Improve Your Health in 7 Easy Steps

Take Charge on 03.07.12
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Photo: Zuesandhera/Creative Commons

So, how are you? No, I mean really, how are you? I'm not talking about how you're feeling, as in your mood. I mean the big stuff, your overall physical health. Springtime is such a time of renewal; it's also the time I schedule an annual physical for myself. If you were to think of me as a car, I'm not quite a Model T but I have been around the block a time or two.

It's easy for us as moms to put everyone ahead of ourselves; we work hard, go without and sacrifice for everyone else. Before you know it, we're sick. You think it's hard to keep the family together on a regular day? Try to do it when you're flat on your back in bed.

The good news is there are easy things you can do right now that will have a positive effect on your health. So let's start with what you should know:

Blood pressure number. This is a fast and easy check done at the doctor's office. Blood pressure measures the force that blood exerts against your arteries. If high blood pressue is left unchecked, it can cause heart attack or stroke, among other things. High blood pressure can exist without symptoms so it's important to screen for this regularly.

Cholesterol number. Cholesterol is in certain foods but also produced by the body. Having high cholesterol puts you at risk for hardening of the arteries and heart disease. You don't have to be overweight to have high cholesterol and genetics can also play a part. My mother, who's been thin her whole life, has it. So do I.

Family history. You have to play the hand you're dealt but that doesn't mean you can't affect the outcome. Heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and breast cancer all run in my family but that does not mean they're inevitable for me. I try to mitigate genetics as much as I can through lifestyle choices. Do you know what diseases run in your family? Ask family members then build your own medical "family tree".

Now that you know those things, here's what you can commit to right now.

A routine physical. You take your kids to the pediatrician yearly, right? Why would you not do the same for yourself? If you have a family doctor, make it a point to see him or her every year for routine screenings. If you don't have a family doctor, get one.

An OB/GYN check. I love my gynecologist. She's a nice lady with a big smile and gentle manner. But  I'd still rather have a root canal without anesthesia than to see her. Nonetheless, I go every year because it's important. A yearly pap and pelvic exam is a crucial screening that can pick up conditions before symptoms show up.

A mammogram. If you're over 40, the mammogram another test you need to include. I'm going give it to you straight; having your breast squeezed between two pieces of plastic is uncomfortable. But it's a few seconds, and come on now! You've had kids! You know discomfort. Mammograms, while not perfect, are the best tool we have for finding early breast cancer and the earlier it's found, the better the outcome. (By the way, family history is not the biggest risk factor for the disease. Every woman is at risk. Period.)

Regular exercise. I've fallen off the exercise wagon in a major way. It's easy, isn't it? You get busy building a life, family, career and the one thing that takes a back seat is exercise. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes a week along with a couple of days of strength training. Now that the weather is getting nicer, it's time to get out and get moving.

This is just a short list; of course there are other things you can do for your health right now including a healthy diet, cutting back on salt and sugar and, if you smoke, cutting out cigarettes altogether. The point is, you are in charge; no time like the present to jump into the driver's seat and take control of your physical health. If not for you, for the people in your life who depend on you.

So let me ask again, how are you? 

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