Caring for the Caregiver: Health Advice for Women
Women tend to take responsibility for the health of their whole family, which can include their spouse and children, as well as parents,” says Dr. Carol Richardson-Te, internal medicine physician at PIH Health Good Samaritan Hospital. “Sometimes they’re so busy caring for others that they don’t attend to their own health.”
Dr. Richardson-Te suggests a number of areas important to women’s health:
“Women are pulled in so many directions,” says Dr. Richardson-Te. “I talk with my patients in depth to get a feel for their schedules and responsibilities, and work with them to reduce the sources of stress.”
Some stress reducing strategies include:
- Adjusting schedules to assure sufficient sleep. Women need seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
- Relaxation: Deep breathing, meditation and yoga are all ways to promote relaxation.
- Maintain a healthy diet. “Your body needs the right fuel to work at its best,” says Dr. Richardson-Te. “Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.”
- Exercise: Physical activity boosts mood, as well as relieving muscle tension.
“A healthy diet can not only reduce stress, but is important for weight management,” says Dr. Richardson-Te. “Excess weight can raise the risk for many health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and some cancers.”
In addition to eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains:
- Assure sufficient intake of calcium by having three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk (or an equivalent amount of low-fat yogurt and/or low-fat cheese).
- For protein, choose lean meats and poultry. Cook it by baking, broiling or grilling. Fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds are also good sources of protein.
- Limit salt to less than one teaspoon daily.
Promote Heart Health
Dr. Richardson-Te notes that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. To promote heart health:
- Don’t smoke.
- Have your cholesterol and blood pressure levels tested.
- Drink no more than one alcoholic beverage per day.
- Take all prescription medications with caution and ask your physician if you have any questions.
Diabetes Prevention and Management
“The risk of diabetes increases with age, and the number of women at high risk is increasing,” says Dr. Richardson-Te. “Physical activity and a healthy diet are essential.”
Some ways to manage diabetes include:
- Controlling blood sugar and blood pressure.
- Checking feet daily for problems or injuries.
- Having teeth cleaned twice per year.
- Avoiding carbohydrates by making them a side dish rather than main dish.
- Avoid teaching “kid’s meal” means pasta and fries.
In addition, women should have an annual physical exam, and speak with their doctor about how frequently to have screening tests such as mammograms and Pap tests.