National Women’s and Men’s Health Weeks!

June 18, 2018

As I am preparing this article on May 9, I am aware of at least five emails that I have already received this month regarding National Women’s Health Week, beginning this year on Mother’s Day. Since I am writing for the June/July newsletter, I went to the National Health Observances and found that National Men’s Health Week for 2018 is June 11 - 17. The purpose of both of these weeks is to increase awareness of preventable health problems and to encourage early detection, treatment and participation in lifestyle changes that can reduce the risk of a variety of health issues.
Dr. Nancy Lee, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health for the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, stated in 2016 that science is always changing but the basics of caring for our health never changes. A few simple steps adapted to age and ability for both women and men can guide us in day to day activities ensuring that we are doing the best that we can to keep ourselves healthy. These steps include the following:
Know what you are eating. Focus on foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein. Read labels and know that the healthiest foods do not come in wrappers. Choose smaller plates making the bigger portion on your plate foods with lots of color; vegetables usually fill this description. Choose whole fruits instead of fruit juice, drink water and skip sugary drinks and sodas. Save sweets and desserts for special occasions. Use mealtime as a time to teach children the basics of a healthy diet.
Kick the sedentary lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle can set the stage for weight gain and major health problems. You do not have to go to the gym to get your daily recommended 30 minutes of physical activity. You also do not need to do all of the 30 minutes of daily activity at one time.  Think of ways that will work with your lifestyle to get moving. Increase your steps by parking further away from work or a store entrance. Take advantage of nice days during your lunch hour and walk outside. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Team up with a family member, neighbor, or friend to walk, run or bike several days a week. Walking the dog several times a day can quickly give you the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity.
Reduce your stress. Stress is a big part of our everyday lives. It is how we respond to the stress that affects our health. Long-term stress can increase an individual’s risk for depression and anxiety, obesity, heart disease, cancer and many other health problems. Improving nutrition and exercising are great starters for reducing stress. Getting a good night’s sleep - recommended 7 - 8 hours for adults - can also help in reducing stress. Some changes that might aid in better sleep could include winding down an hour before bedtime. Replacing electronic devices and television with a good book at least an hour before bedtime can help you do this. A bedtime that allows you to get the recommended amount of sleep can help you to be more resilient and better able to cope with life’s stressors.
Seek assistance from the medical community. Schedule a well visit with your physician insuring that you have received the appropriate age related screenings and vaccines. Share with your physician concerns about your health and ask for referrals for health related problems that he/she is unable to provide when needed.
Make smart decisions. Even what seems to be a small decision can make a big impact on your health. In addition to what has been discussed above, not wearing seat belts, talking on the phone or texting while driving, having just one more drink for the road are decisions that could cost you your life or the life of another person. A helmet when biking could save you from life threatening brain trauma. Don’t forget the sunscreen when working or playing outside. 
May and June have been designated nationally as months to focus on health - May for women and June for men. If you have not already done so, pledge to take steps to be the healthiest that you can be throughout 2018 and beyond. There is no better time than 2018 to take control of your health and work toward better health and fitness!  
Lee, Nancy, MD, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women, Office of Women’s Health, U. S. Office      of Health and Human Services, Back to Basics, June 12, 2016,
National Men’s Health Week,
National Women’s Health Week,
Cornelia Pearson, RN, MN, Chair
Health Ministries Task Force