National Women’s Health Week (May 9-15) is a weeklong health observance coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health. Its goal is to help American women make their health and wellness a top priority.
With the theme “It’s Your Time,” the nationwide initiative encourages women to take steps to improve their physical and mental health, and lower their risks for certain diseases.
In accordance with the national effort, physicians at Cooper University Hospital offer women of all ages the following advice to stay healthy and prevent disease. The most important things women can do are:
- Get recommended screening tests.
- Be tobacco free.
- Be physically active.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Take preventive medicines if you need them.
- Avoid risky behaviors, such as not wearing a seatbelt, having unprotected sex with multiple partners.
- Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.
Screening Tests for Women: What You Need and When
Screening tests can find diseases early when they are easier to treat. Health experts from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force have made recommendations, based on scientific evidence, about testing for the conditions below. Talk to your doctor about which ones apply to you and when and how often you should be tested.
- Obesity: Have your body mass index (BMI) calculated to screen for obesity. (BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.)
- Breast Cancer: Have a mammogram every one to two years starting at age 40.
- Cervical Cancer: Have a Pap smear every one to three years if you:
- Have ever been sexually active.
- Are between the ages of 21 and 65.
- High Cholesterol: Have your cholesterol checked regularly starting at age 45. If you are younger than 45, talk to your doctor about whether to have your cholesterol checked if:
- You have diabetes.
- You have high blood pressure.
- Heart disease runs in your family.
- You smoke.
- High Blood Pressure: Have your blood pressure checked at least every two years. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher.
- Colorectal Cancer: Have a test for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. Your doctor can help you decide which test is right for you. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you may need to be screened earlier.
- Diabetes: Have a test for diabetes if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
- Depression: Your emotional health is as important as your physical health. If you have felt “down,” sad, or hopeless over the last 2 weeks or have felt little interest or pleasure in doing things, you may be depressed. Talk to your doctor about being screened for depression.
- Osteoporosis (Thinning of the Bones): Have a bone density test beginning at age 65 to screen for osteoporosis. If you are between the ages of 60 and 64 and weigh 154 lbs. or less, talk to your doctor about being tested.
- Chlamydia and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections: Have a test for chlamydia if you are 25 or younger and sexually active. If you are older, talk to your doctor about being tested. Also ask whether you should be tested for other sexually transmitted diseases.
- HIV: Have a test to screen for HIV infection if you:
- Have had unprotected sex with multiple partners.
- Are pregnant.
- Have used or now use injection drugs.
- Exchange sex for money or drugs or have sex partners who do.
- Have past or present sex partners who are HIV-infected, are bisexual, or use injection drugs.
- Are being treated for sexually transmitted diseases.
- Had a blood transfusion between 1978 and 1985.
Daily Steps to Health
Don’t Smoke. If you do smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting. If you are pregnant and smoke, quitting now will help you and your baby. Your doctor or nurse can help you.
Be Physically Active. Walking briskly, mowing the lawn, dancing, swimming, and bicycling are just a few examples of moderate physical activity. If you are not already physically active, start small and work up to 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity most days of the week.
We offer an assortment of exercise and fitness programs at The Ripa Center for Women’s Health and Wellness in Voorhees. Find out more about yoga, low impact core strength training, Latin dance-aerobics and more for beginners to experts by visiting their web page and viewing the class calendar.
Eat a Healthy Diet and Stay at a Healthy Weight. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products; include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars. Balance calories from foods and beverages with calories you burn off by your activities. To prevent gradual weight gain over time, make small decreases in food and beverage calories and increase physical activity.
Looking for someone to point you in the right direction? Learn more about “The Healthy Weigh: A Six-Week Program for Weight Management,” which can help you meet your health and lifestyle needs in a compassionate and supportive environment.
Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation. If you drink alcohol, have no more than one drink a day. (A standard drink is one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.) If you are pregnant, avoid alcohol.
Should You Take Medicines to Prevent Disease?
Hormones: Do not take hormones to prevent disease. Talk to your doctor if you need relief from the symptoms of menopause.
- Breast Cancer Drugs: If your mother, sister, or daughter has had breast cancer, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking medicines to prevent breast cancer.
- Aspirin: Ask your doctor about taking aspirin to prevent heart disease if you are:
- Older than 45.
- Younger than 45 and:
- Have high blood pressure.
- Have high cholesterol.
- Have diabetes.
- Immunizations: Stay up-to-date with your immunizations:
- Have a flu shot every year starting at age 50. If you are younger than 50, ask your doctor whether you need a flu shot.
- Have a pneumonia shot once after you turn 65. If you are younger, ask your doctor whether you need a pneumonia shot.