by Dr Mathi Woodhouse
GP at Your Doctor – www.your-doctor.co.uk
1 Being proactive about your health is vital both in terms of strengthening your body’s natural self-repair mechanisms and preventing future illness and disease. Planning, testing, check-ups and addressing all kinds of areas of mental to sexual health matters all take time. People often do not prioritise their own health. Be proactive now.
2 Have you ever wondered what your biological age is? Telomere testing can reveal your biological age through a simple blood test. Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. Lifestyle can influence the rate which your telomeres shorten faster that simple tests can reveal. Eat well, exercise often, sleep well, and address stress levels. These can all reduce the inflammatory process and therefore slow the rate of telomere shortening.
3 Don’t miss your vaginal smear. In 2013 60% of all new HIV diagnoses were to young adolescent women and girls. HPV (human papillomavirus) is a sexually transmitted infection, it accounts for around 70% of all cervical cancers. Sexual health in women is of the utmost importance and more importantly is totally preventable. Take measures for safe sex, and ensure all available screening is seized. A cervical smear should be available at least once every three years until the age of 65. Oral contraceptive pills protect against pregnancy but offer no protection against infection. Ensure you take measures to keep yourself clear of pelvic disease. Use condoms and get yourself tested for STDs if you’re worried. Do not wait.
4 Feel those boobs. Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths amongst women. Early detection can result in great long-term outcomes. A simple examination once a month after your period is the best time to check. Pay particular attention to dimples in the skin and inversion of the nipple. If you are unsure have a doctor give you a quick tutorial. It’s simple, easy and a potential lifesaver. If you are above 50 you should be able to have routine mammography to screen for breast cancer; ensure this happens.
5 Hot flushes… if you feel perimenopausal there are many non-hormonal ways to assist. Soya, red clover and black cohosh are all approved herbal remedies to fight your fluctuating hormones. If these symptoms are really bothersome and you want to avoid HRT, your doctor may be able to offer some alternatives.
6 Women are more likely to have greater emotional intelligence and empathy. They typically have a larger limbic system which supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory. Use it!
7 Eating well goes without saying. A large proportion of women are anaemic without knowing. Tiredness, poor skin and hair loss, and pallor are all signs of this. Eat foods rich in iron such as dark green vegetables, small servings of red meat, and legumes. Keeping your folate and calcium levels up also will help in preserving good health prior/during pregnancy and your bones will be strong beyond the menopause.
8 Eat to energise yourself. Stick to a diet low in saturated fats, salt and processed sugars. Increase your intake of omega 3 through nuts, avocados, or oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and tuna. Eat enough fibre by increasing your portions of fruit and vegetables. Experts believe that 30g of fibre a day can reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
9 Sleep is crucial in maintaining your physical and mental health, it supports many facets of healthy brain function. Good quality, deep sleep is important for all of us, especially multi-tasking women. To really train your body to sleep well, allow a period of de-stressing before bedtime, get into bed at a decent hour and keep the room dark. Avoid browsing the Internet on your phone or laptop in bed and limit caffeine and alcohol.
10 Stress management is one of the key pillars to good health. Much of our stress is caused by too many responsibilities. Start saying ‘no’ to requests that are asking too much of you. Meditation, practicing some mindfulness and deep breathing are all worth investing in a few minutes per day. Find a quiet moment to sit down and focus on yourself. Positive thoughts and self-worth can make leaps and bounds to self-esteem and mood.
11 Drink less alcohol. Women should stick to no more than 14 units per week allowing at least three alcohol free days per week. High alcohol intake can lead to a heart disease, diabetes and liver damage. Binge drinking can cause serious injury, collapse, and irregular heart rhythms called arrhythmias. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories and sugar which can have a big impact on weight management and the risk of diabetes.
12 Smoking is the largest single preventable cause of cancer each year in the UK yet some 9.4 million people in the UK smoke every day. Set a date and time to stop smoking. Slowly cutting down on cigarettes can have a psychological effect that makes the cigarettes seem far more precious than they actually are. Put the money aside that you would have otherwise spent on cigarettes and watch your money grow!