Preventative Care for Women: Building a Healthy Lifestyle

Each year, medical professionals treat women trying to stay committed to the usual, and often difficult, New Year’s resolutions like losing weight or cutting out sweets. As doctors, we always try to remind our patients of much easier and important ways to build a healthy lifestyle.

Regardless of age, here are a few tips for all women to take better control of their health:  

  1. See a gynecologist annually 

Seeing a gynecologist at least once per year is an essential component of women’s preventative health care. A gynecologist will be able to test for diseases including HIV, breast cancer, cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Women who are between the ages of 21 and 65 should check in with their gynecologist for a pap smear once every three years to screen for cervical cancer, according to Mayo Clinic.

In addition, a gynecologist can prescribe birth control -- which not only prevents unwanted pregnancy but can lower the risk of uterine and ovarian cancers -- and help women plan to start a family.

  1. Prioritize exercise

Regular exercise is the best defense against osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, the leading cause of death among U.S. women. It also boosts energy, improves mood, helps with weight control and promotes better sleep. Women should aim to complete a mix of cardio and strength training at least three to five days per week to fully reap its benefits.

  1. Eat more natural, unprocessed foods

Rather than obsessing over calorie intake, women should resolve to eat a range of whole foods including whole grains, vegetables, fruit and unprocessed meat, while staying away from added sugars. One Yale study compared a range of diets and found that “a diet of minimally processed foods, close to nature” was best for longevity and disease prevention. Eating real, whole foods proved more effective than other popular diets, including low-carb, low-fat, low-glycemic and Paleolithic diets. 

  1. Don’t count out mental health

Mental health is just as important as physical health when it comes to preventative care, particularly among women. Women are at a much higher risk for mental illness then men; one study found women are about 40 percent more likely to develop depression. Neglecting mental health care can lead to a number of complications, including high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, insomnia and chronic disease. If you suspect you might be struggling, your doctor can help you navigate solutions.

 

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