Ed. note: This blog is cross-posted from womenshealthmag.com. The original post date was May 9, 2016. Read the original post.
Growing up: We all have to do it. Jury duty, income taxes, oil changes, retirement savings — there's a lot to being an adult that no one warns you about. But at some point, you realize that you're in control of your life. You have the skills and smarts to tackle anything that comes your way. All you have to do is take charge.
When it comes to your health, the choices you make in your 20s and 30s can affect your health for the rest of your life. So ask yourself: Do you get your annual well-woman visit? Or see your doctor or nurse before that nagging ache becomes full-blown pain? Are you honest with yourself about your eating habits? Are you getting enough sleep? If you need an excuse to get started, here it is: National Women's Health Week (NWHW) is happening right now — so it's the perfect time to pledge to take charge of your health!
That might sound intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Here are some simple ways to get started:
- Have confidence. You know more about your health than anyone else. You know what you eat, how often you exercise, how much you drink, and what you do to relieve stress. Be honest with your doctor or nurse about where you are, and they can help you get to where you want to be.
- Think about what you want. Spend some time thinking about your health goals, habits, and family history. (Need help getting started? Go to the NWHW site and select your age group for your list of things to consider.) Are there any diseases you're worried about? Do you need help managing stress? Write down any questions or concerns you have. Think about your doctor or nurse like your mechanic — they are there to help you, but you need to tell them what's wrong and what needs to be better.
- Make an appointment for a well-woman visit. Your well-woman visit is such an important step to taking control of your health. It's a chance to talk to your doctor or nurse about your habits and family history, and to make a plan together to reach your health goals. Bring any questions or concerns you have, along with a list of any medications and over-the-counter drugs you take. It's also a good time to decide what immunizations and screenings you might need. The best part? Well-woman visits are covered by most health plans at no additional cost to you. (If you need help finding a health care provider, just put your zip code into this search bar for a clinic near you.)
- Practice, practice, practice. Occasionally, the things we need to talk to our doctors about are…embarrassing. Being an adult means taking a deep breath and saying them anyway. There are ways to make it a little less uncomfortable, though. Practice talking about it with your mom or your BFF — saying the words out loud makes it easier to do it again. Or write it down, print it out, and read it out loud at the appointment. If you can email your doctor or nurse ahead of time, that can get the conversation going, too. If your doctor or nurse is a man and you'd feel more comfortable with a woman, ask if there is someone else in the office that you can talk to. No matter what you do, know that doctors and nurses have heard and seen it all — nothing is embarrassing to them!
- Don't wait. You're a smart woman — you don't need a medical professional to tell you whether you're eating healthy or getting enough sleep. If you have areas you know you need to improve, get started! Find ways to work in some extra steps each day. Quit smoking! Spice things up with some new recipes and meal plans. Track your physical activity and diet (and look up nutrition info for over 8,000 foods) for free! There are tons of apps to help you do things like track your menstrual cycle, keep your medical records in one place, and everything in between.
- Don't forget your mental health. Good mental health is an important part of your overall well-being. Make sure you're doing everything you can to cope with the ups and downs of growing up in healthy ways. But if it's not working, talk to your doctor or nurse. Be honest about stress, depression, and any other mental health concerns you may have. Everyone needs a little help sometimes.
- Choose healthy over unhealthy. Yes, that means no more midnight double fudge sundaes (at least not every day). But it also means making an active choice to wear seatbelts and bike helmets, quit smoking (did I mention that already?), and never text while driving. It's a choice to be healthy and safe.
This National Women's Health Week, grow up with the best of them. Set goals, make a plan to reach them, and take charge!