May is Women’s Health Month in the US. It ought to be a great time to take stock of women’s wellbeing anywhere in the world.
Experts from the UConn Health Women’s Center, USA, give their tips on how to boost and maintain health every day now and in the future.
“The number one thing women can do to maintain their health and keep disease at bay is exercise daily,” says Molly Brewer, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UConn Health. It will not only improve your cardiovascular health but also help you maintain a healthy weight, body mass index, and lower your risk of developing endometrial (uterine) cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer, which are all linked with obesity. In addition, exercise can lower excess hormones in the body, which in turn lowers cancer risks, along with stress levels.
Listen to your body
Over the course of a woman’s lifetime a host of conditions can arise, including endometriosis, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, breast cancer, or gynecological cancers such as endometrial, cervical, or ovarian. “It is very important to see your OB/GYN annually for preventive screenings, potential early cancer catches, and also to report any warning signs or worrisome health changes,” says Luciano. Warning signs are changes in your menstrual cycle, abnormal bleeding and bloating, fatigue, and any change leading you to just not feel like yourself.
Eating a variety of nutritious, colourful fruits and vegetables daily is key to preventing and lowering your risk of developing breast and other women’s cancers fueled by obesity. “Women should minimize the processed foods they eat from a box,” says Alex Merkulov, a radiologist at the Beekley Imaging Center of the Women’s Center at UConn Health. “Natural, whole, and fresh foods are always the best choices.”
More than 13% of women are still smoking cigarettes in the US, despite the evidence that it leads to premature death, heart disease, heart attack and stroke, and lung and other cancers. “Cancers caused by smoking are preventable if you put the cigarettes down,” says Brewer.
Check your breasts
One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, but the good news is, if caught early, it can be treated effectively. Starting at age 40, go for an annual mammogram to check breast health and in between mammograms, perform monthly breast self-exams.
Get a Pap smear
Once a woman becomes sexually active, experts say she should be going to the OB/GYN for regular pelvic exams and Pap smear screenings. The Pap smear tests for signs of vaginal and cervical cancers, along with sexually transmitted diseases such as human papillomavirus (HPV) or genital warts. “However, the virus doesn’t always cause symptoms, which is why screening is so important,” says Shannon DeGroff, an OB/GYN at UConn Health Canton.
Prenatal care to prepare for pregnancy
A healthy pregnancy and baby starts with a healthy mom-to-be. “The most important focus is on a woman’s overall health and wellness before pregnancy in order to have a healthy pregnancy,” says Christopher Morosky, an OB/GYN at UConn Health. If you’re hoping to become pregnant for the first time or again, make sure to visit your OB/GYN for a pre-conception visit. Early prenatal care -- including taking folic acid, stopping smoking, getting to a healthier pre-pregnancy weight, practicing a good daily diet, and following an exercise routine are all critical for both fertility and a healthy pregnancy.
Get a colonoscopy
Colon cancer is the third largest cause of cancer death among women. “At age 50, women need to make sure they start getting their regular colonoscopy screening,” says Brewer, as catching any abnormal colon polyp growths early can prevent cancer from further developing or spreading.