"Today, women have to be prepared to take on many different roles and responsibilities," explained Patricia Vigder, D.O., obstetrician/gynecologist.
"As a woman, many different people may depend on you. Whether it be a husband, significant other, children, aging parents, or people at work or in your community, you owe it to yourself and your family to be the best mom you can be and that means making your health a priority. Women face a multitude of health challenges as they age, some of which are associated with hormonal changes, such as perimenopause and menopause ," Dr. Vigder added. "These changes include hot flashes, weight gain, low libido, sleeplessness and fatigue. As we mature, we also need to screen for treatable conditions, such as osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer.
"The better women take care of themselves, the better job they can do taking care of their family and loved ones. When a mother makes it a point to eat the right foods and exercise regularly, she sets a great example for her children to follow. However, if our children see us eating poorly and leading a sedentary lifestyle, they'll likely take on the same bad habits and suffer in the long run because of it.
"In addition, many women work full-time and have families and extensive responsibilities." Dr. Vigder said. "It's important that women find healthy ways to relieve stress and take time out of their busy lives to get regular screenings and check-ups. If women keep their health a priority now, they'll save themselves a great deal of trouble later in life by addressing age-related health challenges."
Screening Tests for Women: What You Need and When
"Screening tests can help find diseases in their early stages when they are easier to treat," Dr. Vigder advised. "Talk with your doctor about which tests apply to you and when and how often you should be tested."
Obesity: Have your body mass index (BMI) calculated to screen for obesity. (BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.)
Breast Cancer: Have a mammogram every 1 to 2 years starting at age 40.
Cervical Cancer: Have a Pap smear every 1 to 3 years if you have ever been sexually active or are between the ages of 21 and 65.
High Cholesterol: Have your cholesterol checked regularly starting at age 45. If you are younger than 45, talk to your doctor about whether to have your cholesterol checked if you have: diabetes, high blood pressure, have a family history of heart disease, or if you smoke.
High Blood Pressure: Have your blood pressure checked at least every 2 years. High blood pressure is defined as 140/90 or higher.
Colorectal Cancer: Have a test for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 or earlier if you have a family history of this disease. Your doctor can help you decide which test is right for you.
Diabetes: Have a test for diabetes if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Depression: Emotional health is as important as physical health. If you have felt sad or hopeless over the last two weeks or have little interest in doing things, you may be depressed. Talk to your doctor about being screened for depression.
Osteoporosis (Thinning of the Bones): Have a bone density test beginning at age 65 to screen for osteoporosis. If you are between the ages of 60 and 64 and weigh 154 lbs. or less, talk to your doctor about being tested.
Chlamydia and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections: Have a test for chlamydia if you are 25 or younger and sexually active. If you are older, talk to your doctor about being tested.
HIV: Have a test to screen for HIV infection if you have: had unprotected sex, multiple partners, used or now use injection drugs, are being treated for sexually transmitted diseases or had a blood transfusion between 1978 and 1985.
(Source: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force)
Other Steps to Good Health
Be Physically Active. "Walking briskly, mowing the lawn, dancing, swimming, and bicycling are just a few examples of moderate physical activity," she continued. "If you are not already physically active, start small and work up to 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity on most days of the week."
Eat a Healthy Diet. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk products. Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and sugars.
Stay at a Healthy Weight. Balance calories from foods and beverages with calories you burn off by your activities. To prevent gradual weight gain over time, make small decreases in food and beverage calories and increase physical activity.
Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation. If you drink alcohol, have no more than one drink a day. (A standard drink is one 12-ounce bottle of beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.) If you are pregnant, avoid alcohol.
Don't Smoke. "If you do smoke, talk with your doctor about quitting," Dr. Vigder advised. "If you are pregnant and smoke, quitting now will help you and your baby."
Manage Stress: Use relaxation techniques to calm your mind and body. Stay organized to help manage your time more efficiently. Talk about your stressful situations with someone you trust and get professional help if you need it. Remember, no one can do it all alone, so ask for help.
"This Mother's Day, give you and your family some peace of mind with the gift that keeps on giving the gift of health," Dr. Vigder concluded.
Patricia Vigder, D.O., is a board certified obstetrician/gynecologist affiliated with Salem Community Hospital's active medical staff. Her office is located at Salem Women's Care, 2094 East State Street, Suite B in the Salem Medical Center, 330-332-1939.