National Women’s Health Week begins on Mother’s Day each year. Under this year’s theme, “Women’s Health, Whole Health: Prevention, Care and Wellbeing,” experts are encouraging women to stay on top of their reproductive health, undergo regular cancer screening and prioritize their everyday well-being.
Here are some ways women can stay healthy.
The Office on Women’s Health emphasizes the importance of women’s reproductive health across the lifespan.
Menstrual hygiene is essential for avoiding infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds women and girls to change their period products when appropriate and wear loose and breathable clothing. It also recommends staying hydrated to make up for blood loss and to track menstrual cycles — irregularities could be a sign of a larger problem and should be brought up with your doctor.
In honor of Women’s Health Week, the Federal Drug Administration has given health resources for pregnant people and their babies, like guides to medication and pregnancy, food safety resources and ways to safely use breast pumps and store breast milk.
While menopause is an inevitable process, some of its symptoms can be controlled with over-the-counter medicines, natural remedies or hormonal therapy. The Office on Women’s Health provides a list of treatments for the most common symptoms of menopause.
In April 2020, breast cancer screenings were down 87% and cervical cancer screenings down 84% from the prior five-year average for that month, according to the CDC. Cancer screening is essential for early detection and treatment.
Women from age 40 to 75 should get a mammogram every one to two years. While no test beats the mammogram in terms of early detection, some women may benefit from additional screening, like an MRI or ultrasound.
About 13,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year, but women who get regular screening are rarely found to have it.
Women ages 21 to 29 should get a Pap test every three years, and women ages 30 to 64 should add on HPV testing every five years. Women over 65 can usually stop cervical cancer screening, unless they have had cervical cancer.
The CDC provides five key steps for women and girls to take to make their health a priority. First, it encourages making and keeping appointments with their healthcare providers, especially if women are pregnant, experiencing changes in their periods or “anything doesn’t feel right.”
Second, it recommends maintaining a healthy balanced diet, which should be high in fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and lean meats, and low in salt, saturated trans fats and added sugar. Drink alcohol in moderation at most, which is one drink a day for women.
Third, “move more and sit less.” Just two and a half hours of exercise a week can reduce risk for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S.
Fourth, women should prioritize their mental health. This means taking time to breath, connect with loved ones, do something you enjoy or talk to a therapist.
Finally, the CDC pushes prioritizing basic healthy habits, like staying up-to-date on vaccinations, getting enough sleep, not smoking and asking for help when needed.