SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – National Women’s Health Week begins every year on Mother’s Day. The week is to encourage women and girls to make their health a priority by staying active and healthy.

Some ways the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says women’s health can be improved includes being active, eating a healthy and balanced diet and practicing good habits.

Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) Pamela S. Hoffstetter said, “The first thing I always tell my patients is it’s not just about diet, it’s also about physical activity. I would say it’s just as important as diet. I actually usually address physical activity first.”  

She continued, “People don’t have to be triathletes, they can just walk,  If they have pain with walking, there’s certainly other things they can do. They can do chair-bound exercises. Exercise is really important to help keep your cardiovascular system healthy. It keeps your heart strong.”

The Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans say for most individuals, no matter their age or health status, achieving a healthy dietary pattern will require changes in food and beverage choices. Some of these changes can be accomplished by making simple substitutions, while others will require greater effort to accomplish. 

Those who want to begin with simple changes may consider drinking more water instead of sugar or high fructose-sweetened beverages.

Pamela S. Hoffstetter RD, CDCES

“Drink water and stop drinking out of bottled water. Go get yourself a reusable container like a stainless steel container.  Drink out of stainless steel, glass, or pottery. Get away from the plastic bottles that have chemicals in them that are thyroid inhibitors.  That’s one of the best changes that people can make,” said Hoffstetter.

According to the CDC, healthy eating has many benefits such as supporting healthy pregnancies and breastfeeding, helping achieve and maintain a healthy weight and lowers the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.

“There’s really three foods to avoid and those are processed, convenience and fast foods because of the additives, because of your sodium, your phosphates, high levels of fats and typically high levels of carbohydrates and more simple carbohydrates,” explained Hoffstetter. “For women, about 2 to 3 ounces of some kind of meat, fish, eggs, poultry and better yet, include at least one plant-based protein meal a day.”

For good health, the American Diabetes Association recommends eating at least three to five servings of non-starchy vegetables a day because they are not only foods that can satisfy your appetite, they are also full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals.

“You should only have about one serving of fats at a meal so that’s a teaspoon of oil, butter, mayonnaise.  Also, try to replace the animal fats like butter or lard with your plant-based fat like olive, canola or peanut oils because they are beneficial for keeping your cholesterol levels down,” said Hoffsetter concerning fats.

She also offers advice about snacks saying, “Get away from the non nutritive junk food that’s always being thrown in your face on commercials.  Take the time every week to buy some fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season preferably.  Nuts are fine but they are very dense in calorie food so I always encourage my patients to limit calories to about 100 calories a snack.”

For women, another good health habit to practice is breast health. Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month.  Johns Hopkins Medical Center says a breast self-exam can help you to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your care provider if there are any changes. However, a breast self-exam is not recommended as the only screening tool for cancer. Adult women of all ages may choose to perform breast self-exams. A mammogram can help you to detect cancer before you can feel a lump.

While mammograms can help you to detect cancer before you can feel a lump, breast self-exams help you to become familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your healthcare professional if there are any changes.

Women may also encourage each other to do monthly breast self-exams through Buddy Check 3. How it works is simply find a buddy (family member, friend, or co-worker), mark your calendar on the 3rd of each month, call your buddy on that day to remind each other do your breast self-exam. If you find a lump or any other suspicious sign, contact your physician as soon as possible.

Also look for thickening, bleeding or discharge from the nipple, change in breast shape or contour, dimpling or puckering of the skin, or inflamed, reddish appearance of the breast.

According to the American Cancer Society, clinical breast exams should be done every three years for women aged 20-40 years and every year for women 40 years and older. Annual mammograms should begin at age 40.

To order your Buddy Check 3 packet, call St. Joseph’s-Candler at 912-819-5704.

For more information about National Women’s Health Week visit National Women’s Health Week – Women’s Health – CDC.

Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist Pamela S. Hoffstetter can be contacted at lifeimprovements.pamhoff@yahoo.com or by calling 912-507-2645.

Information about the American Diabetes Association can be found at American Diabetes Association | Research, Education, Advocacy

Breast Exam information can be found at Breast Exam: Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center (hopkinsmedicine.org)

American Cancer Society’s recommendations for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer can be found at ACS Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines