Given that only women experience pregnancy and childbirth, menstruation, menopause and cervical cancer, it's not surprising that women's health needs are quite distinct from those of men.
- TIP: A minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week offers protection against chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
- Step 1: Know that modern birth control pills are much safer than those used in the past, chiefly because they contain lower levels of hormones.
- Step 2: Know that women begin to lose their fertility around age 35. However, medical treatments such as in vitro fertilization, have made it possible for women to conceive into their mid-40s.
- FACT: In 2008, a 70-year-old woman in northern India who had received in vitro fertilization treatment gave birth to twins.
- Step 3: Understand how much exercise you need to maintain your weight. One source recommends 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise most days of the week -- while watching calorie consumption, just to avoid gaining weight.
- Step 4: Know that the best dietary sources of the nutrients your body needs are fresh, whole foods -- especially fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
- Step 5: Understand the need for periodic medical tests. Check with your doctor about which tests you should have and the frequency that you should have them.
- TIP: Commonly recommended tests are thyroid function (after 35), bone mineral density and mammograms (after 40), blood sugar (after 45), and colonoscopies (after age 50).
- Step 6: Know which medical symptoms you should not ignore. These include symptoms associated with heart attacks, stroke, reproductive health problems, breast problems, digestive or stomach problems, and skin problems.
- Step 7: Know your nutritional needs. Women have special needs of folate and calcium. They also require adequate amounts of vitamin D to help their bodies use calcium.
- Step 8: Recognize the need for taking proactive health measures like eating sensibly, exercising -- including weight bearing activities, and finding relief from stress.