If you’re an American woman today, chances are your busy lifestyle is preventing you from seeking out the regular check-ups and screenings so important to maintaining your health. And that’s true regardless of your economic status or whether you live in a rural, urban or suburban area.
So reports a recent HealthiHer survey showing that only 66 percent of U.S. women ages 30 to 60 feel “somewhat in control” of their own health, although 83 percent are happily managing the health of their families. The study, co-sponsored by Redbook magazine, HealthyWomen and GCI Health, found that a full 77 percent of women in that age group say that their job schedules prevent them from attending regular check-ups.
“Women today wear many hats — they’re wives, mothers, caregivers, employees, business leaders and breadwinners, often at the same time,” says Wendy Lund, CEO of leading communications agency, GCI Health. “Even when it feels like there are not enough hours in the day, we somehow manage to integrate everything in our lives to ‘make it work’ and accomplish insurmountable tasks. And this constant juggling can come at the cost of our own health.”
The good news? The survey also reveals that 79 percent of respondents see positive change as achievable. The HealthiHer movement aims to give women the tools they need to make such changes at home, at work or in their communities. If you’re among those struggling to take good care of yourself because of other obligations, consider how these suggestions might help.
* Truth: You can’t help others without caring for yourself. Why do emergency airline instructions tell you to attach your own oxygen mask first? Because you could otherwise pass out before helping others. That same principle applies to your general health; you must maintain your own energy and well-being so you can stay around to be an effective mom, wife, daughter, sister and/or friend.
* Take stress seriously. While not all stress is bad, long-term unrelieved stress can have major adverse effects on your health, reducing the effectiveness of your immune, digestive, sleep and reproductive systems. Recognize the risks, plan methods for fighting stress and carve out time for exercise, sleep, meditation, yoga and/or other remedies.
* Try online resources. An annual in-person physical is always recommended, but health issues in between check-ups can often be taken care of through online sites that diagnose issues through questionnaires or video chats — then prescribe medicine or other therapies without need of an office visit.
* Make exercise a no-brainer. As the saying goes, sitting is the new smoking. If you don’t make daily movement of some sort a priority in your life (doctors recommend at least 150 minutes of brisk exercise per week) you’re putting your physical and emotional health at substantial risk. Among other benefits, exercise can help prevent diabetes and heart disease while reducing stress, back pain, arthritis, asthma and other common ailments.
* Set health care appointments well ahead. To secure the slots that work best with your schedule, call or go online way ahead of time so you have a wider range of options. Some clinics now offer evening or weekend hours to help those with demanding daytime jobs or roles. Planning ahead, and writing each appointment in ink on your family calendar, helps ensure you’ll make your own care a priority even if your schedule ramps up.
“It isn’t selfish to put ourselves first, but in all honesty, we know that will never happen, our kids will always come first,” says HealthyWomen CEO Beth Battaglino. “However, can we shoot for second? This is an investment in both our health and the health of our families. Women who don’t take care of themselves are not going to be around or it will affect their ability to care for their loved ones, and this survey revealed that those who don’t make time to get their health screenings, like mammograms, pap tests, eye exams, blood pressure, etc., actually had more health concerns.”
More women’s health tips related to the HealthiHer Movement can be found at HealthyWomen.org or Facebook. Participate in the movement by posting a photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram depicting you taking charge of your health (Use the hashtag #BeHealthiHer).