The Greatest Gift for Mom: Health and Wellness

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Suzanne SpernalMay 9 2024 –National Women’s Health Month and Mother’s Day, both celebrated in May, are important reminders that women can take control of their health by making feasible lifestyle choices and focusing on preventative care and mental wellness. Encourage the mother figures and special women in your life to choose wisely to live their healthiest lives with the following tips.

Focus on a Healthy Lifestyle. According to the Office on Women’s Health, some women might need vitamins, minerals, or other supplements at certain times in life like before or during pregnancy, but most women, most of the time, should get their essential nutrients from what they eat and drink. Some simple tips to improve your eating habits are to eat more vegetables, snack on fruit more often, and cook at home more each week. Regular physical activity (exercise) can help lower your risk for many diseases that affect women, including heart disease and stroke. Additionally, current nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer prevention by the American Cancer Society focus on a physically active lifestyle and healthy eating patterns at every age with an emphasis on maintaining a healthy body weight through all stages of life. It is recommended to eat foods with plenty of nutrients including a variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and minimize highly processed sugary foods and drinks.

Be mindful of sexual and reproductive health. Annual exams from a gynecologist can help women keep their gynecologic health under control and prevent possible complications, so it is important to keep up with your scheduling annual visits. Women should always be mindful of any unusual signs or symptoms that require evaluation from a health care provider, such as pain or pressure in the pelvic area, unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding, frequent abdominal bloating or swelling or a sore in the genital area that does not heal. Encourage the women in your life to be as proactive as possible when it comes to their gynecologic health. While these might be uncomfortable topics to discuss with a medical professional, talking openly about gynecologic health not only allows for a conversation about preventative measures, but it can help to catch potential problems sooner, when they’re often easier to treat.

Stay up to date with important screenings. Some may think that colorectal cancer is a men’s disease, but women are just as much at risk. Several tests are available to find polyps or colorectal cancer early, including stool tests and colonoscopy. It is typically recommended by the American Cancer Society that colorectal cancer screening for men and women should begin at age 45. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the United States, besides skin cancer. Fortunately, when detected early, it is also one of the most treatable. One of the best ways to tackle the disease is through early detection and screening with mammography, which can detect breast cancer before there are any signs or symptoms. Talk to your health care provider about when you should start cancer screening and what screening frequency is best for you. Schedule your mammogram here.

Prioritize mental health. Mental disorders can affect women and men differently. Some disorders, like depression, anxiety and eating disorders, are more common in women, and certain disorders like perinatal depression are unique to women. Some common symptoms of mental disorders include persistent sadness or feelings of hopelessness, noticeable changes in mood, energy, or appetite, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, appetite or weight changes, misuse of alcohol, drugs, or both, decreased energy or fatigue, anger or irritability and/or social withdrawal. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the these symptoms, please ask for help, seek mental health services and know that you are not alone.

Suzanne Spernal, DNP, APN-BC, RNC-OB, CBC, is senior vice president of Women’s Health at RWJBarnabas Health.

What is a better gift, than the gift of health? RWJBarnabas Health provides a full range of women’s health services, from routine care through sophisticated surgical and diagnostic procedures. Learn more: www.rwjbh.org/womenshealth

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