Tips for Helping Women Stay Healthy at Every Life Stage
Part Two of a Two-Part Series
Sometimes “life happens” causing your family, work, or an unexpected event to take all of your attention. If that describes you (or a family member or friend) this is a reminder that every woman needs to take time to take care of herself. The best way to start is with an annual well-woman check.
In the meantime, there are things you can do to increase your chances of staying healthy. Andreia Arnold, Nurse Practitioner at Equality Care Center in Phoenix, shared her knowledge and insight regarding things women at every life cycle can do.
When you start menstruating, you begin your childbearing years. This is a time you want to keep your hormones balanced to avoid emotional and physical problems.
“One of the best things you can do to keep your hormones in balance,” Arnold said, “is have a well-balanced diet, exercise and reduce your stress as much as possible. Any form of stress can affect a woman’s cycle. Sometimes those imbalances become so significant they might require supplementation, such as birth control pills or antidepression medication. Anything that can help balance the hormonal levels.”
For premenstrual symptoms, Arnold repeated her advice about a well-balanced diet and exercise and added meditation or some sort of relaxation activity. If you worry about your emotional ups and downs, Arnold shared the signs that signal you should seek help.
“Any time a woman experiences emotional symptoms where there is extreme happiness, sadness, crying frequently,” Arnold said, “anytime those emotions begin to interfere with her ability to complete her activities of daily living or impede her ability to care for her children or other family members, then it’s time to seek help.”
A Healthy Pregnancy
Not everyone wants to get pregnant, and that’s okay. If you plan to have children, Arnold’s top tip is to maintain a healthy weight.
“Make sure you are exercising at least three times weekly,” Arnold went down the list. “Adequate hydration is a must. Eat a well-balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, lean meats, wholegrain bread. Cut out the concentrated carbs and sugar — cookies, cakes, chips, soda — all those things that we love but aren’t so good for us and we need to limit. If you smoke, quit.”
In addition to the basics of good nutrition and daily exercise, Arnold stressed the need for proper rest.
“Especially after birth,” Arnold said. “You’re going to need at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. If you can have someone at the home to assist you with your newborn that would be great. Your body has gone through tremendous changes and is going to continue to go through changes.”
One of the changes a new mom can’t help but notice is her flabby abdomen.
“This is due to excessive skin-stretching after carrying your baby,” Arnold advised. “Eating a healthy diet, doing daily exercises and using a compression garment usually improves things.”
“Sometimes us ladies are overly obsessive about our weight,” Arnold added. “I would like to reassure our new mom that she’s expected to gain anywhere from 25-35 pounds. A lot of moms will return to their prepregancy weight within six months of giving birth.”
The Elder Years
If you’re facing menopause, just remember that every woman’s experience is different. And the six years before, called perimenopause, can have you wondering if everything is okay.
“Prior to perimenopause,” Arnold said, “you probably want to sit down with your PCP and review what to expect during this period. Keep a list of questions and don’t be afraid to ask them.”
Once you haven’t had a period for a year, you have reached menopause. But changes to your body continue. Your skin, bones, brain and heart health, and appetite and digestion will need attention.
“Again, we’re going to go back to what I mentioned for other life cycles,” Arnold said, “A balanced diet, exercise, adequate rest, adequate hydration. Bone loss is accelerated during perimenopause (meaning “around menopause”), and there is a lot we can do to prevent that. Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, dancing, anything to keep your body moving.
“We must keep in mind that the brain is like a muscle,” Arnold continued. “We must work it in order to maintain its function. Complete daily crossword puzzles, read daily, meditate, anything that will keep your mind sharp. Be involved in the family and the community.”
Women are more likely to outlive men and end up alone and often depressed. This is a time to find new interests. If you have an elderly family member, make extra effort to include them. Taste buds may change, too, which is a red flag for the family to start thinking about nutrition and other assistance.
With all the changes a woman faces in her life, it’s easy to see why an annual well-woman check is so important. Call your doctor today to schedule an appointment. Need a doctor? To learn about providers in the Equality Health Network, call 1-833-CARE-100 (1-833-227-3100).
Published in Prensa Arizona, 5/20/22