The global COVID-19 pandemic has made it very clear…
…health maintenance and disease prevention are the most important things you can do to stay healthy.
If you haven’t put your health at the top of your priority list…now is the time!
In celebration of National Women’s Health Week (May 10-16), we’re offering these reminders and recommendations on how you can get healthy and stay healthy at every age.
Here's what you'll learn in this edition:
Recommended health screening for women ages 18 and above
Lifestyle health tips women can implement to stay healthy
Foundational supplements for female health maintenance
There's a lot to learn, so let's get started....
Recommended Health Screening for Women
Complete Physical Exams
· Every year for women of all ages.
Breast Cancer Screening
· Self-breast exams are recommended monthly, but there’s no data to suggest this improves early detection.
· Screening mammograms beginning at age 40.
· Screening mammograms for women less than 40 years of age if risk factors exist (i.e. BRCA mutation)
· Beginning at age 20.
· If cholesterol levels are normal, and no risk factors are present (i.e. diabetes, high blood pressure), then every 5 years thereafter through age 39 and every year age 40 and above.
· If cholesterol levels are abnormal, then at regular intervals as recommended by PCP but at least once a year.
Colorectal Cancer Screening
· Beginning at age 50 and every 7 years thereafter if normal; every 3 to 5 years if precancerous polyps are found.
· If a first-degree family member has had colorectal cancer, then beginning 10 years earlier than the age family member was diagnosed (i.e. if father had colon cancer at age 50, screening should occur at age 40).
· All women every 6 to 12 months per their dentist’s recommendations.
· Beginning at age 18 if overweight (body mass index > 25) and/or blood pressure is > 140/90.
· Testing intervals thereafter depend upon risk factor modification and treatments prescribed but at least once a year.
· Beginning at age 18.
· If exam is normal, then every 2 years until age 39 and once a year age 40 and above.
· If risk factors for eye diseases are present (i.e. diabetes), then every year beginning at age 18.
High Blood Pressure Screening
· Beginning at age 18.
· If blood pressure readings are < 140/90, then every 2 years thereafter until age 39 and every year from age 40 and above.
· If blood pressure readings are > 140/90, then at regular intervals as recommended by PCP but at least once a year
Ovarian Cancer Screening
· Screening is not recommended for women who are not having symptoms.
· Screening is recommended for women with a positive family history and positive BRCA genetic testing.
· Recommended in women at age 65 and every 2 years thereafter
· Recommended in women < 65 years of age once they are postmenopausal and every 2 yers thereafter.
· Beginning age 21 and yearly thereafter
Pap Smear for Cervical Cancer Screening
· Beginning at age 21.
· If pap smear is normal, repeat every 3 years thereafter until age 30; repeat every 5 years ages 30 to 65.
· Pap smears are not recommended for women over the age of 65.
· Pap smears are not recommended for women who have had their uterus removed.
· Recommended in all sexually active women < 24 years of age.
· Recommended in sexually active women > 24 years of age if risk factors exist (i.e. not monogamous)
Healthy Lifestyle Tips
There are hundreds of diets out there for women to choose from when it comes to losing weight. From the Mediterranean Diet to the Keto Diet…there’s a lot of contradictory information which causes much confusion.
The bottom line is…there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to a dietary regimen. What, when, how much, and in what combination foods should be consumed differs from woman to woman and depends on her level of physical activity, underlying medical problems, gut health, hormone imbalances, and other factors.
Here are some science-based facts about the more well-known diets out there:
1. Intermittent Fasting has been shown to enhance weight loss by promoting fat loss and muscle preservation in all women regardless of underlying health issues. It is safe and has not been shown to have any adverse health effects, even if continued long term.
3. The Paleo Diet, also known as the ‘hunter and gatherer’ diet, has not been as well researched and so is not recommended for women who are interested in sustained weight loss. It is not recommended in women with osteoporosis or those with underlying kidney disease.
4. The Ketogenic Diet has been found to be effective for weight loss. However, it’s not meant to be followed long term. By severely reducing carbohydrate intake (to less than 30 grams per day), this diet causes a state of ketosis which makes the body more acidic. Side effects can include dehydration, hypoglycemia, low calcium levels, kidney stones, and gall stones. It can also increase Vitamin D levels. This diet should be followed only under physician guidance and is not recommended in women who are diabetic or who have a history of kidney stones, gall bladder disease, kidney disease, and underlying heart disease.
Remember, regardless of the diet a woman chooses, it’s very important also she work with an experienced medical provider who can also look for and correct any underlying causes for weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
Also, while there are several prescription drugs available to help with weight loss, they have potentially harmful side effects which preclude their long-term use. Nutritional supplements offer a safer option which can be equally effective. Look for ones that contain natural amino acids (like Tyrosine and Phenylalanine), 5-HTP, B-vitamins, and adaptogens (like Rhodiola and Ginseng). If you need help deciding, HERE are some safe and effective natural solutions.
Any exercise is better than no exercise, but the more often it’s done, the better it is for health maintenance and disease prevention. Regular, moderate exercise has been shown to have positive effects on all aspects of women’s health, reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, preventing heart disease, and reducing the risk of getting cancer.
As is the case for diet, women should work with their physician to come up with an exercise plan that is tailored to their goals and takes into account any underlying physical limitations. For instance, women with joint problems may enjoy yoga or Pilates instead of running.
This table outlines the general recommendations for health maintenance and disease prevention in women:
THIS WEBSITE offers a great section outlining numerous different physical activities and the corresponding number calories burned.
The goal with any exercise routine is to start slow and be consistent. Choose something you enjoy doing, because you’ll need to keep exercising for the rest of your life.
Sleep is one exception to the ‘one size fits all rule’. No matter what your health goals are, you’ll never achieve them without adequate sleep. While there are many ‘experts’ out there suggesting as little as five hours of sleep may be enough, the science has repeatedly shown otherwise.
The bottom line is…if you want to lose weight, feel good, and stay healthy, the scientific research has unequivocally shown seven hours of uninterrupted sleep is the bare minimum.
Here’s the recommendation straight from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:
“Our Consensus Panel found that sleeping six or fewer hours per night is inadequate to
sustain health and safety in adults, and they agreed that seven or more hours of sleep
per night is recommended for all healthy adults.”
Many women have a very difficult time falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. There are numerous causes of insomnia including stress, hormone imbalance, poor diet, and lack of exercise. While those areas are being addressed, there are several pharmaceutical grade supplements that can be safely added to improve sleep without the harmful side effects of prescription sleeping pills. HERE are some excellent options to choose from.
Telling women not to ‘stress out’ is like telling them not to breathe. Women are natural caretakers and nurturers…which means they are always have more stress.
What you may not know is women are more physiologically susceptible to the effects of stress than men. They suffer from more stress related health problems and more vulnerable to the negative long- term health consequences of stress.
That’s why it’s even more important for women to pay close attention to their stressors and how stress is affecting their health…then they must take proactive steps to reduce their stress as much as possible.
There are countless ways women can reduce stress. The best stress reduction techniques are the ones that you enjoy and regularly commit to doing.
Here are some ideas for ways women can reduce their stress and improve their health:
1. Practice meditation
2. Start practicing mindfulness based exercises, such as Yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi
3. Regularly engage in spiritual practices and prayer
4. Engage in regular physical exercise
5. Keep a journal
6. Talk with a spiritual advisor, counselor, or trusted friend
7. Begin Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
8. Remove unwanted stressors that are under their control
9. Get outside and spend time in nature
10. Work on changing their mindset and learning to control the things they can and to let go of the things they can’t.
11. Read…anything that calms their mind or brings them joy
Stress is a part of everyday life. However, how your stress affects you is also under your control.
You can also choose to take something to help with stress. Prescription alternatives (i.e. Xanax) are habit forming and have numerous side effects which makes their long-term use unsafe. If appropriate, there are numerous natural alternatives…especially those containing plant based adaptogens, including Rhodiola, Ashwaganda, and Siberian Ginseng.
AdrenaFem is one of our favorite stress reducing supplements for women…not only because it balances cortisol and helps stress tolerance but also because it helps maintain female hormone balance (i.e. estrogen and progesterone) during periods of acute or chronic stress.
Supplements for Maintaining Women’s Health
A Comprehensive Daily Multivitamin
Even if women eat a healthy diet, they are susceptible to developing nutrient deficiencies as they get older. This is especially true if they are vegetarian or follow other special diets, have malabsorption problems in their gut, and take nutrient depleting prescription drugs. Taking a pharmaceutical grade, comprehensive multivitamin is a great way to cover all the bases to prevent vitamin and nutrient deficiencies.
Here’s a key point to understand about multivitamins…The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals is the amount necessary to stay alive, not to stay healthy. So…it’s not enough to take a One A Day over the counter multivitamin…even if the label claims it provides “100% of the RDA” of a nutrient.
If you’re having trouble finding a good quality multivitamin, HERE are some excellent options for you to choose from.
Probiotics provide so many health benefits for women, it’s impossible to discuss all of them here. This infographic provides a great summary of just some the health benefits of probiotics.
In addition to what’s mentioned in the infographic, probiotics also have favorable effects on estrogen processing and, therefore, overall hormone balance…super important! Probiotics have also been shown to help prevent certain cancers, including colon cancer, and to lower high blood pressure.
There are a lot of probiotics to choose from…HERE are some great pharmaceutical grade options to choose from. Make sure the probiotic you choose has different strains of Lactobacillis spp. and Bifidobacter spp. A good beginning dose is 10 BCFU daily, but higher doses may be needed if there are underlying health issues.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
The “Standard American Diet” is loaded with meat, dairy, and other inflammatory foods and very few anti-inflammatory foods, like wild caught fish. This means most of us are inflamed all the time. This not only affects our weight, energy levels, and mood, it increases our risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
Omega 3 is a natural anti-inflammatory, and supplementation has been shown to reduce the risk of developing many adult illnesses, especially heart disease and stroke. It has also been shown to improve mood, gut health, and immune system function. The list of health benefits includes many other things as well.
Pharmaceutical Grade Omega 3 supplements are produced from different types of wild caught fish, such as anchovy, sardines, and mackerel. You can also be supplement Omega 3 in the form of Krill Oil (the capsules are smaller and sometimes easier to swallow). Good quality fish oil should not cause any gastrointestinal side effects, and you should not ‘burp up’ a fishy taste. If you are sensitive to the taste, store it in the freezer.
Supplement for Bone Health
Supplementation with a bone health supplement is recommended for the following women:
· Women who are postmenopausal
· Women who take medications that reduce nutrient absorption (i.e. stomach acid reducing medications)
· Women who have intestinal conditions which prevent nutrient absorption (i.e. Celiac disease, surgical removal of one or more sections of their colon, Crohn’s disease)
· All women who have a low dietary intake of calcium (i.e. vegetarians, low dairy consumption)
Here are some key things to know about bone health supplements:
Calcium is only one of the nutrients required for optimal bone health. There are numerous other nutrients that are equally important, including strontium, molybdenum, magnesium, vitamin D, manganese, and vitamin K…just to name a few. As such, taking a comprehensive bone health supplement is better than taking calcium alone.
There are different types of calcium out there, the two most common being calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium carbonate requires normal stomach acid and food intake for absorption. Calcium citrate works better in women who have malabsorption, low stomach acid, and have had gastric surgery (i.e. gastric bypass).
More is not better. In fact, the more calcium you take at one time, the less is absorbed. It’s best not to take more than 500 mg at a time.
An optimal daily amount of calcium should not exceed 2000 mg daily in women over 50 and 2500 mg in women under 50. Don’t forget to factor in the amount of calcium you also take in through what you eat.
It's very important women with with a knowledgeable and experienced health care provider who can recommend any other nutritional supplements based upon underlying health issues or health goals.