May 8, 2022

Mother's Day Kicks Off National Women's Health Week

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Each year, Mother's Day kicks off National Women's Health Week. It's an awareness event that encourages women and girls to put their health first. That starts with making healthy choices and staying active.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained in 2021 that two out of every three caregivers in the United States are women. That means they're a core part of the structure to provide daily and regular support to children, adults, or people with chronic health issues. When caregivers are focused on others, they tend to neglect their own health. Preventative care gets pushed to the back burner. That allows for undetected health problems to creep up and put women caregivers at greater risk for poor physical and mental health. 

Women's Health and COVID-19

This year's National Woman's Health Week marks two years of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Extra physical, economic, and mental stress from the global health crisis has impacted the health of everyone including women. 

The stats of how women have been impacted by the pandemic are startling. For example, a quarter of women report being financially worse off due to the pandemic. One reason is challenging working situations or the inability to work due to a lack of childcare. Also, rates of domestic violence and substance abuse went up as people were homebound due to COVID-19. 

The emotional pain we experience drives us towards increased use of drugs and alcohol, explained Nazanin Silver, MD, MPH, FACOG, a gynecologic psychiatrist and co-director of UPMC Pinnacle Women’s Behavioral Health Specialists, in an interview with The American Journal of Managed Care® (AJMC®). “And we want to mitigate and decrease that emotional pain,” she said.

For those who previously abused drugs and alcohol and were in recovery, the pandemic was a stressor for them and a potential trigger of relapse, Silver said. “For those who actually didn't have problems in the past utilizing these things and now have a problem, they have used it as a method to cope. It's not a healthy coping mechanism, but unfortunately, when your entire life just plummets downward people resort to very creative ways of mitigating their emotional pain,” she said.

Ways to Lead a Healthy Life

Make regular check-ups a priority. Determine what screenings need to be done based on your age and medical history. Explore preventive services and care benefits that are available for women at no extra cost. 

Know your body. If something doesn't feel right or is concerning to you, go see a doctor. Write down questions or details about issues you experience so that you can discuss them with your doctor during your next appointment. 

Eat a balanced diet. Be sure to include lots of lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Don't forget to add fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products as well.

Avoid drinking, caffeine, and smoking. All three can have effects that increase the risk of health issues. If you do choose to do them, make sure you keep everything in moderation.

Get active. Physical activity improves all aspects of your health. It can lower your risk of heart disease and boost your mood.

Keep your mind healthy. Mental health matters. Manage stress by relaxing. Take time to unwind and do activities that you enjoy. If you need support, talk with someone you trust. Expressing your feelings can help you cope with anxiety. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) runs a National Hotline that is free and confidential. It offers treatment referrals and information for people and families facing issues with mental health or substance abuse. Anyone who needs help can call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)  365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

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