This week we celebrate National Women’s Health Week. This annual celebration begins on Mother’s Day every year to encourage women to make their health a priority. Women are so often in the role of caring for others; it’s critical for us to focus on our own health, and National Women’s Health Week nudges us to do just that.
Women are two out of every three caregivers in the United States, providing daily or regular support to children, adults, or people with chronic illnesses or disabilities. Women who are caregivers have a greater risk for poor physical and mental health. Preventive care can keep disease away or detect problems early so that treatment is more effective.
Here are some things women can start doing right away to care for themselves:
- Talk to a health care provider. Find out what screenings and exams you need and schedule them. If something doesn’t feel right, ask your doctor about it. If you put off scheduling your annual well exam over the past two years, now is the time to get it done!
- Be active. Get at least 150 minutes of exercise – walking counts – every week. That’s a little more than 20 minutes a day. You can use items you have around the house, such as full water bottles, canned goods, or other items for strength training. You can stretch with a towel or walk up and down steps.
- Eating a healthy diet is essential, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat milk and other dairy products, and lean meats. Your diet should be low in salt, saturated and trans fats, and added sugars.
- Women need folic acid every day for the healthy new cells the body makes daily. At PowerMeA2Z.org, women can learn more and receive free vitamins with folic acid.
- Keep your mind and body healthy, including getting enough sleep. Research shows that positive mental health is associated with improved overall health and well-being. Take the time to unwind and connect with others facing challenges like the ones you’re dealing with.
We have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. National Women’s Health Week is the perfect time to boost our self-care.
Sheila Sjolander is assistant director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, leading the Division of Public Health Prevention Services for the past 10 years. She oversees more than 60 public health programs, including injury prevention, maternal and child health, nutrition and physical activity, and chronic disease programs. In her 20 years at ADHS, she has been a leader in integration of prevention programs, strategic planning and the state’s work to reduce opioid overdoses. Sjolander received her Master of Social Work degree from Temple University and previously held strategic planning positions in Oregon and Wisconsin. Sjolander received the Outstanding Achievement in Rural Women’s Health from the Arizona Rural Women’s Health Association in 2016 and the CHW Champion Award from the Arizona Community Health Worker Association in 2017.