"Today, women have to be prepared to manage many different roles and responsibilities," explained Angela Doty, M.D., Gynecologist. "One of the most important roles is setting an example for others in regards to practicing good health habits. 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.
"The better women take care of themselves, the better they will be able to care for their family and loved ones. For example, when a mother makes it a point to eat healthy foods and exercise regularly, she sets a great example for her children to follow. However, if our children see us eating whatever we want and leading a sedentary lifestyle, they'll likely take on the same bad habits and suffer in the long-run because of it.
"Women are often the key decision makers influencing their family's health choices," Dr. Doty continued. "In addition, they are usually the ones who provide the hands-on care when family members are sick, and also frequently serve as the primary caregivers for their extended family members.
"Many women also work outside of the home, and juggle a hectic schedule full of daily responsibilities. In order to perform all of these vital roles, 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 preventing 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. Doty advised. "Talk with your doctor about which tests apply to you and when and how often you should be tested."
Role Model Tips to Encourage Healthy Behaviors
1. Eat the foods and drink the beverages that you want your children to consume. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and sugars.
2. Encourage low-fat or fat-free milk or water at every meal and limit soft drinks, juices and other sugary beverages, which often displace milk and add significant amounts of empty calories.
3. Make every effort to have family meals at home, where parents can serve as role models. Remember to try to make those meals full of enjoyment and free of criticism.
4. Exercise together to serve as active role models. Walking briskly, mowing the lawn, dancing, swimming or bicycling are just a few examples of moderate physical activity. 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.
5. Engage in healthy lifestyle changes to address weight, rather than restricting foods or promoting unhealthy diets.
6. Refrain from making negative comments about food, your body, your child's body or another family member's body.
7. Foster positive body image and high self-esteem by complimenting qualities other than appearance.
- 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: The American Cancer Society continues to recommend yearly mammograms beginning at age 40, for those with an average breast cancer risk.
- 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 70.
- 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.
- 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, are overweight or have a family history of diabetes.
- Depression: Emotional health is as important as physical health. If you have felt sad or hopeless over the last 2 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 with 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: American Cancer Society, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force)
Angela Doty, M.D., is a board certified 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.