May 11th, 2020 | Senior Living
National Women’s Health Week, May 10 - 16
This year, the National Women’s Health Week (NWHW) lands smack dab in the middle of a national health crisis, so this important week is competing with the flood of news stories on the COVID-19 outbreak. We’re giving NWHW special attention, because regular, routine personal health awareness among women becomes ever more important in times when health is under stress.
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 May 10-16, 2020 serves as a reminder for women and girls, especially during the outbreak of COVID-19, to make their health a priority and take care of themselves. It is extremely important 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. Your fitness goals can change to be more age-appropriate. Another can be your mobility and dietary restrictions. Any program should be done with the collaboration and advice of your physician, but bring a few ideas of your own to the table. The OWH offers tips tailored to age:
Women in their 70s
Women in their 80s
Women in their 90s
The OWH also has set up a handy, easy-to-use Find Your Health online questionnaire asking three questions that lead you to answers focused on your particular goals.
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 of 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 smaller portion. The chefs at Legend Senior Living communities 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 the progress for you and your mind will follow. Endurance is earned slowly. Again, you’ll be surprised at how far you come just chipping away a little bit at a time.
The Whole Package
US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 87. She’s undergone treatment for cancer three times and started working with a physical trainer while being treated for colon cancer in 1999, during which she missed no days serving on the bench. A visit for a fractured hip turned up her third round of cancer. She’s had her share of health mishaps, but she maintains a steady exercise regimen and regular checkups, so she can take such challenges in stride and maintain a lifestyle many people half her age couldn’t keep up with. The point here is not that RBG is a Superwoman, but that: 1) Her resilience is likely as much a product of her health regimen as it is a gift of genes. 2) Regular visits to the doctor can turn up problems that aren’t yet showing symptoms. 3) Staying mentally engaged can prolong and enrich a life.
To your physical health awareness, work in a little 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, with a heavy emphasis on 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 that will provide you and your friends with regular free news and advice.
Maybe as important as anything, talk to other women. Try to steer some the health conversation from aches and ailments to what all of you find helpful for the health of your whole person: physical, mental and spiritual. 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!