This year, National Women’s Health Week was celebrated from May 10th (Mother’s Day) to May 16th. The goal of this week was to empower women to make their health a priority, and served as a time to help women understand what steps they can take to improve their health. But health doesn’t happen just one week a year. So what do women need to know to keep themselves healthy all year long?
The American Heart Association promotes the Know Your Numbers campaign—blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI). These numbers are key indicators of risk for common health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes. High cholesterol may lead to fatty deposits in the inner lining of arteries, which can cause a heart attack or stroke. Being 20 pounds or more overweight increases the risk of high blood pressure (or hypertension) which makes the heart work harder than normal. Diabetes can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke by two to four times.
These numbers are important for every woman to know and discuss with her health care provider. But are there many more numbers that matter too. Just recently, the AARP reviewed many US and international medical studies and reported the following “numbers for health”.
- 2—hours of TV you can safely watch each day. Too much sedentary time increases the concentration of triglycerides (fat) in your blood, lowers HDL or “good” cholesterol, and raises blood pressure.
- 7— ideal daily servings of fruits and vegetables. That’s more than the five-a-day we usually hear about, but the extra amount can reduce the risk of early death by 42 percent.
- 7—hours of sleep per night you need to control weight. Those who sleep five hours or less per night are 50 percent more likely to become overweight compared with those who routinely get a full night’s rest.
- 20—most miles you should drive to work — round trip — each day. Longer commutes are associated with higher blood pressure and more worrying and chronic stress.
- 1,500—maximum amount of sodium, in milligrams, an average adult should consume daily. Three-quarters of the salt in our diets comes from processed foods, so change to fresh whole foods to lower blood pressure.
- 1:2—healthiest ratio, waist to height. A bigger waist increases the risk of developing metabolic syndrome (a cluster of factors including high blood pressure and cholesterol), which in turn raises the chance of heart disease and stroke.
- 0—number of cans of sugar-laden soda you can safely drink. Just one 12-ounce can per day raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 18 percent.
This month, women have another opportunity to learn how they can take better care of themselves and improve their health numbers. The Blue Hill Memorial Hospital will host the 4th Annual Women’s Wellness Fair on Wednesday, June 24th, 4 – 7 pm, at Emlen Hall at the Bay School. All health and wellness exhibits and services are free and open to women of all ages.
What you can do! Come to the Women’s Wellness Fair on the 24th and join hundreds of women who want to be healthier every week of the year. See you there!
Your Health Matters is a monthly health column by Healthy Peninsula and the Blue Hill Memorial Hospital. Sandra Phoenix is a family nurse practitioner and Chair of the HP Advisory Board.