Back to Basics
Women are often so busy taking care of family members—on top of jobs and household responsibilities—that it’s easy to put their own needs “on hold.” Sometimes, even the most basic good-health fundamentals become ignored. Here’s a reminder of some simple but important factors that can make a big difference in the quality and quantity of your life:
Exercise/Dietary Fat. Over the last decade, ongoing projects such as the Nurses Health Study have focused on the specifics of exercise. The study concludes that benefits are gained no matter what the type of exercise. You get the same cardiovascular effects from 20 minutes of vigorous exercise daily or three hours of brisk walking a week. To increase bone density, choose weight-bearing exercise such as walking or resistance training with weights. One study showed that even “fidgeting” can help shed pounds. Diets should consist of fewer muffins and hamburgers and more fruits, vegetables, and grains. Reduced fat products are available for many favorite foods—try them.
Smoking. It’s a well-known fact that smoking causes lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. In fact, lung cancer–not breast cancer–is the leading cause of cancer death among women. Take advantage of the numerous smoking cessation aids and programs now available to help you quit. The chances of quitting are much greater if you use nicotine-replacement products.
Calcium. Adequate calcium is unquestionably important to overall health. It builds optimal bone mass early in life and slows age-related bone loss during adulthood. Calcium also plays a role in blood clotting, blood pressure, and the normal functioning of muscles and the nervous system, and may also reduce the risk of colon cancer. Women aged 19 to 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium a day and 200 international units of vitamin D (in combination). Women over 51 need 1,200 mg of calcium and 400 international units of vitamin D. Since the body absorbs only about 500 mg of calcium at a time, you should spread out your calcium intake, in foods or supplements, during the day. Unfortunately, you cannot store calcium, so any gains in bone mineral density last only as long as you are obtaining calcium.
Cancer screening. Unfortunately, we cannot prevent cancer but we can certainly find many cancers at an early stage. Get annual breast examinations and mammograms, regular Pap tests, and colon cancer testing. For cancer prevention, stop smoking and wear sunscreen daily.
Stress reduction. For many women, this is a hard lifestyle factor to modify. Each woman needs to find her own healthy way to relieve stress. Don’t put emotionally satisfying activities last on your “to do” list. If necessary, schedule these times into your busy week.
SOURCE: Harvard Women’s Health Watch
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