How Women Can Support Their Health Every Day of the Year
Many women don’t make their health a high priority due to work, busy schedules, taking care of others, and life’s daily demands. The good news is, it's never too late to focus on your well-being!
We want to empower you, and the women around you, to make informed decisions about your health not only on International Women’s Day, but every day of the year. From nutrition to exercise and self-care, here's how you can support your needs through your 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond.
Support Your Nutritional Needs
You may have noticed a range of vitamins and dietary supplements catered specifically for women or for specific life stages. These, along with our diets, can help us achieve the right amounts of nutrients to maintain our bodies and keep us feeling at our best.
Key Nutrients for Women in Their 20s: Calcium and Potassium
Calcium is a nutrient many women don’t get enough of – at all ages. But you’re still building bone through your mid-20s, and your maximum bone density is reached at about age 30, so this is a good time to focus on this essential nutrient. Keep your bones strong by getting at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. Dairy products, fortified nondairy milk, tofu and leafy green vegetables are all sources of calcium.
Potassium is essential for the proper function of your heart and skeletal muscles, and it also supports healthy blood pressure. Potassium is abundant in beans, avocados, melons, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables and dairy products, but many women don’t consume enough of these foods every day.
Key Nutrients for Women in Their 30s: Protein and Iron
Maintaining adequate muscle mass is essential to retaining strength and mobility as you age. To help preserve muscle mass, add resistance training into your workouts a couple of times a week and eat adequate amounts of protein.
Iron is another nutrient that many women do not get enough of. Iron makes up part of the hemoglobin molecule, a protein that circulates in the blood and serves to transport oxygen to cells. Premenopausal women lose iron every month through their cycles, and many don’t get enough iron in the diet to meet daily needs. Good sources of iron include lean meats, lentil, beans and fortified cereals.
Key Nutrients for Women in Their 40s: Vitamin D and Antioxidants
Keep an eye on Vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium. It also keeps your immune system strong and protects against breast and colon cancer. Vitamin D stores tend to decline as women hit their 40s. Vitamin D is found in fortified dairy products, fatty fish, egg yolks, and some fortified foods.
Antioxidants like Vitamins A, C, and E, prevent or delay cell damage that contributes to aging. Vitamin C can be found in red peppers, citrus fruits, and berries; good sources of Vitamin A include carrots, peaches, and sweet potatoes; and nuts are a good source of Vitamin E.
Key Nutrients for Women in Their 50s: B12 and Omega-3s
Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in foods of animal origin and supports red blood cell formation and the health of the nervous system. In the stomach, acids, enzymes, and specialized proteins facilitate absorption.
One consequence of aging can be reduced stomach acid secretion, which can impact Vitamin B12 status. Supplementation may be advisable, since Vitamin B12 obtained from supplements is better absorbed than that obtained from foods.
Similarly, increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish such as salmon, which is rich in omega-3s EPA and DHA that support heart health.
Key Nutrients for Women in Their 60s and Beyond: Probiotics
Medications, slowed metabolism, a change in taste perception, and other factors can contribute to loss of appetite in our 60s and beyond. While focusing on good nutrition, experiment with a wider range of foods. Sharing meals with friends can make meals more enjoyable. You can also incorporate meal replacement drinks to boost nutrition.
Our gut health changes as we age. The amount of good bacteria in the gut may decline, and the small intestine may not absorb nutrients as well. Add fiber and probiotics to stimulate the growth of friendly bacteria. Natural food sources of probiotics include yogurt and fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi, or you might consider a packaged probiotic.
One of the best things women can do is strength training. While strength training is important at any age, if it is not part of your usual routine, your 30s is a good time to reconsider. That's because muscle mass declines by about 5 percent each decade starting at this age. Regular exercise can also help women feel healthy and strong while they are adjusting to all the changes their bodies are going through. It’s also good for your heart.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day. If you find that hard to achieve, try sneaking in short walks throughout your day at work, park farther away from the office or while running errands, or use a standing workstation at your desk to avoid staying seated all day. Please consult a doctor if you have medical conditions that would compromise your ability to exercise. If you feel any discomfort during exercise, stop immediately.
Take Care of Your Skin
As we age, so does our skin. Fine lines and wrinkles, dark spots, looseness and dryness are all the direct results of skin aging. While aging is inevitable, there are steps you can take to maintain healthy, clean, and attractive skin every step of the way.
Protect Your Heart
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, and your risk increases after age 55. Cholesterol and blood pressure tend to rise as you get to menopause. The key to maintaining a healthy heart is to know your health numbers. Visit your doctor for health checks on a regular basis and schedule a full medical exam at least once a year.
Eating a heart-healthy diet is also important. Some heart-healthy foods include dark leafy greens, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables. Soluble fiber – found in beans, oats, apples, and barley – helps lower cholesterol levels, which is good for heart health. Fiber also keeps you fuller longer, which can help keep weight in check.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation (one drink per day for women) and cut down on saturated fats, which are found in red meats, full-fat dairy products, and many processed and fried foods.
Whether you’re a business owner, a mother or a student, life can be stressful! For the sake of your well-being, make it a point to take some time out to relax and engage in activities that you enjoy. Go for a walk, have a spa day, unwind with some gentle yoga, have a cup of relaxing tea, or meditate.
Remember, taking care of yourself and your health is not selfish! If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to be there for others.