During National Women’s Health Week each year, millions of women take steps to improve their health. National Women’s Health Week serves as a reminder for women to make their health a priority and build positive health habits for life. The 20th annual National Women’s Health Week kicked off on Mother’s Day and is celebrated through May 18, 2019.
May is also National Stroke Awareness Month. Stroke is the third leading cause of death for women. Each year stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer. However, this fact is widely unknown to the general public. Women are also less knowledgeable about the risk factors and don’t perceive themselves at risk for stroke. 55,000 more women have a stroke than men.
Hypertension remains the single most important modifiable risk factor, accounting for nearly 48% of strokes. With eight in 10 people experiencing their first stroke having hypertension, getting your blood pressure checked is an important first step in controlling your stroke risk.
Research has shown that unhealthy behaviors such as physical inactivity, poor diet, and smoking have an adverse effect on health and increase your stroke risk. For example, smokers have an increased risk of stroke, up to two to four times, compared to a nonsmoker or those that have quit for longer than 10 years.
Beyond reducing your risk for stroke, knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke are equally important. Every 40 seconds someone in the U.S. has a stroke and around 800,000 people will have a stroke in the United States this year alone.
A common misconception is that strokes occur only in older adults. Although your stroke risk increases with age, a stroke can happen to anyone at any time. About 15% of ischemic strokes occur in young adults and adolescents.
During National Women’s Health Week and National Stroke Awareness Month, the National Stroke Association is urging the public to look at their stroke risk factors, and pledge to make at least one change to reduce their stroke risk.
Here’s how many strokes would be reduced if each was eliminated:
– Hypertension 47.9%
– Physical inactivity 35.8%
– Lipids (blood fats) 26.8%
– Poor diet 23.2%
– Obesity 18.6%
– Smoking 12.4%
– Heart causes 9.1%
– Alcohol intake 5.8%
– Stress 5.8%
– Diabetes 3.9%
Women’s Health Checklist
- Annual wellness exam
- Bone mineral density test
- Clinical breast exam – women 20-39
- Mammogram – women 40 and older
- Cervical cancer screening – women 20-65
- Colonoscopy – women 50 and older
- Blood glucose test for Diabetes
- Eye exam – women 40 and older
- Hearing test
- Dental exams and cleanings – every 6-12 months
- Blood pressure – starting at age 20
- Cholesterol test – starting at age 20
- Immunizations (flu, shingles, pneumonia)
How to Improve Your Health
To improve your physical and mental health, you can:
• Visit a health care provider for a well-woman visit (checkup), preventive screenings, and vaccines.
• Get active.
• Eat healthy.
• Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.
• Practice safe behaviors, such as quitting smoking, not texting while driving, and taking steps to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections.
How to Begin?
It’s not always easy to take steps for better health, and every woman has her own approach. The key is to find what works for you. A great way to do that is to reflect on your health goals, what motivates you, and what’s holding you back from being your healthiest you. Use this online tool to uncover personalized tips to help you take the next step on your health journey. Get started today!