We all know women are the undeniable experts of multitasking, but at what cost to our health? As modern-day women it’s all too easy to fall into using the ‘I’m too busy’ excuse. ‘Doing it all’ can have an impact on your overall health. We looked at six ways that you can make positive changes to your well-being.
The modern-day lifestyle means that as women, we have to juggle many different roles. Women have become the masters of ‘doing it all’: working, taking care of the family, their relationships and themselves. Often, their health comes right at the bottom of their list of ‘things to do’.
The ‘too-busy’ mantra is becoming all-too-familiar in the modern-day woman’s repertoire. We’re all guilty of using the excuse of being too busy to exercise, too busy to eat healthily or too busy to visit the doctor for regular health check-ups.
1. Go for regular check-ups
According to Dr Jacques Snyman, clinical advisor for Resolution Health Medical Scheme and managing director of integrated care solutions at Agility, owner of the Zurreal lifestyle programme, ‘Women should be going for a general check-up at least once a year.’ Regular check-ups help doctors identify early warning signs such as high blood pressure, abnormal blood glucose (sugar) levels and various medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and types of cancers, which if identified early can often be successfully treated and managed.
Part of the check-up will involve talking to your doctor about your medical history, your family’s history of disease and your lifestyle choices, including your diet, exercise habits and whether or not you smoke or drink alcohol. Your doctor will usually conduct:
- A pap smear and pelvic examination to assess the health of your uterus, screen for cervical cancer and look for other signs of infections. Your first pap smear should be within two years after you become sexually active and you should continue to have them regularly after that.
- A clinical breast examination or mammogram to detect early signs of breast cancer. Women should also be doing regular monthly self-examinations by feeling each breast for possible lumps, distortions or swelling.
- Blood tests to measure cholesterol levels and blood triglycerides to screen for various health problems such as heart disease or diabetes.
- A skin check to look for new or changed moles or marks that may indicate skin cancer.
- A bone density test for indications of osteoporosis.
- If you are sexually active, you may ask your doctor to screen you for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HIV especially if you are uncertain about your status or have more than one sexual partner.
‘At Resolution Health we are serious about preventative care and have introduced a Preventative Care programme. It’s focused on the early detection and treatment of potentially harmful medical conditions,’ says Dr Snyman.
2. Know your blood pressure numbers
Part of your check-up will also include a blood pressure test for hypertension. ‘Hypertension is not a ‘man’s disease’ as many people may believe,” says Dr Snyman. ‘In fact, hypertension is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease in women, particularly those who are post-menopausal, and it can cause heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, renal disease, and even blindness,’ he says. According to Dr Snyman, there is not enough ‘hype about hypertension’ in women and it is often underestimated and undiagnosed. It is important to have your blood pressure checked every two to three years if you are younger than 40 and thereafter have it checked at least once a year.
3. Watch your weight
According to a ground-breaking study published in the medical journal the Lancet in May this year, seven out of 10 South African women are overweight or obese. ‘Being overweight puts you at risk for developing cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis and chronic kidney disease,’ says Dr Snyman. Obesity is largely a result of people living less active lifestyles and consuming unhealthy and processed foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat.
4. Moving and munching
According to Dr Snyman women can easily avoid the health risks associated with obesity, hypertension and diabetes by following a healthy eating plan and exercising regularly. ‘Good nutrition for women of all ages starts with a balanced diet that consists of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and small amounts of protein. A healthy diet provides energy, supports mood, maintains weight, and keeps women looking their best, which ultimately means they are more able to do everything else on their to-do list,’ says Dr Snyman.
Ideally, women should exercise at least three to four times a week and mix up cardio exercises with weight training and muscle-strengthening activities. Weight training is important because it improves bone density, which will help prevent osteoporosis later on in life. ‘Be creative about how you can exercise and eat well. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym to stay fit. Get out, work in the garden, take up an active hobby or walk the dog. And remember to speak to a doctor or healthcare professional before embarking on an exercise or eating programme,’ says Dr Snyman.
5. Get the balancing act right
According to Dr Jacqui Joubert, Managing Director of Agility’s Employee Wellbeing Solutions, Zurreal4employers, many women struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance due to the demands of their work and home lives. In addition, the onslaught of modern-day technology such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops has made employees reachable at almost every hour of the day and night.
‘These devices make it almost impossible to switch off, leading to high levels of stress, burnout, depression or anxiety which can result in a host of related health problems,’ adds Dr Joubert. ‘As women we need to focus on maintaining a healthy work-life balance by engaging in sound time-management practices, working smart and not hard or long, delegating and prioritising tasks at hand and turning off our phones during downtime or family time.’
6. Put your health at the top of your list!
Being ‘too busy’ to start looking after your health is no longer an excuse to neglect your body. Whether it is making time to exercise, visit your doctor or cook a healthy meal, it will almost always involve a certain amount of planning and scheduling.
‘Nowadays, most medical schemes reward healthy behaviour and I’d advise all the ladies to get in touch with their scheme’s loyalty and lifestyle department to find out if and how they sweeten the preventative care deal,’ says Dr Snyman.
As an example, Zurreal plays a key role in promoting health and well-being amongst Resolution Health members by encouraging ‘me-time’ by rewarding all sorts of healthy behaviour, from going to the gym, relaxing with family and getting outdoors to stimulating your mind and getting those all-important health checks.
‘At the end of the day, remember to not be too hard on yourself. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to making time to fit in all the activities of a modern-day woman. Start by making small changes and entrenching healthy habits. Change your mantra from “too busy to be healthy” to “busy being healthy!” It definitely won’t be easy, but it will most certainly be worth it!’ asserts Dr Joubert.