Getting and staying healthy is a lifelong journey. There are many actions you can take to live a healthier life today and help lower your chances of encountering health problems or diseases later in life. Changes that you make can also positively impact your whole family!
If you are ready to commit to living a healthy life, or are just curious and want more information, your midwife can provide the expertise and advice to make it happen! Here are some things you can do to give yourself the best future possible:
Health promotion means making broad choices about the way you live that increase your general wellness while decreasing the likelihood that you will encounter future problems. You can make lifestyle choices such as:
Staying up to date on your immunizations and getting vaccines like the flu vaccine. There’s a lot of conflicting information about vaccines, but the truth is that they are safe and vital for your good health, and the health of your family. They protect you from getting dangerous diseases, and your protection makes it less likely that the people around you will get sick, too. While some people do experience side effects, they are usually minor and temporary – especially compared with the potential results of actually getting the disease.
Quitting smoking. Tobacco smoking (especially cigarettes) is the leading preventable cause of death in American women. Smoking puts you at higher risk for getting cancer, lung disease, gum disease, and heart disease. It can also cause fertility problems, delay conception, and increase your risk for having a baby with a low birth weight. The good news is that it’s never too late to quit! The evidence demonstrates that people who stop using tobacco have substantial overall health benefits regardless of how many years they smoked.
Limiting alcohol consumption to safe amounts and avoiding illicit drugs. Drinking alcohol excessively carries a variety of health risks in both the short term and long term, including injuries, risky behaviors, poisoning, learning and memory problems, liver disease, and mental health problems. There are even more risks for women because male and female bodies react to alcohol differently. Limiting alcohol consumption to safe, moderate amounts can reduce the risk of these effects. Moderate drinking means one drink per day for women and 2 per day for men. For more information on the health effects of alcohol use, click here.
Maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. Making smart nutrition, exercise, and stress management choices can benefit you in a wide variety of ways, from adolescence through your later adult years.
- Eating a healthy diet and being physically active can help you have more energy, sleep better, feel happier, live longer, build strong bones, and avoid heart disease and high blood pressure. Staying active is also a great way to have fun, meet new people, and build good social networks with your family and friends.
- We all experience stress from time to time – and some of us encounter it a lot more often than that! It’s important to deal with stress in healthy ways by exercising or talking about it with your support system, instead of seeking relief from unhealthy coping mechanisms like smoking, drinking, or overeating. Your midwife can also discuss some alternative and complementary therapies that can help you to reduce stress.
- If you are trying to get pregnant, are pregnant right now, or have recently been pregnant, taking good care of yourself is even more important! The foods you eat, your physical activity, your stress levels, and even your surrounding environment deserve special attention. Click here for more information!
Take care of your teeth. Good oral health care is an important part of having a healthy body, and can help prevent a variety of diseases – not just diseases in your mouth, but also your heart and bones. Visiting a dental provider on a regular basis, at least once a year, to get your teeth cleaned and checked is essential. Learn more here.
Getting your regular yearly exams, like your well-woman check or adult physical. Building a relationship with a primary care provider, someone who you can trust with your health concerns as you move through life, is important.
Despite all our best efforts, some people will develop chronic health issues at some time in their lives. If you do encounter chronic issues, it’s important to appropriately manage them with the guidance of your midwife or other health care provider. Health promotion can help to prevent further complications when you have a chronic condition. If your general health is good, you will feel better and have a better quality of life even if you have a chronic condition. Managing your conditions means:
Treating issues before they turn into bigger problems. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, may cause you to develop heart disease. Diabetes may result in kidney disease or stroke. High cholesterol levels left unchecked may result in damage to your heart. Instead of ignoring these issues because they aren’t seriously affecting you right now, talk to your midwife or other health care provider about how to take care of them before they develop into something more dangerous. Treating a health issue that will never truly go away might seem daunting. It takes commitment and an organized plan of attack, but it’s better than waiting until you have a serious, more expensive, and possibly debilitating disease. Get ahead of the game!
Taking your maintenance medications and supplements, if needed. Maintenance drugs are medications that treat or help manage chronic, long-term conditions. If your midwife or other health care provider has prescribed you one or more maintenance drugs, you should be following the instructions they gave you and taking them regularly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the medications you take. Your midwife is always open to discussing them with you. Using prescription medicines in any other way, or stopping taking them for periods of time without consulting your provider, will not be as helpful to you or your long-term health.
Knowing your risks, and getting regular screenings. Your midwife will ask you questions about your family history. The answers to the questions will help your midwife to develop a plan of care for you. Depending on your personal and/or family history, you may be at higher risk for developing certain diseases. Make sure you get information about your family history, and ask your midwife or other health care provider to test you for any specific health issues you are concerned about at your annual physical exam. This is especially important for women with a family history of things like breast, colon, or ovarian cancer, which can be hereditary.
Thinking about everything that’s necessary to keep track of your health may seem overwhelming. Office visits and tests take time, and medications cost money. It might feel like a burden for many people – but there are resources that can help you access this important care.
Everyone in the United States should now have health insurance. Nearly all plans, whether through the state or federal health care “marketplaces” or through private insurers, cover a wide range of preventive and screening health care tests at no additional cost to the patient. Many also cover the cost of the office visit for an annual well woman exam or adult physical. This means that most people can get these important health promotion and preventive care checkups for free.
Use your annual visit as an opportunity to talk to your primary care provider about everything that’s been on your mind. Make a list and bring it with you into the exam room to make sure you use your visit to its fullest potential. If you need any medications, it is okay to ask your provider to write you prescriptions for the cheaper generic versions. If you have private health insurance, check with your plan to see what drugs are covered. You can start researching online if you have health insurance through the marketplaces, Medicaid, or Medicare.
You always have options, even if you have no health insurance. Check online for free clinics and community health centers in your area, or look for a health center run by the US Health Resources and Services Administration, where you pay what you can afford, based on your income.
No matter what your situation, midwives, as primary and women’s health care providers, can work with you to make a plan to improve your health and prevent you from developing avoidable health problems down the road. Many health risks can be modified by making lifestyle changes, and a professional, like your midwife, is the best person to talk to about those changes.
Remember: everyone deserves good health.