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Healthier Living for Women: It's Your Time

The month of May is filled with national observances that have been designed to promote healthy living for women mentally and physically. National Women’s Health Week takes place from May 13-19, National Women’s Check-Up Day is happening on Monday, May 14, and National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month is generating awareness throughout May. Every individual has to play a role in women’s health. Women often serve as caregivers for their families, putting the needs of their spouses, partners, children, and parents before their own. As a result, women’s health and well-being becomes secondary. Communities have a responsibility to support the significant women we know and provide assistance in any way to encourage longer, healthier, and happier lives. This resource is filled with basic information about important health topics related to improving health in many different ways, especially during Women’s Health Week and National Teen Pregnancy Month!

The 13th annual National Women’s Health Week kicks off on Mother’s Day, May 13, 2012 and is celebrated until May 19, 2012. The nationwide observance is celebrated across America in communities, neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties, hospitals, health centers, businesses, schools, places of worship, recreation centers, and online. Anyone who wants to promote women’s health can celebrate.

Important Female Related Health Topics:

  • Breast Cancer
  • Fitness and Nutrition
  • Mental Health
  • Pregnancy
  • Heart Disease

Why should women be concerned about breast cancer?

Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women. It also is the second-leading cancer killer of women, after lung cancer. Every woman has a chance of getting breast cancer. About 1 in 8 women will find out she has breast cancer at some point in her life. This might sound scary. But today, most women with breast cancer survive it. With breast cancer screening, including mammograms, doctors often can find cancer early. Treatment has the best chance of success when cancer is found early. Although Black women have the highest breast cancer death rates than women of other racial and ethnic groups, many Health centers like the Community Health Center, inc. have Early Detection Programs to help set up appointments and eliminate the lack of testing for minority populations. For more information about CHC’s EDP program, please contact Marie Yardis at [email protected].

Eat healthier and get moving!

Healthy eating and physical activity go hand in hand. Once you learn the basics, you'll find that eating healthy and staying active isn't hard at all.

Improving your food choices:

  • Use canola oil when baking.
  • Try low-fat frozen yogurt instead of regular ice cream.
  • Add lettuce, tomato, and other vegetables, rather than cheese, to your sandwiches.
  • Eat broiled, baked, roasted, or grilled chicken without the skin instead of fried chicken.
  • Try whole-wheat or multigrain bread instead of white bread.

The USDA (US Department of Agriculture) recommends an adult daily diet to include the following:

  • 3 ounces of whole grains and 6 ounces of grains total
  • 2 cups of fruit
  • 2 1/2 cups of vegetables
  • 3 cups fat-free or low-fat dairy

Steps to get you moving:

  • Use stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walk or bike to work or to the store.
  • Take a break at work to stretch or take a quick walk.
  • If you have children, make time to play with them outside. Set a good example!
  • Go dancing with your partner or friends.
  • Wear a pedometer (a small tool worn on your belt) that counts the number of steps you take.
  • Try to walk a little more each day or week
  • Set specific, short-term goals, and reward yourself when you achieve them.

Be aware of the different conditions that can affect Mental Health. 

Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. In this positive sense, mental health is the foundation for individual well-being and the successful functioning of a community. Some disorders can seriously affect your levels of mental health, if you want information on any of these conditions listed below, please visit http://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/illnesses/.

  • Alcoholism, Substance Abuse
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder (manic depressive illness), Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Schizophrenia

Action steps for women to improve mental health:

  • Reduce stress
  • Exercise more
  • Eat healthier
  • Establish regular sleeping habits

What to consider before pregnancy:

A healthy pregnancy begins before you become pregnant. It actually begins long before you even think about motherhood. Take a moment to learn what you can do now to make sure any future pregnancies are planned and healthy. All women can benefit from some basic pre-pregnancy planning. Follow this link to learn more: http://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/before-you-get-pregnant/

What to think about when you’re pregnant?

Tips for a healthy pregnancy:

  • Start changing your food habits to include a healthy variety of foods.
  • Exercise! Starting now will help you stay in shape during pregnancy, can lower your risk of miscarriage, and has been proven to help reduce labor complications and length.
  • Rest when you can. Nap!
  • Start a journal or a pregnancy blog.
  • Drink six - eight glasses of water a day.
  • Swimming is great in late pregnancy. It can help relieve a lot of aches and pains and makes you feel weightless.
  • Review the signs of premature labor and warnings signs for when to call your practitioner.
  • Practice relaxation whenever you can. Try for at least once a day.
  • Stretch before bed to help prevent leg cramps.

If you are currently pregnant, especially for the first time, you must have TONS of thoughts and questions going on in your mind. What to eat? What about complications?

What will my baby need? Get answers to these questions and more information about the bullets below at http://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/you-are-pregnant/

  • Stages of pregnancy
  • Prenatal care and tests
  • Twins, triplets, and other multiples
  • Staying healthy and safe
  • Body changes and discomforts
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Pregnancy loss
  • Know your pregnancy rights

Teen Pregnancy Prevention

May is National teen pregnancy prevention month. An essential part of teenage pregnancy prevention is helping teens develop goals and educating them about the consequences of sexual activity. It is predicted that almost 750,000 teenage girls will become pregnant within 2012. Despite the nation’s progress in reducing teen pregnancy, about three in ten teens get pregnant by age 20; the rates in the United States are still the highest among fully developed nations. Among some groups, especially the large and growing Latino population, rates of teen pregnancy and birth are well above the national average and are declining far more slowly than the overall rates. Clearly, we all still have a lot of work to do.

Research shows that children born to teen parents are more likely to live in poverty, fail in school, suffer family violence and sexual abuse, and become teen parents. That does not automatically mean that all situations will end up falling into one of those categories, but being aware of the facts is very important. This is a prevention campaign that needs constant attention, not just in the month of May. According to the University of Connecticut Health Center, For about twelve years, rates of teen pregnancy and adolescent childbearing had fallen in Connecticut, echoing a nationwide trend.   However, in the last year or two there appears to be a change in that movement.  Across the nation, rates of teen pregnancy and adolescent childbearing seem to be increasing.  On recent review, it appears that in some Connecticut communities, adolescent childbearing is a more significant problem when compared to the state overall. For more information about this topic, and local awareness events, you can visit http://teenpregnancy-ct.org/Default.htm

Do women need to worry about heart disease?

Yes. Among all U.S. women who die each year, one in four dies of heart disease. In 2004, nearly 60 percent more women died of cardiovascular disease (both heart disease and stroke) than from all cancers combined. The older a woman gets, the more likely she is to get heart disease. But women of all ages should be concerned about heart disease. All women should take steps to prevent heart disease.

Both men and women have heart attacks, but more women who have heart attacks die from them. Treatments can limit heart damage but they must be given as soon as possible after a heart attack starts. Ideally, treatment should start within one hour of the first symptoms.

5 Ways to reduce the risk of heart disease:

  • Be physically active
  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat Healthy
  • Maintain your normal weight
  • Know your numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides)

National Women’s Health Week is a weeklong health observance coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health. It brings together communities, businesses, government, health organizations, and other groups in an effort to promote women’s health. The theme for 2012 is “It’s Your Time.” National Women’s Health Week empowers women to make their health a top priority. It also encourages women to take the following steps to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risks of certain diseases. A few tips for women that the US Dept. of Health would like to pass a long are:

Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings.
Get active.
Eat healthy.
Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.
Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking and not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet.

Heart Disease and African Americans

African-American women are 35% more likely to die of heart disease than Caucasian women, while Hispanic women face heart disease nearly 10 years earlier than Caucasian women. Pacific Islander women, long considered at low risk, count heart disease as their second leading cause of death. Above all, minority women need to be made more aware of their risk for heart disease. Statistics show that about 68% of white women know that heart disease is the leading killer of women, compared to only 31% of black women and 29% of Hispanic women.

Although African American adults are 40% more likely to have high blood pressure, they are 10% less likely than their non-Hispanic White counterparts to have their blood pressure under control.

  • In 2008, African Americans were 30% more likely to die from heart disease, as compared to non-Hispanic white men.
  • African American women are 1.6 times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to have high blood pressure.

Peripheral arterial disease, or P.A.D., develops when your arteries become clogged with plaque—fatty deposits that limit blood flow to your limbs, especially your legs. Just like clogged arteries in the heart, clogged arteries in the legs mean you are at risk for having a heart attack or stroke.

P.A.D. is more common in African Americans than any other racial or ethnic group. This may be in part because some of the conditions that raise the risk for developing P.A.D., such as diabetes and high blood pressure, are more common among African Americans. That’s why it is more than important to be aware of different options for when it comes to getting educated on certain topics, and how regular you should see your doctor. If you read below, there is some helpful information about taking the pledge to make sure women are at their healthiest, for both mind and body!

May 14, 2012: National Women’s Health Check-up Day: Take the pledge!

The tenth annual National Women's Checkup Day will be held on Monday, May 14, 2012, during National Women's Health Week. The day is dedicated to encourage women to visit their health care professionals to receive or schedule checkups, and to promote regular checkups as vital to the early detection of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, mental health illnesses, sexually transmitted infections, and other conditions.

Why is it important for women to join in this effort?

It is important for women to get regular checkups, because screening tests, such as mammograms and Pap tests, can find diseases early, when they are easier to treat. Some women need certain screening tests earlier or more often than other women. Screenings and routine care can help women lower their risks of many health conditions, including heart disease. To learn more about taking the pledge, visit http://www.womenshealth.gov/whw/check-up-day/#pledge

Women can easily take charge of their health, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, a landmark health care reform law enacted in 2010. This law gives Americans greater choice and better control over their own health care and includes changes that are especially meaningful to women and their families. For instance, new plans cover vital preventive services, including mammograms, colon cancer screenings, and well-woman visits with no out-of-pocket costs. It also ensures women can see an OB-GYN without a referral. To learn more about the law and your health insurance options, visit http://www.healthcare.gov/