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May 9, 2024

Women’s Health Week: Support Women to Prioritize Their Wellness

ThedaCare Provider Offers Suggestions to Stay Healthy and Well

The average woman fills her time with many activities – working, running errands, tending to household obligations and caring for others. That can lead to putting their own health and well-being last – and sometimes even burnout.

National Women’s Health Week is observed from May 12-18 this year. Every May, beginning on Mother’s Day, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office on Women’s Health (OWH) leads the week to highlight women’s health issues and priorities and encourage women of all ages to prioritize their physical, mental and emotional well-being.

“For Women’s Health Week, we’re reminding women to take the time to prioritize their wellness,” said Amber Nusz, a Family Medicine Nurse Practitioner for ThedaCare Physicians-Tigerton and ThedaCare Physicians-Clintonville. “Women inherently do so much for other people, and we need to take care of ourselves as well.”

Here are five steps women can take to help ensure they stay healthy for themselves and those they love.

1. Take Care Pre- and Post-Pregnancy

“It’s important to see your doctor when you’re planning to get pregnant so we can help both you and your baby,” said Nusz.

At a pre-pregnancy appointment, your provider will go over any potential genetic risks and recommend starting a prenatal vitamin. They can also review medications to determine whether they’re safe to continue during pregnancy.

Women should continue with all scheduled visits throughout their pregnancy. After giving birth, it’s important to watch for signs of postpartum depression.

“Postpartum depression is more than the normal kind of ‘baby blues’ where you’re feeling like your emotions are all over the place,” Nusz explained. “This is a profound depression that can impact up to one in eight women after giving birth. Screenings for it often are tied in with the infant well-child visits, and they’re important both for you and your baby.”

2. Manage Stress and Mental Health

“I see so many women who are trying to do it all, and their cup is almost empty,” Nusz said. “I try to ask my patients to start by carving out just two to five minutes of every day to reserve time just for them. Even simply stepping outside and letting the sun hit your face or taking a few minutes to breathe deeply can help reset your circuits.”

Taking care of basic needs can help provide a strong foundation. These include getting adequate sleep and focusing on nutrition and hydration.

“These factors can impact how we deal with stress,” Nusz said. “We may not have control over all of the stressors that happen to us, but we can change how we cope and how our bodies and minds manage the stressors that come.”

Stress can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, which can in turn impact fertility. Activities like meditation, breathwork, and journaling can help alleviate stress.

3. Focus on Heart Health

Heart disease is the number one killer of women. High blood pressure is of particular concern. It’s known as “the silent killer” for a reason. Hypertension usually has no symptoms, and it can lead to cardiovascular disease like heart attack and stroke.

Even if you’ve always had healthy blood pressure, it can start to increase with age, stress, weight, diet, and other factors. For women, this becomes more common after menopause.

“We know that women present differently than men do with a cardiac event,” Nusz noted. “Women have both more and different heart attack symptoms than men. In addition to chest pain, women’s symptoms can include lightheadedness, unusual fatigue, heartburn, shortness of breath, and shoulder, abdominal, or back discomfort.”

Nusz said that keeping a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and managing stress can help a person prevent heart disease. Women should always talk to their provider about any concerns or changes.

4. Stay Active and Eat a Healthy Diet

The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. If finding time is difficult, try breaking activity into 10-minute increments. For example, try walking briskly around the block or putting on some music and dancing for a few minutes, Nusz said.

Women also should incorporate weight-bearing exercise twice a week. Strength training can help maintain bone density, which will help prevent osteoporosis.

“Find something you like and can do easily, such as walking or yoga, so that you can be consistent with your activity,” Nusz suggested. “Exercise also is a great way to reduce your stress.”

When it comes to diet, make sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, along with lean proteins and whole grains. The Mediterranean diet is an excellent option to consider.

5. Don’t Forget Your Mammogram and Other Screenings

Detecting cancer early can make a significant difference in treatment and outcome.

The American Cancer Society makes the following recommendations for mammograms:

  • Women between 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.
  • Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live at least 10 more years.

Women can schedule a mammogram online through MyThedaCare. Select ‘Schedule an Appointment,’ ‘Screening mammogram.’

Women should follow these guidelines for cervical cancer screening with pap smear:

  • Begin screening at age 21 and complete every three years through age 30.
  • Ages 30 through 65, undergo screening every five years.

Women at average risk should get screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 45. If normal results, screening continues every 10 years through age 75.

“There are different options for colorectal screening depending on your risk for the disease,” Nusz said. “Those choosing a colonoscopy can request an appointment through their provider or online.”

Finally, don’t overlook yearly wellness visits.

“Your provider can help you stay on top of these screenings,” said Nusz. “They can also talk to you about lifestyle changes that may help you better maintain your health and well-being in the long run.”