Healthcare is important but often overlooked. Those who enjoy good health tend to only visit the doctor when something is wrong. It's a new year, and 2019 is the time for us to stay on top of our health and maintain it throughout the year by setting maintainable goals.
Adopting an active mindset toward your health will allow you to not only feel better, but also to become an advocate for other women. There are many aspects of women's health that routine visits to your doctor can address. From questions about your period and menopause, to the importance of fiber, bone density and exercise, your lifestyle and collaboration with your ob/gyn will make a big difference.
Here are a few health goals for 2019 for a happier, healthier you.
Schedule Your Annual Exam
Routine check-ups are an important part of preventative healthcare. Many conditions can be caught early during an annual exam. Many of us are at risk for certain health conditions and diseases without realizing it. Whether genetics or lifestyle choices, an annual physical can screen for red flags or abnormalities and underlying conditions. An annual exam should include:
Blood pressure and cholesterol screenings
Body Mass Index (BMI) evaluation
Blood glucose level reading
Pap smear, if relevant
Have Regular Breast Exams
Women should have regular breast exams during their annual exams. During this exam, your health care professional should teach you how to perform regular self-exams. The National Breast Cancer foundation has a guide on how to do a breast self-exam on their website, which you can check out here.
After the age of 40, women should discuss the option of yearly mammograms as well. Talk to your physician or OB/GYN about your breast health and decide when the right time to start screening is right for you. Depending on your family history, it may be recommended to begin earlier.
It is never too late to begin exercising or to add more active hours to your day. Routine physical activity has myriad benefits from lower risk of heart disease to weight loss and improved mental health. The average American spends around 10 hours a day sitting. Sedentary lifestyles can lower our life expectancy, contribute to weight gain and worsen depression.
Exercise doesn't have to be difficult. Aim for 30 minutes of cardio each day. Whether it's walking your dog after work or following a fitness class on YouTube, add some activity to your routine. Weekends in particular are an excellent time to get up and get moving. Instead of spending hours camped out on the couch, cut your Netflix time in half and dedicate the afternoon to getting some fresh air and working out.
Gym memberships are not necessary to be more active, but gyms and health clubs are a great resource for fun fitness classes. Classes are not just a place to be physically active, they are also excellent social opportunities.
Practice Mindful Eating
We've all eaten our feelings, but many of us forget to eat intuitively and practice portion control when we're caught up in our daily lives. If you tend to eat in front of the TV or while scrolling through your phone, your brain is less likely to register what you've put in your stomach and crave food later.
Intuitive eating means tuning into your body's natural cues and only eating when you're hungry. The next time you feel the urge to grab some chips or a chocolate bar from the vending machine, ask yourself whether you're really hungry or just bored.
Sometimes, we crave sugar and other processed foods when our blood sugar is low. Intuitive eating can help us curb junk food habits and nourish ourselves with healthy alternatives. You can speak with your health care practitioner for more info.
Prioritize Self Care
You spend plenty of time taking care of others, but do you routinely take care of yourself? Health and wellness are two parts of self care, but there is more to consider. Self care is anything that does good for your body, mind and spirit. Whether it's turning off your phone at a certain time and reading a good book, brewing your favorite tea or watching your favorite movie, it's important to understand that you deserve to take care of yourself.
Dr. Crystal M. Newby, MD is a physician at Kansas City ObGyn. She received her medical degree from the University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Medicine. Dr. Newby married her fellow Kansas native high school sweetheart and they have 3 daughters.