On the heels of Mother's Day, Women's Health Week is the perfect opportunity to remind all women about the importance of paying attention to their health. Women are often the center of a family, a neighborhood, a business or a volunteer effort, but as I remind women every day, we cannot fulfill these roles unless we are healthy and vibrant. Here is my decade-by-decade guide to your health.
The Roaring 20s -- What I Wish I Had Known
My health journey began in my 20s, so I know the importance of checking in with your health even as you are trying to find your career and purpose in life. As you sprint from school to meetings, don't push your health to the bottom of your priority list. I did, and the result was a decade-long search for answers. While I did heal myself, save yourself the time and hassle by following these five tips:
1. Learn to cook -- try to limit eating out to three days per week to avoid unnecessary fat, salt, and calories.
2. Find three workouts that you can do anywhere. Master a yoga routine or a few resistance band exercises that you can take on any business trip or simply do at home.
3. Don't forget to sleep -- aim for eight hours of sleep per night at least four nights per week. Women, hormones and sleep are a delicate, intricate web that should not be disturbed.
4. Get a yearly doctor's visit and have your hormones and inflammation markers checked. Tracking your thyroid, estrogen and progesterone levels can help you "learn" your body, and have a reference for where you may feel your best. It can also help you evaluate potential areas of trouble.
5. Wear sunscreen -- every day, not just when you are at the beach. (1)
Use these basic rules to stay healthy through this exciting but sometimes turbulent decade.
The Trendy 30s
Women in their 30s are often all in similar routines. Solidifying that career, climbing the corporate ladder and children often enter this exciting decade. While women begin the juggling act between work and family, evaluating health often takes a back seat. This is a critical decade since the health habits established here are the foundation for fertility, perimenopause and menopause (no pressure). Here are my key health tips for women on track to have it all.
- Manage your moods. As women settle into their 30s and life starts to take a more consistent rhythm, pay attention to your mental health. If you find yourself getting more anxious or depressed, talk to your doctor. Don't let anxiety and depression sabotage your fast track to happiness.
- Don't dismiss your digestive health. Changes in your digestive health are signs that you may not be getting the nutrients you need or breaking foods down very well. Take some time to understand the best diet for you and adapt to that eating pattern.
- Screen yourself for nutritional deficiencies. Low B vitamins, D, or fats can lead to inflammation and hormone imbalances. Finding these early can shift many different aspects of your health. (2)
- Set aside time to de-stress. The increasing responsibilities of this decade leave many women breathless as they simply try to keep up with children, home and work. My cardinal rule: All women need at least 2-3 hours of personal time per week to prevent another hormone crash and adrenal fatigue. Try acupuncture, get a massage or simply enjoy the outdoors.
- Set boundaries and ask for help. We don't have to do it all, we choose to. Create your to do list and then see what you can give away. Ask for help from family or friends. Many women struggle today since we no longer live in connected, supportive communities where the tasks of raising a family are often shared.
The Fierce 40s
A critical health decade, women in their 40s finally reach that deep understanding of who they are and where their energy should be focused. This decade marks the realization of family and career success for many women but it is also what I call the "decade of reckoning" where relationships that may not have been stable start to crumble and a career not well chosen may need to be redirected. At the same time, hormones begin to shift marking the beginning of perimenopause. It is a time of celebration for some women, but a transitional time for others. Stay healthy by building on good foundational habits but keep the following in mind:
- Create a 10-minute daily meditation or prayer routine. This is time to clear your mind and help guide your decisions.
- Begin aggressively lowering your intake of sugar. Women after 40 generally cannot tolerate sugar, as we become more insulin-resistant, storing fat quickly. Remember that processed foods, alcohol in any form and carbohydrates add to your total sugar intake. My general rule is to keep sugar under 40 grams per day.
- Add weight training to your exercise regimen. This is the decade to be a "gym rat." Weight training helps burn body fat and when used consistently also helps to build bone, preventing osteoporosis. At least two sessions of weight training per week can make a difference in your physique and metabolic markers. (3)
- Do a quarterly detox. Keep the key organs of detoxification; the colon, liver, skin and kidneys humming by doing a quarterly detox or "clean up."
- Get a baseline mammogram and keep up with your breast self exams. Breast cancer becomes a recognizable story for many women in this decade and early detection does equal a successful cure.
The Fantastic 50s
I call the 50s the decade of contentment, as most women mature and settle into comfortable roles. Like any decade, some women thrive in their 50s but others struggle -- and that struggle can be a health related challenge. Again the foundational habits of the previous decade really pay off in your 50s and beyond and that may be the defining difference. Follow these health rules to capture this decade as one of your best.
- Make healthy fats your friend. As women transition through menopause, the swings of hormones can be buffered by getting an adequate intake of healthy fats, including the omega-3 fats, omega-9 fats and gamma linolenic acid. These fats help keep skin and hair vibrant while hormones may be declining.
- It is time for the baseline dexa or bone scan for osteoporosis and osteopenia screening. Catching accelerated bone turnover early can help prevent fractures in later decades.
- The dreaded colonoscopy becomes a health requirement. While many fear the prep and the test, screening for colon cancer does save lives. Try to get this study as you start this decade.
- Add calcium and magnesium into your daily routine. These minerals support bone health but also help with sleep disturbances, another common problem in your 50s.
- Think hydration -- drink plenty of water, at least 100 ounces per day, and use hydrating moisturizers and shampoo. Hyaluronic acid, coconut oil and shea butter are ingredients I would look for.
The Free 60s
A decade of freedom -- as long as you are healthy -- the 60s often signal the beginning of retirement, children finally settling and an acceptance of the start of a new phase for many women. This is the decade where women finally start that nonprofit, teach, travel or just spend time with their families. Stay healthy with these key tips.
- Continue exercising. Weight training and isometric resistance should be the mainstays of movement. Pilates, yoga and swimming are easier on joints and help muscles to remain pliable.
-Reduce your caloric intake to maintain your weight. With each decade, we should be reducing calories by at least 15 percent, accounting for a slowing metabolism.
- Increase your antioxidants. Add high-antioxidant foods into your diet to beat cellular aging and consider daily juicing to get an instant boost of anti aging nutrients.
- Build your community -- as roles and responsibilities shift, many women in their 60s find themselves isolated and alone. Reach out to neighbors, family and friends to maintain a sense of community while you may also have an empty nest.
- Add electrolytes to your water at least daily. Electrolyte imbalances can account for many common complaints in this decade, including dizziness, fatigue, and insomnia.
70s and beyond
As we live longer, women beyond 70 are still vibrant and active. They may find their energy decreasing a bit and their appetite changing but still full of joy when immersed in the right environment. There are health challenges during these decades but the right tools can help any woman navigate the journey seamlessly.
- Connect to your spirituality. These decades are often decades of loss, as women may outlive their spouses or lose family and friends. Staying connected to the core of your spirit and finding a way to express it can help buffer the emotional upheavals.
- Keep your mind active. Changes in memory and cognition can become more noticeable in this decade. Find ways to keep your brain challenged -- work on projects, board games, reading and crossword puzzles are all examples of staying razor sharp. (5)
- Watch your nutrition. Aim for five small meals through the day and notify your doctor any time there are changes in your appetite or wait.
- Get your Zzzs. For many senior women, insomnia become the norm. Good sleep hygiene includes keeping the bedroom dark, avoiding caffeine and alcohol and turning off electronics 30 min before bed.
- Guard your digestive health. Constipation can be a troubling issue this decade. Add extra fiber to your diet and get at least 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
This women's health week, protect your health and that of the women close to you- regardless of their age.