The best things women can do to be healthy

The best things women can do to lead a healthy life

Erin Pieretti cools down with a walk afer joggin at Virginia Lake. Exercise is one of the best things women can do to protect their health.

Erin Pieretti cools down with a walk afer joggin at Virginia Lake. Exercise is one of the best things women can do to protect their health.

Photo By Kat Kerlin

Every year, new studies are being done about maintaining women’s health. New fads are introduced, new discoveries made and yet, it is the simple advice you generally hear from your mother that is still the solution to staying healthy.

According to Dr. Keith Brown of University Health System’s Women’s Health & Wellness Center, preventative health care is the key. Don’t wait until something is wrong to do something about it. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle day-to-day will lead to a healthy life.

Diet is a huge factor in staying healthy. We have all heard it a million times—“Eat your vegetables!” Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and can help prevent certain diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Fiber also helps control weight and keeps you regular.

Drinking plenty of water is also essential to health. Water helps stabilize your body temperature, protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues and cushions your joints. Most importantly, water aids in ridding your body of waste—it helps transport nutrients to cells and tissue and cleanses every cell in the body. It has also been rumored that drinking plenty of water increases your metabolism and is the ultimate anti-aging product.

Quitting smoking could be a lifesaver. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that: “Smoking triples the risk of dying from heart disease among [women] who are middle-aged.” Plus, there are a myriad of other health concerns associated with smoking, such as increased risk of heart and lung disease, blindness and strokes.

Regular visits to your physician can also be instrumental. “If I had to choose one thing that is the most important in maintaining your health it would be annual exams,” says Dr. Brown. “See your doctor.” After age 40, women should get mammograms every 1-2 years and yearly after the age of 50. Skin cancer screenings are also important. Women should have their cholesterol checked every 3-5 years. After age 50, a colonoscopy is recommended, and after age 60, women should have a bone density study done—earlier if they have risk factors.

“Even though we’ve been advocating annual pap smears forever and ever, there are still a number of women who don’t do it,” says Dr. Brown. According to him, cervical cancer accounts for more than 4,000 deaths a year. There are 16,000 new cases every year and of those, 50 percent of the women diagnosed have never had a pap smear, and 10 percent have not been screened in the past 10 years. Deaths from cervical cancer are preventable if it is caught early.

Something that cannot be stressed enough is stress management. “Stress is a very strong predictor of disease and other maladies,” says Dr. Brown. A number of things can contribute to stress, perhaps the most prominent being work. It is vital to maintain healthy relationships with coworkers, family and even neighbors. Taking time out in your day to relax and be good to yourself is a must. Exercise can be a great way to relieve stress and increase energy. Simply walking for 30 minutes a day four to five times per week can do wonders for mental and physical health. Getting plenty of sleep also reduces stress and is an essential rest period for the body.

Perhaps most importantly, be happy. This is easy to forget in our fast-paced, busy lives. Do your best to have an optimistic attitude, and look for the good side of things. The field of positive psychology is coming up with more and more evidence that happiness can bring us better health. A Mayo Clinic study found that optimists live longer than pessimists.