By Ansley Water, SWHR science programs intern
National Women’s Health Week is a reminder to all women that their health is a priority. Below, we highlight a few small steps women can take to enhance their wellbeing, based on research we’ve gathered through our scientific programs. Follow #FindYourHealth and #NWHW this week on social media for more information on healthy lifestyle habits!
1. Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep disorders like insomnia and restless leg syndrome are common in women but may go undiagnosed due to a lack of awareness about sex differences in sleep disorders and gender bias in the health care system. Understanding your sleep health and addressing problems can improve quality of life and help prevent disease, as sleep disorders in women have been linked to early cognitive decline, obesity, and even some cancers. To learn more about women’s sleep health, read Women and Sleep: A Guide to Better Health by SWHR’s Interdisciplinary Network on Sleep.
2. Prevent Cancer at Your Annual Well-Woman Visit
Cervical cancer (and other diseases) can be prevented by following HPV vaccination recommendations. The HPV vaccine is recommended for both boys and girls at ages 11-12 to limit the chance of pre-vaccine exposure to HPV and has been approved for use through age 45. This immunization prevents cervical, oropharyngeal, anal, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. Regular screenings in the form of pap tests at annual well-woman visits are also a critical way to prevent cervical cancer. Learn more about the HPV vaccine in SWHR’s recent blog post.
3. Happy Bladder = Healthy You
It’s important to practice good bladder hygiene by not restricting urination and talking to your health care provider about any urological issues. Women are prone to urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence, and bladder prolapse, among other conditions, which may significantly impact quality of life and lead to severe illness later on. Read SWHR’s recent blog post on women’s bladder health across the lifespan.
4. Advocate for Your Health
When it comes to healthy habits for women, advocating for your own health is perhaps the most critical. A longtime gender bias exists in the health care system, and both research and anecdotal evidence has shown that health care providers are more likely to dismiss or minimize women’s pain. In addition, societal stigma surrounds many women’s health issues, such as migraine and endometriosis, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment. Women experiencing symptoms of migraine disease, chronic pain, endometriosis, or any other condition should discuss their concerns with a health care provider. Women’s pain is valid and deserves respect.