The following is part two of a five-part excerpt of the new book, Women’s Health for Life (DK 2009). Women’s Health for Life is a unique compilation of women’s health information, designed to help women optimize their health, well-being, and quality of life. Edited by women’s health expert and advocate, Dr. Donnica Moore, this book is team written by women physicians for women readers. It discusses topics from contraception to infertility; migraines to menopause; cervical cancer to colon cancer; and heartburn to heart disease. While many readers will want to read this book from start to finish, it provides easy access to specific information when it’s needed. Uniquely, this book provides clear illustrations, graphs, and charts making it as easily understood as a cookbook. While, there is no single “recipe” for good health, the many ingredients are discussed in this book’s 16 chapters. Organized by bodily system, each chapter starts out with an explanation of how that system works and ways to maintain healthy function through diet, exercise, and other self-help measures. This is followed by an explanation of some of the medical conditions affecting that particular system and how they should be treated, focusing specifically on recommendations for women. To order Women’s Health for Life from amazon.com, click here:
The following segment is taken from Chapter 2, “Understanding the Changes” which gives a decade-by-decade overview of the physiologic and psychologic changes women experience as we age. It also serves to remind us of the common sense rules of health that many of us are liable to forget. Much of that information is given in the section focusing on the 20’s, so don’t skip over this, even if you’re older!
Top 10 good habits for life Get into good habits when you are as young as possible, preferably in your 20’s. This will help you lay the foundations for enjoying your life right through the next decades.
- Eat a balanced diet Include five servings of fruit and vegetables a day
- Maintain a healthy weight. Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI)
- If you smoke, stop. If you need help, join a support group or talk to your doctor
- Moderate your drinking. Limit your alcoholic intake to fewer than 2 units per day
- Drive carefully. Accidents, including motor vehicle accidents, are a leading cause of death.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation affects your mood, productivity, relationships, and safety.
- Practice responsible sexual behavior. If you don’t want to get pregnant, use contraception.
- Brush and floss your teeth routinely. Good oral hygiene protects your overall health, not just your teeth.
- Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water per day. Water is essential for many of your bodily functions.
- Protect yourself from the sun. Always wear protective clothing and sunscreen in the sun.
Understanding the Changes in Your 20’s: The decade of your 20’s is generally exciting. You are brimming with youth and vitality and until you become a mother, you will have plenty of “me time.” Use your personal time well by taking care of yourself and setting good health habits for life. It will stand you in good stead for what, hopefully, will be a long and healthy future. The earlier you start caring for yourself, the more you will benefit as you age, but it’s never too late to start.
Fertility and sexual health Your 20s are a time when you are generally fertile and may be sexually active. The average age of a first pregnancy in the US is now 25. Since so many women become pregnant for the first time-either intentionally or unintentionally-during their 20s, family planning and preconception counseling are especially important during this decade. We think of the importance of prenatal care as mostly benefiting the baby, but pregnancy-related complications are significant risks for the mother as well: as you can see from the cause of death figures presented on page 29, pregnancy-related complications are the sixth leading cause of death for women in their 20s. You may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease (STD) during your adolescence. HIV/ AIDS is the most scary: it is the eighth leading cause of death for women in this age group, but there also more than 75 other STDs, and many of these can have a devastating effect on your longterm health and fertility. You need to practice safe sex religiously and have appropriate screening tests as recommended.
Cancer It is rare for women in their 20s to be affected by cancer. However, you are never too young to be vigilant and to take precautions, especially concerning melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer and, for women aged 25-29, the most common cancer of all. Make sure you protect yourself properly from the harmful effects of the sun and see your doctor if you spot that any moles have changed appearance.
Addictive behaviors Unfortunately, for many women, the 20s may be characterized by bad habits that started with risktaking behavior. If you do have addictive behaviors, such as smoking, alcoholism, or eating disorders, try to kick them fast. You will find that there’s plenty of help around if you need it. Drive carefully, too, because accidents, including motor vehicle accidents, are the leading cause of death in women in their 20s.
Mental health Mental health is important at every age, but the 20s can be a time of particular strain due to what are often major changes in your life and in your role in society. As a result, depression is common and suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in this decade. The good news is that depression is treatable, both with medical therapy and “talk therapy”.