Heart disease, cancer, and stroke are the leading causes of death for women in the United States. Did you know that an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity increases your chances of getting these and other diseases?
Research shows that women can lower their heart disease risk enormously – by 82 percent – simply by leading a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle means making wise choices about matters such as eating, drinking and physical activity.
5 Daily Steps for a Healthy Lifestyle
Recommended for women by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
1. Don’t Smoke
If you do smoke, stop. Talk to your doctor about quitting. If you are pregnant and smoke, quitting now will help you and your baby. Your doctor or nurse can help you.
Here’s how you can help yourself.
- For tips on how to quit, go to www.smokefree.gov.
- To talk to someone about how to quit, call the National Quitline: (800) QUITNOW.
- To find a Carondelet physician call 520-872-7324.
2. Be Physically Active
Currently, the government recommends moderate physical activity at least 30 minutes a day, on most days of the week. However, studies show that even less physical activity will yield health benefits.
Exercise is associated with living longer and better. Women who are physically active throughout life experience fewer physical disabilities as they age than inactive women.
Studies show that women who exercise tend to have lower cholesterol levels and better blood pressure control. Similarly, studies show exercise helps people with type 2 diabetes lose weight and better control blood sugar levels.
Although women are strongly encouraged to start a regular exercise program as soon as possible, studies find it is never too late to start. Women tend to benefit from exercise at whatever point in life they chose to begin.
Walking briskly, mowing the lawn, dancing, swimming, and bicycling are just a few examples of moderate physical activity. If you are not already physically active, start small and work up to 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity most days of the week.
Do you think your size is a barrier to getting going? You can do it – consult your doctor.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
Emphasize fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. Eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars. More about healthy eating
Calcium is essential for women. Include fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products in your diet. More about required calcium for women
4. Stay at a Healthy Weight
Balance calories from foods and beverages with calories you burn off by your activities. To prevent gradual weight gain over time, make small decreases in food and beverage calories and increase physical activity.
5. Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation
If you drink alcohol, have no more than one drink a day. One standard drink equals one of the following: 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, 5 ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. If you are pregnant, avoid alcohol.
Download: 5 Daily Steps for a Health Lifestyle
Why exercise? Exercise helps women:
- Reduce the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke
- Lower the risk of disease, stroke, high blood pressure, colon cancer and diabetes
- Control or lower blood pressure
- Keep bones, muscles and joints healthy
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- Improve mood
- Handle stress
- Control weight
- Potentially protect against breast cancer
- Control joint swelling and pain from arthritis
- Feel more energetic
- Sleep better
Want to get moving? Here’s how:
- Choose an activity you enjoy.
- Change your activities so you don't get bored.
- Housework does get you moving! So does gardening, yard work and walking the dog.
- If you can't set aside one 30-minute block of time, do short activities during the day, such as three 10-minute walks.
- Create opportunities for activity, such as parking your car farther away or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Find indoor activities during the winter, such as exercising to a workout DVD or joining a sports league.
- Get a head start on spring cleaning by choosing active chores like window washing or reorganizing closets.
- Use different jogging, walking or biking paths to vary your routine.
- Team up with a friend or family member.
- If you have children, make time to play with them outside. Don’t watch them play – play with them and set a positive example.
- Read books or magazines for inspiration.
- Set specific, short-term goals and reward yourself upon achieving them.
- Don't feel badly if you don't notice body changes right away – remember that you are often exercising your most important muscle, the heart.
- Make your activity a regular part of your day, so it becomes a habit.
Physical Activity for Large Women
- You can be active.
- Very large people face special challenges trying to be active:
- You may not be able to bend or move in the same way that other people can.
- It may be hard to find clothes and equipment for exercising.
- You may feel self-conscious being active around other people.
You can work through these challenges!
- The Weight Control Information Network recommends activities that put less stress on your joints so that you don't have to lift or push your own weight. Try starting with swimming or water workouts.
- If your feet or joints hurt when you stand, non-weight-bearing activities may be best for you.
- If you can't do an activity, don't be hard on yourself. Be proud of pushing yourself up out of a chair or walking a short distance. Pat yourself on the back for trying, even if you can't do it the first time. It may be easier the next time, so try again.
- Remember to appreciate what you can do, even if you think it's a small amount. Just moving any part of your body – even for a short time – can make you healthier.
- Talk to your doctor before starting a program and ask for ideas suitable to keep you active.
Tips for Healthy Eating
- Start your day with breakfast. Breakfast fills your “empty tank” to get you going after a long night without food. Eating breakfast will give you better strength, endurance and concentration throughout your day.
Make an easy breakfast:
- Whole-grain cereal with fruit and low- or fat-free milk
- Whole-wheat toast with peanut butter
- Low- or fat-free yogurt with fruit
- Whole grain waffles
- Eat a variety of foods. You don’t have to give up foods you enjoy like hamburgers, French fries, and ice cream to eat healthy. You just have to be smart about how often you eat them and how much you eat. Your body needs nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, fat and many different vitamins and minerals from different foods. Balance your food choices to get important nutrients.
- Eat whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. These foods give you energy, plus vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Besides, they taste good!
Try these foods:
- Brown rice or whole-wheat bread
- Bananas, strawberries and melons
- Vegetables raw, on a sandwich, or in a salad.
- Be sure to pick a variety of colors and kinds of fruit and vegetables. You can vary the form — fresh, frozen, canned or dried.
How to Improve Your Eating Habits
|If You Usually...
|Use whole or 2% milk
||Use low-fat (1% or less fat) milk or fat-free milk.
|Drink regular soda
||Drink water or other calorie-free drinks.
|Have second helpings
||Put the food away after you serve it. Or put the food in the kitchen instead of placing serving bowls on the table.
|Eat big portions
||Eat the appropriate portion sizes off a smaller plate.
|Eat a lot of white bread or pasta
||Eat a variety of whole-grain foods, like whole-wheat bread, low-fat popcorn and brown rice.
||Use butter-flavored cooking spray.
|Eat fast food on the road
||Pack sandwiches, yogurt, string cheese and low-fat crackers for the trip. Cut up vegetables and fruit for snacks.
|Eat meats high in fat
||Eat lean cuts of beef or pork, skinless chicken, turkey or fish.
|Eat snacks high in fat, salt and sugar
||Keep graham crackers, peanut butter, light popcorn, dry unsweetened cereals, low-fat cheese, along with fruit and veggies readily available.
||Try eating a healthy breakfast each day.
|Fry your food
||Grill, bake or roast your food instead.
Required Calcium for Women
Calcium is a mineral that, even before birth, plays a significant role in almost all our body functions, including the development of our teeth and bones. Ultimately, as women age, calcium helps protect a woman’s body against the loss of bone density that can result in debilitating fractures or breaks.
The daily dairy consumption for females, age 9 and above, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
- 3 cups from the milk group each day
Examples of one cup from the milk group:
- 1 cup of milk or yogurt
- 1½ ounces of natural cheese
- 2 ounces of processed cheese
- Milk-based desserts (choose low- or fat-free types) such as 1 cup pudding made with milk or 1½ cups ice cream
The National Institute of Health recommends that, in addition to a healthy diet, adult women have a daily supplemental calcium intake of 1000 to 1200 mg before menopause and 1300 to 1500 mg after menopause.