Fighting Fit Females – 5 factors that influence women’s health
This year, the Women’s Health Week focus was on 5 major health concerns that affect women. Most of these issues relate to each other – for example, getting healthy levels of exercise will help you sleep, improve your bone health, relax your mind and avoid cardiovascular disease. Have a look at these commonly neglected areas of women’s health, and plan how you can make small changes that have big effects on your health.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Australian women, so it’s important to take cardiovascular disease very seriously. Factors like family history and age can’t be changed, but there are many lifestyle choices that will improve your chances of avoiding cardiovascular disease – eating well, moving more, and paying attention to your mental health all influence blood pressure and heart health. Seek help early, be aware of the signs of heart attack (they may not be what you think) and have regular check-ups to keep heart healthy.
Clear Mental Clutter
Mindfulness is fully supported by science as a method to counter depression, anxiety and stress. Mindfulness means disengaging from all the stress of worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, and taking time to concentrate on the present. There are many different ways you can practice mindfulness, and great resources available online. You have everything you need to start right now – so set some time aside, find a guided mindfulness exercise to get you started, and begin your journey of decluttering your mind.
Strengthen Your Frame
Women are particularly susceptible to weakened bones or osteoporosis, but there are some easy ways to fight back. Getting regular sunlight helps vitamin D production. Regular weight-bearing physical activity, where you use your body to work against gravity, helps strengthen bones. Finally, a diet rich in calcium will build up your bones and allow them to perform their many vital functions.
Exercise has a positive impact on nearly every part of your life, yet most of us don’t get enough. It can feel daunting to start an exercise program, but don’t think in terms of marathon training – little changes add up fast. Ideally, women should be aiming for at least 2 ½ hours of moderate intensity exercise over the course of a week, with strengthening exercises on at least 2 days. Try to tackle the reasons you might avoid exercise, and make small, lasting changes to see the benefits.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is often undervalued, but not getting enough can have far reaching consequences for our physical and mental health. Establish a good bedtime routine to help you nod off. Turn off screens at least 2 hours before bedtime, and aim for around 7-9 hours per night. Caffeine consumption is a bad cycle to get into – it stops you sleeping, and people who haven’t slept enough often resort to caffeine to feel alert again. 10 minutes of brisk exercise is much more energising than caffeine, and is less likely to keep you awake at night.
If you have concerns in any of these areas or need ideas on how you can make changes, your GP is a great place to start. Making small, permanent changes (instead of grand plans you might not stick to) will start you on the path to better health.