May 7th, 2021 | Senior Health
National Women's Health Week starts on Mother's Day every year. So, that should be easy to remember. After the week, try to remember that the importance of your health, mental and physical, never stops. We're giving NWHW special attention because regular, routine personal health awareness among women becomes ever more vital as they age. Women outlive men in most developed countries, but they also are more prone to certain health threats, such as stroke.
The speakersfornurses.com website describes the week as “a national effort … to raise awareness about manageable steps women can take to improve their health … incorporating simple preventive and positive health behaviors into everyday life." Notice the emphasis on "manageable," "incorporating," and "simple." The idea is not to make it an Olympic challenge, just to turn the dial one click toward mindfulness of your health.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health (OWH) describes the week it officially sets aside: ‘“The week serves as a reminder for women and girls … to make their health a priority and take care of themselves. It is essential for all women and girls, especially those with underlying health conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, and women 65 years and older, to take care of your health now.”
The OWH itself is one of the best single resources for women’s health information, and we would encourage a visit to the site: womenshealth.gov. You’re no doubt amply aware of all the things you should and shouldn’t do to avoid underlying health conditions. But, let’s just take a breath and enjoy for a second that somebody’s focused on women’s health in particular. Then, let’s ease into the manageable, simple, everyday approach.
Gauge Your Age
Not every woman’s health goals are the same. Use this fact to encourage yourself to realistic, reachable fitness. One dominating factor can be age. Fitness goals, mobility, and dietary restrictions can change to be more age-appropriate. Any program should collaborate with your physician but bring a few ideas of your own to the table. The OWH offers tips tailored to age. Women in their 20s up to their 90s can learn suggestions on eating healthy, staying active, when to see their doctor, caring for mental health, and avoiding unnecessary risks.
The OWH also offers an exciting and efficient shortcut to “Find Your Health.” You just plug in your answers to a few simple questions about your health, and the page returns advice tailored to your health.
Take It Easy
So, now, having a program, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Regardless of what your goals include:
Weight loss – Don’t crash diet or try to switch from eating all the things you like to eating none of them. Example: If you’ve been drinking whole milk all your life, you may find skim milk hard to swallow. But you could try 2% and start by using it on cereal. You’ll be surprised at how easily your taste will adjust. Once you make that adjustment, try almond or oat milk and slash the milk fat and calories in your diet while you get all the protein. Take vitamin supplements to help and consult your physician.
Don't be shy about asking for lower-calorie substitutes for desserts and sweeteners when in the dining room or at a restaurant. If the portions are bigger than you need, ask the server if you can have a half or a smaller portion. The chefs at Legend Senior Living residences are keenly sensitive to the tastes and nutrition of the residents and provide appropriate servings.
Exercise – Same principle. Do the exercise only until you get bored or tired. It may not take much, to begin with – but do it every day. Your body will make progress for you, and your mind will follow. Endurance comes slowly. Again, you'll be surprised at how far you come, just chipping away a little bit at a time.
The Whole Package
Here’s a women’s health resource you probably don’t know about, but it’s rich in news and research on the health of senior women. It’s the Women’s Health Initiative Strong and Healthy (WHISH) website for information and reporting on the WHISH research trial. The WHISH trial, run out of Stanford University, tests whether increasing physical activity (e.g., moving more, sitting less) will reduce heart disease and stroke in older women. (Women are twice as likely to experience a stroke as men.) And guess what they find? Sedentary lifestyle (sitting almost to the exclusion of standing, walking, and getting some exercise) ages you faster and contributes to your heart disease and stroke chances. There are plenty of stories on how to improve your lifespan and the quality of life while you do. So, check it out.
To your physical health awareness, work in a bit of flexing of your brain muscles. At Legend residences, our Life Enrichment program is integral to the entire culture of our communities. It combines physical activity with mental and spiritual, emphasizing learning experiences, shared life experiences, culture, and stretching your limits. It’s fun, and the therapeutic benefits are real.
Our Memory Care programs make a lot of use of the brain’s natural ability to create new pathways to memory and improved cognition. This “neuroplasticity” is part of everyone’s brain physiology. The principle of exercising your brain can keep you mentally sharp with puzzle-solving, reading, designing projects, practicing hobbies, and musical instruments – virtually unlimited activities. If you’re a TV watcher, work in a few programs that challenge you intellectually and spiritually: science programs, history, philosophy, cooking – even shows like Jeopardy – really anything that makes the experience interactive rather than just passively watching.
Save the Date
If you got in late this year on National Women’s Health Week, put it on your calendar for next year and use it as a milestone to see how far you’ve come next May. Get a group of friends together and form some collective goals. Make a game out of it. Have a weekly reminder on your calendar. Subscribe to the CDC’s Health Matters for Women Newsletter as a regular reminder to provide you and your friends with regular free news and advice.
Maybe as important as anything, talk to other women. Try to steer some of the health conversations from aches and ailments to what all of you find helpful for the health of your whole person: physical, mental, and spiritual. The irrepressible actress and comedian Betty White turned 99 this year, and she's working on another show. Her favorite advice for a happy, long life is more mental than physical: “Enjoy life,” she told Parade Magazine. "Accentuate the positive, not the negative. It sounds so trite, but a lot of people will pick out something to complain about rather than say, 'Hey, that was great!' It's not hard to find great stuff if you look."
Ask the women among your friends who seem to stay fit and enjoy generally better health to talk about the little things they do every day. There’s enough there to fill a lot more than one week a year. Here’s to your health!