Women's Health Today: Evaluating Clients' Risk
- By Keith Jentoft, Cindy Ramsey
- Feb 01, 2005
Women's health today is about knowing yourself, who you are, what you need to be fit and how to get there. How can you better equip your clients with information they can use to improve their overall health? Many clients appreciate receiving valuable health information that extends beyond a needed product. Use this information to better equip women with the knowledge they need to live healthier lives.
Know what you need to do to improve your overall health. It is a proven fact that exercise reduces the risk of major diseases like breast cancer and heart disease. You should check with your physician and have a physical before you start any exercise program. Assess your strengths and weaknesses in order to outline your program. Be realistic. Start with a program that is achievable and add improvements or goals as you go along. Try to select something that you enjoy such as swimming, running, walking or weight training. Pick a time that will work in your schedule and try to stick to the program three times a week for at least 20 minutes each time. Healthy eating along with exercise, are crucial components to good health. Assess your eating habits and decide what you need to change based on the following recommendations. Gradual changes will help ensure that you are developing new habits.
How are your eating habits?
Carole Torn, a registered dietitian , recommends focusing on eating a variety of foods to ensure that you are getting all the nutrients you need. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that one third or less of the plate is meat, fish, poultry or low-fat dairy. Plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans should cover two thirds or more of the plate. Your daily goal should include three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruits a day. The daily plan should focus on dietary patterns instead of specific foods or nutrients. Vegetables and fruits provide vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that protect the body's cells from damage by cancer-causing agents. Fruits and vegetables that are deep in color tend to have the most vitamins and minerals and is an indicator of foods high in antioxidants.
Next, focus on decreasing fat and sodium by cooking meats and vegetables with as little fat and added salt as possible. Bake, steam microwave or stir-fry your vegetables in a small amount of oil. Avoid cheese sauce, gravy, regular salad dressings, regular sour cream and other high-fat toppings. Try using marinara sauce, salsa, mustard, lite soy sauce and flavored vinegar instead.
Do you get enough calcium?
The average American woman only consumes about 600 mg of calcium a day compared to the 1,200 mg recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. Adequate Calcium intake will slow the rate of bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures in older women. In order to estimate how much Calcium you are eating, count 300 mg for each serving of milk, yogurt, or cheese, and add 250 mg from the rest of your diet. Calcium is often found in other foods such as orange juice with calcium ( 1 cup = 350mg). Wheatena ( 1/3/cup dry = 200mg) and Total Cereal has 1,000 mg in a serving. If you are unable to consume at least three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt you should add a supplement or calcium fortified foods to your diet.
Make it a goal to improve your health by focusing on your exercise and eating habits. If an eating or exercise program is too hard to follow or not enjoyable, you will not be able to stick with it. Gradual changes will help you to develop new habits that will last a lifetime.
Know your readings.
In addition to diet and exercise, it is important to keep up good regular maintenance of your body, know you blood pressure and your heart rate. Your best health advocate for your body is you. Know what is normal for you and be able to share this with you physician. Listen to your body if you have a problem that you feel is worrisome and make an appointment to see your physician. It is also important to have regular screenings that are age appropriate. There are several important screening tests that should not be missed. Be certain to have an annual physical and include a Pap Test, annual breast exams and a colonoscopy by the age of 50. Also at age 50, it is important to be screened for osteoporosis.
What is your risk for breast cancer?
One out of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Today in the United States there are more than 2 million women who have had breast cancer. In 2004, the statistics indicate that there will be approximately 242,000 new cases of breast cancer in the United States. By the age of 20, a woman should be doing monthly breast self-exams. Also at this age a women should have a baseline breast exam by a physician. By the age of 40 a women should have an annual mammogram. The fact is, all women are at risk of breast cancer. Although you have heard about the factors that may put some woman at higher risk for breast cancer, the truth is that most women with breast cancer do not have these or other risk factors. As a breast cancer survivor, I must stress that there should never be a reason to miss your annual mammogram. Mammograms can find some breast cancer when lumps are too small to feel. Although, not all breast cancer can be detected in a mammogram, it may save your life. See your octor or nurse if you notice any changes in your breast, these may include:
A lump, hard knot or thickening
Change in size or shape
Itchy, sore or rash on the nipple
Dimpling or puckering of the skin
Pulling in of the nipple or other parts
Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
New pain in one spot
There are many organizations on the Web that offer much more detailed information.
The Susan G. Komen foundation offers step-by-step instructions for breast self exam. Contact the foundation at (800) 462-9273 or www.komen.org/bse
What is your risk for osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis also can play a negative role in the overall health of women. It is known as the silent disease because it progresses with no symptoms or warning signs. The CDC indicates that osteoporosis alone is responsible for more than 1.5 million bone fractures in the United States each year. One in every two women over the age of 50 will have osteoporosis.
Are you at risk:
Are you age 50 or older?
Are you Caucasian or Asian?
Do you have a slender body build?
Do you have a family history of osteoporosis?
Do you drink alcohol (two or more drinks a day)?
Do you smoke?
Is your diet low in calcium or Vitamin D?
Are you physically inactive?
Do you have medical conditions such as Crohn's disease or eating disorders?
Do you take medications to treat chronic conditions such as corticosteroids?
Are you post menopausal?
Do you have a history of abnormal periods?
If you answer yes to at least one of these questions you are at risk for osteoporosis.
There is no cure for osteoporosis, but you can help with early prevention by exercising and maintaining a diet rich in calcium. If you are a smoker, it is recommended that you stop smoking.
Exercising, healthy eating, and regular check-ups are all important components of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It is important to be able to acknowledge the areas in which changes need to be made. There are many other disease issues which we have not discussed, such as other forms of cancer and heart disease. However; if you follow a regular exercise program and a well balanced diet you have started the process to meet these challenges successfully. Additionally your physician should conduct exams and tests during your annual physical that should help to pinpoint any problems.
Informing your clients with valuable information about their health will help build a relationship that extends beyond products. And it could lead to healthier tomorrows.
This article originally appeared in the February 2005 issue of HME Business.