September 13, 2014 is National Women’s Health & Fitness Day. This day focuses attention on the importance of regular physical activity and health awareness for women. The idea is to encourage women to take control of their own health by learning the facts necessary to make smart health choices and the importance of setting aside time for regular physical activity. With this in mind, this blog centers on some health issues specific to women, the benefits of exercise, and some easy ways to incorporate more physical activity into a typical day.
Simply being female is a risk factor for osteoporosis or “brittle bones.” Bone loss occurs with normal aging and there are usually no symptoms until the condition is advanced enough that a minor fall results in a fracture. Other risk factors include genetics/family history, low body weight, race (Caucasians and Asians have an increased risk), low estrogen levels/post-menopause, and poor nutrition. Diagnosis is made through x-rays and bone density studies. Treatment involves a healthy diet with caffeine and alcohol in moderation, medications, calcium and vitamin D supplementation, weight bearing exercise, and muscle strengthening. Regular, low-impact exercise such as walking and muscle toning improve balance and coordination which helps to prevent future falls.
Cardiovascular disease is as much a concern for women as men, but the symptoms of CVD and heart attacks can be much different. Women may experience neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal pain during a heart attack. Other signs/symptoms are nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, right arm pain, sweating, and extreme fatigue. Because these symptoms are often more subtle than the “crushing chest pain” we’ve all heard about, women may downplay their symptoms and not seek medical help right away. In addition to knowing one’s individual risks and visiting a primary care physician to check blood pressure and blood sugar, cholesterol , and triglycerides levels, the importance of exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and improving overall cardiovascular function cannot be underestimated.
The positive health benefits of exercise are innumerable. Besides the obvious improvement to the cardiovascular system and weight management support, exercise also promotes good sleep habits, helps to relieve stress and maintain mental health, prevents constipation for digestive health, boosts the immune system and countless other advantages. In our current world filled with quick fixes, instant gratification and speedy social media, the act of exercise is one thing that you can’t buy, click a button, or have someone else do for you-you just have to do it! A few tips to help:
These are just a few suggestions. We all have the power to take control of our own health. Keep calm and get active!
By: Adele McMahon, BSN, RN, Group Exercise Instructor at Valley Health Wellness & Fitness Center
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