Alert

Empowering health questions women should ask

By Betsy Merrell, M.D.

Family medicine physician

Pardee Family Medicine Associates

As women, we often spend a lot of time and energy caring for others. But how much do you prioritize your own well-being? By considering the following health questions, you can take charge of how you feel now and in the long run.

How is my energy level?

Most healthy people should have enough energy to wake up in the morning and continue their daily activities until bedtime. If you frequently feel fatigued, have trouble sleeping or have difficulty getting up each morning, these could be clues that a health issue needs to be addressed.

Fatigue can be caused by lifestyle factors (like poor diet and lack of physical activity or sleep), depression, anxiety, thyroid problems and even chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

How is my mental health?

We’ve all been through a lot over the past year. While it’s normal to have a bad day, it’s not normal to feel down for weeks or months. If you experience any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, it could be depression: low mood, decreased energy, trouble concentrating and loss of interest in everyday activities.

Talk to your primary care provider or a counselor if you experience these symptoms.

What is my family’s medical history?

Knowing your family’s history of conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes could save your life. If possible, get information about the health of your parents, grandparents, siblings, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. Ask about their age at disease diagnosis, the age at which they died and their ethnic background.

When do I need my health screenings?

Ask your health care provider when you should get a mammogram, clinical breast exam, colonoscopy and pap smear. See your primary care provider yearly for a physical and your dermatologist for an annual skin cancer screening.

Are my menstrual cycles regular?

If you haven’t gone through menopause, do you know what your monthly cycle is like? A consistent monthly period tells us that your hormones are functioning properly.

Having missed or irregular periods could be a sign that something isn’t quite right, so talk to your health care provider.

How’s my diet?

Do you eat plenty of whole, unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruits, lean protein and whole grains? Cutting back on fast food, processed food (like chips, frozen meals and cereals), sweets and sodas can make a major difference in how you feel, your weight and your risk for chronic health conditions.

How often do I drink?

Alcohol can affect women differently than it does men. Women are more likely to have higher blood alcohol levels after drinking the same amount of alcohol as men. Women also tend to experience the immediate effects sooner and longer than men do. This makes them more vulnerable to alcohol-related diseases and injuries.

If you choose to drink, stick to no more than one serving per day or seven drinks per week.

What medications and supplements do I take each day?

This includes prescription and non-prescription medications and supplements, such as birth control pills, vitamins, supplements and medicated creams. Keep a list handy to share with any health care providers you see.

What forms of physical activity do I enjoy?

It’s so important to get regular physical activity. The national guidelines for adults are 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Aerobic activity is anything that makes your heart beat faster, such as swimming, dancing, walking, hiking or cycling.

In addition to aerobic exercise, try to incorporate two strengthening workouts each week, such as Pilates, yoga, circuit training, weight lifting, barre classes or resistance band training.

Choose whatever form of exercise sounds fun to you. Work out with a friend or family member, go for a walk in a new place, take a class, or listen to your favorite music or an audiobook. If you make it enjoyable, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

Does something not seem right?

Trust your intuition. If something doesn’t seem right, talk to your primary care provider. To find a provider near you, visit www.pardeehospital.org.

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