Maintaining good mental and physical health should always be a priority. However, during National Women’s Health Week, May 10-16, 2020, it is important to raise awareness of the positive steps you can take to improve your health and wellbeing. With new challenges being presented due to the outbreak of COVID-19, it is especially important to be mindful of your health and take care of yourself.
While your healthcare routine may have changed due to COVID-19, there are still plenty of ways to remain healthy and active while at home.
1. Follow a Balanced, Heart-Healthy Diet
Heart disease is sometimes thought of as a “man’s disease”, but close to as many women will develop heart disease (coronary artery disease and heart attack) as men in the U.S. In addition, heart disease is occurring more frequently in younger populations, ages 35-64, making it all the more critical to be proactive about heart health.
What You Can Do: Fortunately, the World Health Organization states that this is something you can take control of as 80% of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented through lifestyle changes, including eating a balanced diet that is rich in heart-healthy foods.
Nutritious foods that can benefit your cardiovascular system as a whole include:- Healthy nuts
- Fatty fish that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids
- - Whole grains
- - Oatmeal
- - Berries
- - Legumes
Certain foods can help to decrease your body’s blood pressure, triglycerides, blood cholesterol and inflammation, which are all risk factors for developing heart disease.
2. Safely Exercise & Stay Active
Regular exercise is vital for good physical and mental health. In addition to maintaining a healthy overall weight, staying active also decreases your chances of developing many chronic diseases.
What You Can Do: As a general goal, The Mayo Clinic recommends that women get at least thirty minutes of moderate exercise daily. It is recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week. In addition, you should incorporate strength training into your workout routine at least twice a week.
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic may have changed your daily exercise routine, there are still many healthy ways to add activity into your day and realistically achieve your physical activity and/or weight loss goals. Participating in online workout classes, practicing circuit training and swimming laps in the home pool are just a few at-home exercises you can safely practice while social distancing. If you can safely practice social distancing while outdoors, biking, hiking, running and vigorously walking are great aerobic exercises to practice.
Leading a sedentary lifestyle can be harmful to your health. It's important to be mindful of how long you sit or are inactive on a daily basis, as the more hours you sit, the higher your odds of developing metabolic problems, such as increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol levels..
3. Maintain Good Posture Throughout the Day
With more employees working from home, it’s important to take stock in how you are working throughout the day and if you're maintaining good posture. Maintaining good posture ensures that your bones are in alignment with the rest of your body and tension is evenly distributed. Adversely, exhibiting bad posture that includes slumping, rounded shoulders and a hollow back can wear your joint surfaces unevenly and even result in degenerative arthritis and joint pain.
What You Can Do: A few tips to ensuring good posture throughout the day include:
- - When seated, sitting up with your back straight and shoulders pushed back. Your backside should touch the back of the chair.
- - Not twisting at the waist while sitting, but instead, using your whole body to turn.
- - Try to avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes. Get up and take a quick lap.
- - Evenly distribute your weight on both hips.
- - Adjust your seat to be ergonomically friendly, so your elbows easily rest on the desk and you’re staring straight ahead without slouching.
The good news is that you can improve your posture by adding a few simple exercises into your routine. Workouts that focus on balance are beneficial for your posture, as it builds strength and allows for tight muscles to be loosened.
4. Decrease Your Stress Levels
Did you know that women are more likely than men to have mental health conditions that are made worse by stress, such as depression or anxiety? Stress can take a major toll on your well-being and affects men and women in different ways. Women who experience chronic stress may have exhibit severe menstrual cycle problems, fertility problems and decreased sex drive.
What You Can Do: There are many effective at-home activities you can do right now to help reduce your levels of stress and wake up feeling better. Studies show that adding meditation to your daily routine can help reduce stress because it produces a deep state of relaxation. Yoga is another effective exercise that is beneficial for both your physical and mental state and a practice you can easily do at home.
5. Stay Hydrated
Many processes in your body rely on water to properly function, including circulation, elimination of waste and protection. It’s vital to drink the recommended amount of fluids each day because your body loses water through breathing, sweating and digestion.
What You Can Do: The Mayo Clinic generally recommends that women drink 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day with approximately 20% of the recommended daily fluid intake coming from food. However, this recommendation can increase depending on factors such as health, where you live and activity level.
6. Get the Proper Amount of Sleep
Missing sleep on a regular basis or sleeping poorly can have many profound effects on your health. Most healthy adults require 7-9 hours of good sleep each night. However, the Centers for Disease Control reports that one in three adults do not get enough sleep.
Studies show that sleep disorders, such as insomnia, affect more women than men, with one in four women exhibiting symptoms such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or both. This may be due to women’s unique hormonal changes throughout her life (menstrual cycle, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause).
What You Can Do: Sleep plays an important role in your health. Here are a few tips from the Mayo Clinic for increasing the quality and quantity of your sleep:
- - Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
- - Avoid going to bed hungry or the opposite, too full
- - Avoid nicotine, alcohol and caffeine before bed
- - Limit the use of light-emitting devices before bedtime
- - Stay physically active during the day
- - Clear your mind of any stress that may cause you to lose sleep
- - Create a comfortable, cool environment (the optimum temperature for sleeping is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit)
Everyone has trouble sleeping occasionally. However, if it persists, it’s important to contact your doctor for treatment.
7. Limit Alcohol Intake
Drinking socially or in moderation is not typically a cause for concern. However, drinking in excess or over the recommended guidelines on a frequent basis should be avoided. As we discussed in our previous blog, there are many long-term consequences of drinking alcohol on your body, particularly on the brain, kidneys and liver.
What to Do: The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends practicing moderation when it comes to drinking alcohol. For women who are age 21 and over, drinking in moderation means consuming up to one drink per day.
8. Visit Your Doctor for Regular Check-Ups
The truth is, even when you feel “healthy”, you should still see your healthcare provider regularly. These visits can help you to be proactive in avoiding health-related issues and catch certain conditions early.
What to Do: Check-ups should be an important part of your healthcare regimen, but being at home does not mean you have to skip out on your doctor visits. TeleHealth appointments, or virtual doctor appointments, allow you to have access to your healthcare providers without leaving your home. To learn more about PACT’s TeleHealth appointment offerings, please click here.
This National Women's Health Week, it's important to recognize the steps to get you on the road to wellness, many of which you can practice at home. For questions or support on your journey to improved health, search PACT’s list of Connecticut based, board-certified family medicine and internal medicine specialists here to find a provider for you and/or your family.