity for a happy, healthy life.