Asking women to exercise more and eat less is just too simplistic. Although many diseases are linked to things we seemingly control, to assume that women aren’t healthier because they are either uninformed or uncommitted is wrong. Women’s lives are complicated and interrelated, one factor enmeshed in a dozen others, interwoven by relationships and situations. Caregivers to the world, we are busy and stressed and our health is too often the price we pay.
On closer examination, researchers now believe that a woman’s health is profoundly impacted by factors outside of her control. The National Institutes of Health Research Priorities for Women’s Health for 2010 reports that conditions such as caring for children or family members, her marital status, and how much she works inside and/or outside the home, have a significant bearing on women’s health priorities. Her health is also influenced by her culture, her education and resources, even by whether she lives in a rural or metropolitan community. And, of course, there is an immense disparity in access to care – the harsh dividing line that will define the new haves and have-nots.
And yet, regardless of these conditions, there are four keys that experts agree can improve the health of any woman who employs them.
~Key #1: Sleep. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, regularly shorting ourselves of sleep is associated with serious conditions that will shorten our life expectancy. Lack of sleep has been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and reduced immune function. Although getting eight solid hours is just not realistic for some women, make a personal commitment to give yourself longer, better quality sleep. It’s a big first step on the path to wellness.
~Key #2: Exercise. Although we’d all like to take the recommended half hour walk every day, for most of us, life just gets in the way. One of the most stunning arguments for exercise is the discovery that the risk of dying of a recurrence of breast cancer is lowest among women who walk at least three to five hours per week, according to the American Cancer Society.