This year’s Women’s History Month theme is “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” In that spirit, the month of March is also a great time to remind women to focus on their health.
Fitness and nutrition don’t just play a role in weight management. They are critical in preventing disease and injury. Many of the top 10 health concerns that affect women are preventable and can be treated through a good diet and increased physical activity. They include:
Diabetes and obesity. Type 2 diabetes is an epidemic affecting nearly 26 million Americans, roughly half of them women. Those with type 2 diabetes are often obese. The combination of these conditions increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.
Stroke. Nearly 60% of stroke deaths occur in women. For warning signs, remember the acronym FAST (Face drooping, Arm weakness or numbness, Speech problems, Time to call 911). The sooner you seek treatment, the more brain function you can save.
Osteopenia and osteoporosis. Half of all women will experience osteoporosis, which starts long before problems are noticed. The earlier you start protecting your bones, the better. Women’s bone mass peaks by 30, making the childhood and teenage years key for bone-building. Prevent osteoporosis by getting enough calcium and vitamin D, and increasing skeletal strength with weight-bearing exercises.
Depression. It’s almost twice as likely to affect women as men. Counseling will help most people, but you can also help yourself by committing to exercise and spending time with loved ones.
Most of these health issues can be addressed with proper nutrition and regular exercise. Here are some strategies:
Nutrition. Plan, then prepare your food at home. Restaurant dishes contain more calories, fat and sugar, while pre-packaged foods load up on refined ingredients. Consider adding a supplement to your diet to ensure you’re getting all your vitamins and minerals, like calcium and vitamin D.
Fitness. Weight-bearing and resistance training can help promote weight loss by building lean muscle mass, which increases your metabolic rate. Increasing movement and cardio activity can help strengthen the heart as well as aid in weight loss. Movement also increases endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in the body. There is a clear link between exercise and battling depression.
Army veteran Jennifer Campbell is a certified personal trainer with a master’s degree in nutrition education. She is commander of the California American Legion’s 24th District.