Being a woman can feel like a blessing and a curse. On one hand, women are responsible for life itself and are often the backbone of not just families but entire societies. On the other hand, women are constantly faced with a myriad of prejudices individually and as a whole that can affect both personal and professional results.
And then there are unique health issues women face that are often times significantly different from those faced by men due mostly to biological differences. From adolescence to geriatric years, the innate stages of life for women are riddled with drastic changes that affect everything, from the changes that take place at the onset of menstruation to that of menopause. These concerns challenge women to question and constantly reestablish who they are.
From the abundance of lifestyle magazines and self-help books to social media and celebrities, women are often bombarded with information—sometimes misinformation—about how to be women.
So we’re not here to tell you what to do, rather we want to offer some insight and tips on how you can be the best you moving forward.
THE ROLE OF STRESS
When we think of women’s health, stress may not often be the first thing to come to mind, but it’s been found to be an underlying cause or major contributing fact of a number of ailments, from heart disease to cancer.
But for women, reducing stress is much easier said than done given that women tend to take on more in order to make others—namely family—more comfortable.
Women and men tend to prioritize stress very differently, so we’ve compiled a few tips for how to best manage stress.
- Get social: Social support is a great stress reliever. Friends can also help in many ways, from offering a supportive ear to lending a helping hand. “Women are far more likely than men to report more stress management activities that connect them with other people, like spending time with friends or family (54 percent vs. 39 percent) and going to church or religious services (27 percent vs. 18 percent).” This is very important for women as women tend to deal with stress more often by sharing feelings and forming a supportive network.
- Prioritize your sex life: “Researchers found that sex and physical intimacy led women to feel less stressed and be in a better mood the next day,” according to an Arizona State University study.
- Get your feelings out: “Talking alleviates stress. Just giving voice to your concerns often allows you to see an option or solution that was hidden when things were pent up.”
- Get enough sleep: “When they do not get enough sleep, 21 percent of adults report feeling more stressed… Many report that their stress increases when the length and quality of their sleep decreases,” says the American Psychological Association.
- Find time for yourself: Just getting away from everything and everyone for just a short amount of time can help re-energize you and take some of the stress off. Find things you like to do, especially things you can do alone for a few minutes or longer each day, such as reading, listening to music, or a hobby. The “me time” will pay dividends in the long run.
FOCUS ON FOOD
The food and drink choices we make every day affect our health now and later in life. Choosing healthy foods and drinks regularly can help manage or prevent many health problems that affect women.
“We are sometimes made to believe that a specific food is healthier than it really is,” says nutritionist Elizabeth Somer, MS, RD, author of Age-Proof Your Body.
Here is a list of foods women should incorporate into there diets. While these are just some of the foods might not give you all the nutrient bases you need but incorporating them into your diet regularly can help give you a wide range of benefits in aging gracefully:
- Probiotic foods, like yogurt and kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and other fermented foods. These foods help to keep your gut functioning, while also helping keeping illness at bay.
- Fatty fish like wild caught salmon, sardines, and mackerel. Try to eat fish 2 to 3 times a week. It’s great for protein and has a ton of beneficial fatty acids, which help with heart health and cholesterol.
- Berries, which includes blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries). Aim to get about a cup of berries in the diet each day.
The key here is to stick to whole foods as close to natural as possible. Avoid fast foods and packaged foods that can be filled with sodium, preservatives, and trans fats.
Bodies were made to move. From yoga to HIIT to Crossfit, one size does not have to fit all when it comes to staying fit. You can certainly find something that works for your schedule and personality.
The general rule is to get about 30 minutes of movement in each day. Try to alternate vigorous and moderate styles, and mix aerobic and strength training to get a balanced regimen.
Being fit has lots of benefits. For instance, you will be more relaxed, which can result in healthier blood pressure and lower levels of stress, plus staying fit contributes to better energy levels during the day and even better sleep at night.
Here are a few of our exercise insights:
1 - There are no “man” and “woman” exercises. Women tend to shy away from movements or styles that they think will result in a manly figure, like weight training. The truth is that women simply do not have the testosterone to grow like a man. Lift those heavy weights. It’ll lead to a tighter, sleeker looking figure.
2 - The only bad workout is the one you didn’t do. Some days, we just don’t feel like working out. But if one day turns into all days, then that’s when you have a problem. Unless you have an underlying health issue, don’t skip too many workouts. If you don’t like the exercises you’ve chosen, just chose something else. Don’t like aerobics, try dance. There’s always something you can do, just don’t make skipping your workout a habit.
3 - Exercise safety. It’s important to always follow your health care providers advice about fitness. Exercise should feel like you are working out and not like you are injuring your body. Always start with a 5 – 10-minute warm-up and save the deep stretching until after your workout with the muscles are nice and pliable.
4 - Stretching and foam rolling is a way to keep your muscles long and soft, and also a way to improve flexibility, especially at the end of your workout.
A HEALTHY SEX LIFE
“Sex is a biological imperative in all animals,” says Deepak Chopra. “But in humans, it has taken on new dynamics. Sex brings joy to people, and joy has its own biology. It’s as simple as that.”
How often should humans have sex? Well, that’s up to the individual, but the average, according to Chopra, is around three to four times per week. The intimacy with another person adds to the health benefits.
Research has proven that sex is extremely beneficial to our health and it also activates a variety of neurotransmitters that impact not only our brains but several organs in our bodies.
Some of the benefits of sex for women include:
- Lower blood pressure
- Overall stress reduction, both emotionally and physiologically
- Better immune system
- Increased intimacy and closeness to a sexual partner
- Better heart health, possibly lower risk for heart disease
- Better sleep
- Improve self-esteem
- Immediate natural pain relief
- Increase libido
- Decrease anxiety and depression
“All women around the globe deserve to enjoy a healthy sexual life,” according to Nicole Cirino, M.D, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at OHSU’s Center for Women’s Health.
These are just a few tips and insights to help women stay healthy while managing all aspects of life, but this is certainly not everything!