How to perfect women’s work/life balance (sponsored)
By Jessica Smith, sponsored by Kaiser Permanente
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle isn’t something that just occurs naturally. You have to work at it, plan it and then incorporate it into your daily life. Women deal with a particular set of health risks and issues, many of which can be anticipated and even prevented with a little bit of planning and foresight.
Check in and check up
Healthy women in their 20s and 30s don’t yet need yearly check-ups, says Patricia Dietzgen, a family medicine doctor with Kaiser Permanente in Frisco.
A pap smear every three years from ages 21-29, plus a routine cholesterol check and updating immunizations is about all that women need to plan at that point, providing they don’t have any other existing or chronic conditions to keep an eye on.
“(We’re) just trying to get an overall risk profile for you, trying to set you on a healthy path and send you out from there,” Dietzgen says.
From age 30 onward, women should have pap smears every 3-5 years unless something abnormal is detected, plus the routine checkup list including cholesterol, immunizations, diabetes risk, weight and stress management.
Age 50 is the general age for colon cancer screenings, but those individuals who have a family history or other risk factors for colon cancer may need to get screened sooner. Breast cancer screening is generally recommended every 1-2 years starting at age 50. Women in their 40s should talk with their primary care physician about the risks and benefits of mammography starting at age 40 and discuss any other risk factors they may have which could influence how often they get screened.
A common cycle
“The three biggest complaints I hear in women are fatigue, weight gain and poor sleep,” says Dietzgen.
Likely, these issues are generally caused by lifestyle changes — motherhood, advanced responsibilities and taking care of others. However, they tend to overlap, one causing the other, in a cycle that is difficult to break.
“I can’t stress that work/life balance enough,” Dietzgen says. “Just doing two to five minutes of (exercise) is going to make you feel better. It’s going to release endorphins, it’s going to give you more energy through the day and help with stress and help with sleep.”
Another way to help with sleeping problems is to practice what Dietzgen calls “sleep hygiene.” These are methods to improve the chances of getting to sleep, such as taking a relaxing bath, reading a book or listening to music, and avoiding television, phone and computer screens before bedtime.
When it comes to weight gain, the recipe to success is a healthy diet and exercise, says Dietzgen, expending more calories than are being taken in.
“I get that it’s a little bit difficult as we get older, but it’s not impossible,” she says. By choosing fresh food over packaged food, by being cognizant of calories and carbohydrates and by exercising even just a few minutes a day, weight loss can be achieved.
Other healthy suggestions include staying hydrated, not smoking and limiting alcoholic drinks to one to two per day for women.
Symptoms to watch for
The symptoms that are the most cause for concern, Dietzgen says, are the ones that are unexplained. Things like sudden, unexpected weight loss, coughs that won’t go away, unexplained abdominal pain and night sweats are all symptoms that could be serious and should be brought to a doctor.
At the high altitude of the Rocky Mountains, people often struggle with sleep apnea, a condition in which a sleeper frequently pauses in between breaths, or breathes shallowly, throughout the night. Maintaining a healthy body weight can help with this issue, Dietzgen says.
The big ‘M’ — menopause
Unfortunately, there is no cure yet for menopause. But there are ways to mitigate the symptoms.
“Maintaining an ideal weight is huge; maintaining your muscle and bone mass through walking, bike riding, a little bit of weight lifting, is also going to help,” says Dietzgen. “Sleep hygiene is huge.”
If symptoms persist or begin to cause more difficulties, there are medications available.
“I’m big on trying not to use hormones unless you have to, but they are out there if you need them,” Dietzgen says.
If a woman thinks she needs something extra to help with menopause symptoms, Dietzgen suggests talking to her doctor to find the plan and amount right for her.
Building healthy habits
While everyone is different, the basic advice is the same — manage stress, a healthy diet and consistent exercise for a healthy life.
“Let’s try and develop healthy habits, and I realize it’s easier said than done, but just start slowly. You don’t have to revamp your life,” says Dietzgen.
Getting enough sleep, enough exercise and healthy food are big steps in the right direction.
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