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Women in particular need to keep an eye on their physical and mental health, because if we're scurrying to and from appointments and errands, we don't have a lot of time to take care of ourselves. We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own 'to do' list. ----- Michelle Obama.

Women and men are similar in a lot many ways, yet different due to their biological, physical and socio-behavioural makeup. And this is the primary reason why a woman's health and its concerns differ from that of a man. And as a woman myself, if I don't touch on this topic, then who will?

So, here is a post on 7 important health tips for women, dedicated to all the wonderful females out there, for their healthier, fitter and longer self.

1) Avoid Ridiculous Dieting, Eat Healthy

'Dieting' is one word that has kept a lot of ladies on their toes - especially to attain a leaner body BUT not necessarily a healthier one. To lose weight fast, a lot of women try short-term dieting regimes, as they give them quick results. However, this is contributing to a rather unhealthy trend. A number of surveys have pointed out that women who follow unhealthy temporary diets, are often seen regaining their lost pounds within a couple of months. This not only makes the whole dieting process futile but also puts a lot more risk to their health. So, the question is, 'why do them at all?'

Honestly, it is best to keep unsafe diet plans at bay. Shun protein-only diets, cabbage soup diet, apple vinegar diet, Hollywood diets, skipping meals and a whole load of other fad diets and fast weight loss programs that are detrimental to health. In the quest to lose weight quickly or attain a size-zero figure that your favorite model or actress flaunts, do not follow dangerous weight loss methods and harm your body.

Remember, your body is your own and you need to treat it with care and respect. So, eat healthy but eat in moderation. Try and include more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and nuts in your diet. Drink at least 1.5 liters of water everyday. Cut down on sugar, processed foods and aerated drinks. Instead, eat balanced meals which include carbohydrates, proteins, fibers, calcium, vitamins and healthy fats in your diet. You can have your piece of cake or sip a glass of wine once in a while. No worries. But keep them within limits.

Also Read: Weight Loss: 7 Ayurvedic Tips to Lose Weight the Right Way

2) Exercise Regularly

Healthy eating coupled with daily physical activity is a great way to promote good health and lose weight the right way. This will ideally be a healthy lifestyle you will be intuitively following in the long run.

Besides your daily chores (which consume your energy and need physical strain), keep aside 20-25 minutes every day, especially for some form of exercise. Be it walking, swimming,  cycling, doing some yoga exercises, pilates, aerobics, mixing cardio with weight-bearing exercises or even dancing, just do them regularly. A combined routine of healthy diet and exercise will not only exude a good self-image but also build your confidence, promote a positive mental well-being and help prevent diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer and diseases related to your cardio-vascular health.

Also Read: 7 Basic Yoga Asanas that Beginners Can Start Performing Even Today

3) Control Your Stress, Do Not Let it Control You

A woman plays a number of roles during her lifetime. When she is a single working woman she is juggling between her personal and professional life and when she is married, her juggling act and worries increase with added responsibilities towards marriage, work life, relatives, friends and kids. Now, when you have too much on the plate and continue trying to be good on all these fronts (all around the same time), it is natural to increase your worry and stress levels.

The level of stress varies from time to time and person to person and so do its effects. The effects of stress, particularly on a woman’s health can range from headaches, hair loss, skin breakouts, stomach ailments, irregular periods, insomnia to depression, decreased fertility, weight gain/loss and even risks to strokes and heart diseases. Hence it is imperative to acknowledge the need to manage stress before it starts spoiling your health and life. Be it improving your diet, exercising, spending time with your family and friends, pursing a hobby, doing meditation or any other stress-reduction method that works for you, find it and stick to it.

4) Up Your Calcium, but Don’t Overdo It

There is no doubt that calcium plays a very important role in women’s health and that is why doctors advise women to particularly include calcium-rich food in their diet and also sometimes prescribe dietary supplements for it. While deficiency of calcium can cause osteoporosis and higher risks to bone fractures in the long run, too much calcium can cause kidney stones and also risk you with a heart disease. Hence it is vital to know how much calcium your body needs, depending on your age and sex.

According to the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for calcium, a woman between 19-50 years needs 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day while 50+ women should get 1,200 milligrams of calcium everyday, primarily through their diet. Some foods that are rich in calcium are milk, cheese, yoghurt, tofu, sardines, salmon, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, kale, okra, spinach, raw bok choy, oranges, figs, legumes, oatmeal, almonds, etc. If you are not getting sufficient calcium through your diet, your doctor is sure to prescribe you calcium supplements along with vitamin D. Do not overlook its need.

5) Get Enough Sleep

Are you getting tired easily, feeling cranky, moody or sleepy during daytime or having trouble concentrating on work at hand? Then most likely, you are not getting enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), it is important for an adult to get around 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night for good overall health. However, most of the adults do not get it, especially women.

A number of studies have pointed that women are having more sleeping problems than men due to taxing workload and worries, which has a profound effect on their health. Research conducted in recent years has proved the importance of sleep for optimum health and its effects on mortality. They have also concluded on how less sleeping hours for women on a regular basis is linked with adverse effects on hormones and considerable increase in risk of irritability, anxiety, stress, depression, diabetes and even heart diseases.

So, for optimum health, improve your sleep hours at night. Cultivate a healthy sleeping habit by cutting down on your smart phone, tablet and laptop usage during bedtime or preferably before 10 pm. Avoiding caffeine at late evenings, limiting your power naps during the day, practicing a relaxing bedtime routine and in general sticking to a regular sleeping time (including weekends) is the best way to normalize your body’s clock and have a consistent and restful nighttime sleep.

6) Stay Connected

You may have a lot of things on hand with work, personal life, exercise and hobbies keeping you busy, but do not cut down your social ties. In the fast day-to-day life, it is easy to get caught up with your responsibilities and lose touch with your loved ones. Do not let that happen. Staying connected with family and friends is not only a great way of socializing and continuing good relationships but is also good for your health.

Studies in recent years have found that people who have good social ties and support have a more fulfilling, healthy and longer life than people who have fewer social contacts. In fact solid scientific evidence has shown that healthy social relationships have significant effect on a number of health outcomes, inclusive of mental, emotional and physical health. 

Nurturing good relationships has been particularly found beneficial in health concerns like isolation, stress and depression and also lessens mortality risk in adults. So ladies, stay connected and talk your heart out more often. Be it through a chat over coffee, a dinner invite at home, call or e-mail, communicate with your near and dear ones on a regular basis.

7) Go For an Annual Health Check-up

This is one point that most women neglect. And this is either due to demanding responsibilities towards home and work, the feeling that nothing major would happen to them or because of the anxiety towards what they would discover at the end of the tests. However health check-ups for women are highly recommended. If done on a regular yearly basis, the tests can help diagnose a health issue at an early stage and prevent its complications and high medical costs later.

When we say an annual health check-up for women, the most often question that one encounters is what tests can be done routinely. There are a number of annual health packages advertised nowadays by health centers which are beneficial for women. These women health packages are sometimes tailor-made and differ according to age, number of tests conducted and the accompanying rates.

However, some recommended tests for women above 21 years of age is checking for blood pressure, cholesterol screening, blood sugar levels (for diabetes), tests for blood counts and haemoglobin (to check if a woman is anaemic) and a pap smear test (for cervical cancer). For women between 30-40 years, all the above tests plus a vision test, a breast examination and TSH are suggested. 

As the age progresses, a mammogram (for breast cancer), bone density tests (to check for osteoporosis and bone related issues) and X-ray for chest are highly advisable. Though pap smears and pelvic examinations begin as early as 21 years, the frequency of these tests are not yearly, but 3-5 years. Similarly, depending on your current health and prior examination results, frequency of some other tests might also be altered.

Besides the above tests, as a woman you should be assertive regarding your body and health. If you observe a number of unusual moles in your skin that may/may not be painful, see some noticeable changes in your skin or health, are at high risk to some illnesses or have a depressed mood for a considerable period, then do not hesitate to report this to your physician. Remember, it is always better to be vigilant and take a bit of effort than be sorry afterwards.

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