Statistics indicate that women—on average—live approximately five years longer than men, but this longevity, unfortunately, is not linked to better overall health. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, women have more physically and mentally unhealthy days than men. Part of this disparity is related to age; because of their longer life expectancy, women are at greater risk for age-related conditions, like Alzheimer disease. Beyond that, however, women experience gender-specific health care needs throughout their lives and are more likely than men to have certain conditions, including asthma, arthritis, migraine headaches, osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, and chronic pain.
Taking Care of Yourself
So, given these challenges, how can women focus more on their own health and well-being?
Make your annual well-woman visit to your doctor and schedule your preventive screenings.
Yes, you know who you are. You prod your family to do it. You make their appointments and urge them to ask doctors the right questions. But what about you? Like oxygen masks on a plane, you’ve got to address your own health challenges and short-circuit potential problems before you can effectively help others.
Get Active. Stay Active.
Easier said than done, right? But did you know that a woman who exercises 30 minutes a day reduces her risk of early death by 27% compared to a woman who exercises only 30 minutes a week? So, take the stairs at work, walk ten minutes after each meal, or finally get the gym membership you always said you would!
If everyone was eating healthy on their own, there wouldn’t be a weight- loss industry worth billions of dollars. But it’s not just about calories. It’s about eating nutritious foods that aren’t highly processed (if you can’t pronounce it, eating a lot of it probably isn’t a good idea) or high in sodium and added sugar. While going completely cold-turkey on your favorite fast food likely isn’t going to work, you can slowly substitute healthy foods for less healthy ones, like seltzer water for soda or whole-grain bread for white. Even the smallest changes count.
Pay Attention to Your Mental Health.
Daily living and the stresses of family and career will inevitably lead to periods of sleepless nights and tense days. But when those stresses become unrelenting or take a disproportionate toll on your mental health, your physical health will undoubtedly suffer. And each year 1 in 5 women in the U.S. is diagnosed with a mental health problem, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or an eating disorder. So remember to take steps to manage your stress before it becomes overwhelming Take time just for you to walk, read, or do what you enjoy. Talk to trusted friends and family. Or reach out to a professional via a hotline or your family doctor for confidential treatment.
Avoid Unhealthy Behaviors.
Yes, it’s all about those things that don’t seem risky until they are. Of course, give up smoking. But, wear your seatbelt, wear your bicycle helmet, put on sunscreen. And that smart phone? It’s not just teens who text and drive. Women are on the phone in cars more often than men and are twice as likely to crash or narrowly avoid a crash when they are dialing a phone.
Want to Know More?
Women make 80% of the health decisions in their families. Learn more about the health topics that affect you and your loved ones by going to your local library and logging on to: