By Dr. Ebun Ebunlomo
Associate Professor, Public Health, American Public University
As women, we often put the health and well-being of others before our own. My childhood memories are filled with my parents (but especially my mom) making sure we had the right foods to eat, stayed physically active through local sports leagues, and got our annual medical check-ups, vaccinations, and dental exams.
It was not until I went to college that I had to really start figuring out how to navigate the health system on my own. I went to a college out of state, which added another layer of complexity to staying connected to my medical records in Texas. Nonetheless, Mom was just a phone call away, so I could ask her about my last tetanus shot or if I had ever gotten a meningitis shot.
Now that I have my own home, I have taken on that responsibility of helping my entire family stay healthy. However, it is also important to care for myself.
I now have the task of caring for my parents as they get older. The roles have switched: Now I am the one reminding Mom to stop self-medicating and to see her dentist for that toothache that causes her to complain. I must remind Dad to actually use the treadmill we got him for Christmas last year.
No matter what age you are as a female, taking proper care of your health is vital. On Mothers’ Day, we paused to honor the strong women who’ve brought us into the world and guided us every step of the way.
What better way to continue that honor by empowering women to take steps for better health as part of National Women’s Health Week? This event took place last week. Below are a few tips for women’s health across different life phases.
Daughters (Ages 0-21 Years)
- Annual medical check-up to ensure all vaccinations are up to date and annual tests are completed
- Annual sports physical to ensure that there are no hidden injuries
- Mother-daughter dialogue about changes in the female body (such as menstruation and hygiene)
- Mother-daughter dialogue about STD/pregnancy prevention (such as contraceptives)
- Mother-daughter dialogue about healthy living: physical (diet, exercise), mental (meditation, stress management) and social (body image, self-esteem)
Young Women in Transition from Daughters to Mothers (22-40 Years)
- Annual medical check-up to ensure healthy pre-conception status and general preventive screenings are completed (HPV vaccine and Pap smear test)
- Review of lifestyle choices and risk factors (family history)
- Routine evaluation of physical, mental and social wellness (relationship management, setting boundaries and work-life balance)
- Preparation for motherhood: pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and post-pregnancy plans for staying healthy
Women as Mature Adults and Grandmothers (40+ years)
- Annual medical check-up (such as an annual mammogram) to identify any additional risks that come with age
- Repay Mom by ensuring she is getting her annual medical check-ups
- Routine evaluation of physical, mental and social wellness (relationship management, setting boundaries and work-life-balance)
- Lending a hand to other women in your life who might not be experienced in all phases of womanhood yet
National Women’s Health Week begins on Mother’s Day each year. Take the following steps recommended by the CDC to lead healthier lives as women:
- Keep regular physical activity as a priority. Constant physical activity can lower your risk for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in women.
- Plan and follow a healthy eating regimen. Avoid alcohol and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables plus lean proteins. Use multivitamins with folic acid and maintain a healthy weight.
- Make mental health a priority. Get some sleep. Don’t feel guilty about taking a day off to de-stress.
- Stay up to date with preventive screenings. Get your appointment for an annual mammogram and a Pap smear test. Consider scheduling your annual well woman’s appointment around your birthday or even around National Women’s Health Week, so you will remember the appointment easily.
About the Author
Dr. Ebun Ebunlomo, MPH, MCHES, PHR, is a trained scholar in health promotion and health education, with over 10 years of experience developing, implementing and evaluating public health programs in clinical, community and work-site settings. She previously was an evaluation fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. She received her Ph.D. in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences from the University of Texas School of Public Health.