Women’s Health Week starts on September 6 and is a great reminder for all women to check in on their health. We recap some of the top health issues for women.
First, let’s talk exercise. Exercise remains a bona fide and safe antidote for every chronic condition. Weight-bearing exercise is essential for both muscle and bone strength – especially for women, who are more susceptible to osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise doesn’t have to mean weights at the gym – it can also be bodyweight exercise or even aqua aerobics!
Moving also helps mobility and is an antidote to feeling stiff and achy. Walking is excellent, but it’s also good to move in different ways: dancing, side stretches, twisting around or even just looking over each shoulder regularly throughout the day will give benefit.
Not all exercises are equal – so be sure to check out Living Longer Living Stronger online. There are also pre-recorded exercise sessions designed by physiotherapist and fitness guru Lisa Westlake and one of our own Living Longer Living Stronger instructors, Snezana Pezzin.
Next up is breast health. From age 50 onwards we’re encouraged to get mammograms. But self-checking your breasts regularly for any unusual lumps or changes may lead to early detection. Stand in front of the mirror with your arms straight on and then raised and check:
- Are your breasts their usual size, shape and colour?
- Is there any swelling or unusual puckering?
- Has any nipple changed position or produced discharge?
Next, lie down. Using your right hand for your left breast (and left hand for right breast) use a circular motion with your fingertips to feel for any lumps or tissue mass. Repeat the process standing or sitting – this might be easier with soap in the shower. You should be feeling right down to the ribcage and reaching up to collar bones and under the armpits.
Incontinence or prolapse are incredibly common for women who are going through menopause or are postmenopausal. But while these issues are common, they are not normal. Incontinence or physical discomfort from prolapse stops women from being active, so addressing this issue may be the passport you need to a more active life. The first thing is to find out exactly what is happening and get advice from a pelvic health physiotherapist.
Everyone can benefit from regular pelvic floor exercises. Here’s how to do it.
- Relax the muscles of your pelvic floor and bottom – breathing deeply will help.
- Close all the passages closed, starting with the back passage (anal sphincter), then the vaginal opening and the urethra sphincter. Imagine you are trying to stop urination, or not to pass wind. At the same time, try to keep the muscles of the buttocks relaxed.
- Lift – a sensation like drawing everything up inside.
To build this muscle strength, practice both long holds and short, sharp ones. Doing a few sets every day is more effective than doing many irregularly. To help you remember, perhaps you can link it to a daily activity that you already do, like brushing your teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil.
For many of us, mental health is taking a hit as the pandemic and long stretches in lockdown make it harder to do the things we love and spend time with friends and family. Connection is as vital to our health as eating well and exercising regularly. Anxiety and depression are also side effects of menopause, and it’s important to know that mental health struggles may be triggered by either changing hormones or our immediate environment. Whatever the reason, thankfully, today, there’s a lot of understanding and support. You might start by reaching out to your GP or connecting with a phone support line such as Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
And finally, have you heard of Jean Hailes? This is a must-know for all Australian women. The user-friendly Jean Hailes website has trusted information on all things women’s health, as well as delicious, easy-to-follow recipes. Jean Hailes are running Women’s Health Week – which has a number of guest speakers each focusing on different aspects of women’s health. We encourage you to sign up and get active on your health today!