Are your New Year’s resolutions still going strong? If so, congratulations! For most of us, our 2011 resolutions are already history, but that’s no reason to put off better health and more happiness until next year. Here are some simple ways you can improve your health and increase your happiness starting right now.
• Be Good to Yourself:
We all must find time to be good to ourselves in order to be as happy and healthy as possible. Women notoriously feel guilty about taking time for themselves, but balancing your needs with the needs of others is absolutely necessary. If the idea sounds foreign, start by doing something small: read a book, call an old friend, cook your favorite meal, or take a nap. Schedule 10 minutes a day to meditate or engage in a hobby. Learn to say no when you’re asked to do too much. In short, actively work toward your own joy and balance.
• Eat Well:
Food is one of life’s great pleasures, so make sure to eat food that you enjoy. At the same time, food is the fuel we use to build and maintain our bodies, so consuming nutritious food is very important. The U.S. government just released new dietary guidelines last week, so now is a great time to change your eating habits. The guidelines state that we should eat less food overall, fill half of our plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal, choose foods that show low sodium on the Nutrition Facts label, and drink water instead of sugary drinks. You can find much more information about the new guidelines and eating well at cnpp.usda.gov.
• Get Appropriate Health Screenings:
Preventive screenings can help identify and treat developing health issues in the early stages. All women should have a yearly exam starting three years after becoming sexually active, or by age 21. As we wrote in a previous posting, yearly exams consist of a complete pelvic and breast exam and a pap smear to screen for cervical cancer. Your doctor may recommend more screenings for you depending on your health history, family history and age. Screenings to consider include those for: colorectal cancer, breast cancer (mammogram), osteoporosis, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, depression and sexually transmitted diseases. Many insurance companies now cover the cost of several preventive screenings. Call the customer service phone number on your insurance ID card to learn about your preventive screening benefits.
• Make an Action Plan to Reduce Stress:
Stress is a powerful force we all deal with, and too much stress negatively affects both health and happiness. To handle stress better, start by listing out all the stressful aspects of your life. Identify your biggest stressor and brainstorm changes you can make to lessen the level of stress it causes. Make a realistic action plan and take small steps toward change. It might help to get support from family, friends, support groups, or online chat groups. Once you have success changing a stressful situation for the better, you’ll feel empowered to tackle other stressors in your life.
• Know the Symptoms of Heart Disease in Women:
Do you know that indigestion, unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, sweating, and anxiety are common female symptoms of a heart attack? Heart attacks have long been associated with men, but according to the Mayo Clinic, more women die of heart disease each year. This is partly due to the fact that many women don’t experience intense chest pain or discomfort—the obvious symptoms of a heart attack, and therefore they believe they are suffering from indigestion, stress, or something else not related to the heart. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and to learn more about heart disease in women, and take heart-related symptoms seriously.
You can be good to yourself, eat well, get appropriate health screenings, make an action plan to reduce stress, and know the symptoms of heart disease in women starting today. Here’s to a healthier and happier 2011!
From the Doctors at Women’s Health Associates:
Leah Ridgway, MD
Evelina Swartzman, MD
Ana Martinez, MD
Reagan Wittek, MD
Amy Giedt, MD
Kimberly Matthews, MD