With Mother’s Day around the corner, what better time to have a frank talk about the health and well being of moms. I feel the need to remind moms (myself too!) because they do so much for others, they often forget to take care of themselves.
So for my annual Mother’s Day post, I wanted to list out important ways mothers (and all women) can practice some good old fashion self-care.
1. Get regular physicals: Going for physicals is important for touching base with your healthcare provider and knowing your “health numbers.” How often should you go? This medical Q&A on US News says “A reasonable guideline would be twice in their 20s, three times in their 30s, four times in their 40s, five times in their 50s, and annually thereafter.”
Below are numbers to keep track of along with what is desirable:
Blood pressure: Less than 130/80 mm hg
Cholesterol: (LDL) less than 100mg and (HDL) 40mg or greater in men and 50mg and greater in women:
Triglycerides: 100 mg/dl or less
Vitamin D: >20ng/ml per institute of Medicine and >30ng/ml per the Endocrine Society
2. Focus on bone health: The average age of menopause is 51 — this is also a time women lose up to 20% of their bone density. The best defense is to enter this stage with strong bone health. Women do this by getting enough weight-bearing exercise, calcium and vitamin D. Women under 50 need 1000mg calcium and over 50 it jumps to 1200mg (see this list for sources). Few foods contain vitamin D so knowing your blood levels helps you decide whether or not to supplement.
3. Get muscle: Weight gain associated with aging is mostly due to the gradual loss of muscle mass starting in the 30’s. Regular exercise and strength training help to maintain muscle mass which translates to a stronger body that burns more at rest. Protein also becomes important and studies show that even distribution throughout the day is better for building muscle than erratic intake. So make sure each meal has a good protein source, like eggs at breakfast, chicken at lunch and tofu/beans at dinner.
4. Stay up on cancer screenings: Prevention and early detection is vital when it comes to cancer. Here are guidelines on when to go for screenings. If you are at high risk due to family history, make sure to check with your doctor.
Breast Cancer: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), women between 40 and 49 should talk to their doctors about mammogram frequency and those between 50 and 74 should have a mammogram every 2 years.
Colon Cancer: According to the CDC, colorectal cancer screenings (fecal blood test, sigmoidoscopy and/or colonoscopy)should start at age 50 and continue at regular intervals until age 74.
Cervical Cancer: One of the easiest gynecological cancers to prevent, cervical cancer can be checked by pap smear and HPV test. According to the CDC, pap tests should be performed on women aged 21- 65 year old at intervals directed by your doctor. Talk with your doctor about whether the HPV test makes sense for you.
5. Diabetes screening: According the American Diabetes Association, screening for diabetes for those at low risk should start at age 45 and occur at 3-year intervals.
6. Time with Girlfriends: Moms need girlfriends to soothe their soul! Research shows women’s friendships help with stress management, longevity and happiness. I admit that finding the time isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it! (picture from my last girls trip in New Orleans!)
7. Sleep: Depending on what mommy stage you are in, good sleep may not be possible every night, but it’s important none the less. The amount we need varies from person to person but is generally around 7-9 hours a night according to the Sleep Foundation. Ask yourself what amount of sleep you feel best on and strive for it.
8. Move your body more: You don’t need me to tell you exercise is good for you, so I’ll remind you how it also gives you energy, helps you sleep and keeps you strong. Recommendations are for about an hour of moderate activity daily but if that feels overwhelming start small and focus on how any activity makes you feel!
9. Nourish yourself: Food nourishes the body and mind. Make feeding yourself wholesome food a priority with regular meals and snacks. Be mindful by paying attention to hunger and fullness. Moderate alcohol intake as women tend to absorb more alcohol then men, which can have adverse health effects.
10. Focus on stress management: In The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress Free Living, Amit Sood, MD, writes:
Stress is the struggle with what is. A mind that doesn’t have what it wants or doesn’t want what it has experiences stress. The plethora of choices we have to sift through each day at life’s ever-increasing speed worsens stress. Saddled with hundreds of “open files” in the mind, we spend half our day physically here but mentally elsewhere. We are so caught up weeding the yard that we completely miss the tulips that nature gives us for a few precious weeks. We postpone joy.
It’s worthwhile for moms to find constructive ways to fend off daily stressors. The Mayo Clinic Guide focuses on mindfulness, gratitude, compassion and acceptance (among other things).
I hope this was a friendly reminder to do something good for yourself today. Happy Mother’s Day to all you amazing moms, grandmas and great grandmas!