We’re celebrating Women’s Health Week (Sept 5-9) – a week prioritising good health and wellbeing for women, girls and gender- diverse people with a focus this year on:
- Health checks at every age
All women should have an ongoing relationship with a GP to maximise their health regarding basic health screening and prevention of disease::
- Heart health (including BP, weight and blood tests, help with risks such as smoking, alcohol)
- Diabetes health especially those at higher risk:
– > 45 years old and obese (BMI >30)
– had gestational diabetes during pregnancy
– have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS),
– have a family history of diabetes
– Are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander over 45 years
– Certain ethnic groups, including Chinese, Pacific
- Breast Cancer screening and mammograms
- Cervical Screening Tests
- STI screening
- Fertility and Pregnancy plans, including contraception review, fertility planning and pregnancy care, post-partum care and follow-up
- Bone Density review and osteoporosis prevention
- Menopause management
- Bowel Cancer Screening
- Eye health checks
- Genetic reviews and family history risks, including review of ovarian cancer risks and potential for screening
- Immunisation at ages
Our own self-checking should become part of our regular routine. Things we can all do include:
– A healthy weight with a balanced diet with nutritious healthy foods and regular meals. This is a frequent source of frustration and challenge to many women – speak to your GP about how to achieve a sustainable healthy weight for you to feel good, comfortable and strong, which is not necessarily a number on a scale
– Regular exercise (at least 2.5 hours/wk) where we build cardio fitness, strength, weight bearing through our bones and flexibility and stretching (especially after menopause). Dont forget the pelvic floor muscles!
– Stop smoking. Don’t start smoking. If you smoke, speak to your GP about how to quit as there is no “safe” level of smoking or vaping
– Minimise alcohol intake to no more than 2 standard drinks on an day with at least 2 alcohol free days per week
– Check your skin all over
– Clean your teeth regularly, drink flouridated water and visit the dentist at least yearly – Caring for ourselves mentally and emotionally, especially so if you are the caregiver for others – children, spouses, parents, friends and family all depend on you to look after you too!
- Menopause Matters
WIth an average life expectancy for females in Australia at 85.3 years (2018-20, ABS), and the average age of menopause being 51 years, women spend an increasing amount of life in a post-menopausal state with impacts on our heart health, connective tissues such as skin, bones, ligaments and joints, breasts, vaginal tissue, cognition and emotional well-being.
Perimenopause itself can be challenging with a range of symptoms including mood swings, problematic periods or bleeding, to hot flushes (“Power Surges”!) , sleep, concentration and libido changes.
Lifestyle modifications and preventative strategies are the key to post-menopasual well-being, while hormonal and non-hormonal therapies for menopause are available for a range of symptoms and well-being issues. Please speak to your GP.
- Pelvic Power
Pelvic floor health is not just Kegel exercises and incontinence issues! While these certainly are an issue, also speak to your GP if there are concerns about pelvic pain, painful sex or any bladder and bowel issues including sensation, functon , feeling a heaviness or lump in the pelvis. Women, especially after childbearing, may find physical changes that impact our quality of life and body confidence, but are often reluctant to discuss it with their GP.
- Mind Health
Our mental well-being has never been more strained, nor more important. Two years into the impact of pandemic on our lives, we are all showing increased levels of depression, anxiety, stress, alcohol and substance use, feeling overwhelmed and worn down by the years of restrictions, lockdowns, changes in work structures, online schooling and supporting others.Often as caregivers for others, we de-prioritise our own mental wellbeing and brain health.
However, pandemic impacts have also shown our ability to adapt, adjust to change, be more proactive in our schedules and activities, multitask in several environments and care for ourselves and the community in new ways.
WIth restrictions lifting, travel becoming easier and community activities resuming, this is a great time to look at ways we can self-care and find our own “happy places”.
- Move and Improve
Regular exercise has both physical and mental benefits in the short – term and in life quality and expectancy. Talk to your GP about exercise strategies to maintain fitness, strength and tone and flexibility throughout your life. For those who are worried about how to get started, or injury or pain is restricting exercise, talk to your GP about strategies on how to begin,
sustain and build up exercise to be enjoyable and a regular part of our day, Have a great Women’s Health Week!
Article by: Dr. Stephanie Teo of Myhealth Cremorne