Submitted by Thurston County Public Health and Social Services
The holiday season is upon us. For those of us with children, it’s easy to focus just on their needs and wants, while we neglect taking care of ourselves in order to get everything done. Sound familiar, moms?
This is a reminder to not only take good care of yourself this time of year, but all year long, so that you can be ready for all that this and every season bring. Why is this so important? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease, cancer and stroke together cause over half of deaths among women in the U.S. Make sure that you can be there to enjoy your children—and their children—by taking the following steps to reduce stress and your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health problems.
- Get an annual well-woman visit with your healthcare provider. During the visit, discuss your health habits, family history, and family planning if you are in your child-bearing years. Your annual checkup is also the time to get current on your vaccines, have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked, schedule any additional screenings you may need, like a mammogram, and set health goals. Your well-woman visit is covered by insurance.
- Eat a well-balanced mix of nutritious food such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein every day. Eating well can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, certain types of cancer, and anemia. In addition, a healthy diet can reduce high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, help manage diabetes, and help maintain a healthy weight.
- Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. Choose activities you enjoy like walking, hiking, jogging, cycling, taking a class at the gym, or following along with a workout DVD. Daily exercise can help control weight; help prevent or manage metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, and certain types of cancer; improve your mood; boost energy; and promote better sleep.
- Take time to unwind. Stress impacts our bodies, mood and behavior. Making time for things we enjoy, exercising, relaxation techniques including meditation, and getting good nutrition can help us manage stress. Having a relationship with a higher power—something larger than ourselves—can make us feel more hopeful and help reduce stress levels. If you have tried these methods and are still having trouble managing stress, talk to your healthcare provider for support.
- Get treatment for depression. Women are twice as likely to experience depression as men. If you are one of these women, discuss it with your healthcare provider and consider treatment options.
- If you smoke, quit, and don’t substitute vaping for smoking. The CDC reports that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S, and estimates that people who smoke are 2 to 4 times more likely to have coronary heart disease; and are 2 to 4 times more likely to have a stroke. Smoking also increases women’s risk of lung cancer by more than 25.7 times. The SmartQuit TM App for smartphones is a research-based smoking cessation program that may be more effective than trying to quit on your own. It can be used with or without nicotine replacement therapy. The App is free for download to Washington residents and is private, easy to use and always within reach. Learn more online here.
- Limit alcohol use. According to the National Institute for Health, drinking too much can
negatively impact the brain, heart, liver, pancreas and immune system, and can also increase your risk of developing certain types of cancers. More information is available here.
- Get seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night. Too little sleep on a routine basis can affect our mood and ability to think clearly and is also linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. More recent studies also indicate connections between lack of sleep and Alzheimer’s disease. Adequate sleep helps keep the mind and the body healthy.
When we take care of ourselves, we can better give our time, love, and support to those we love. Wishing happy, healthy holidays to you all!