Melissa Biscardi

May 9

5 Health Tips Every Woman Should Know

Celebrating Women’s Health Week

Strong women, may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.
Black and white image of a group of 3 women happily running

Women’s health is on the airwaves now more than ever as questions around who should make medical decisions for women flood US politics and fuel heated social media arguments among strangers of all sexes… yet again (déjà vu anyone?).

In 1970, a group of women in the Boston area self-published “Women and Their Bodies,” a 193 page booklet that dared to address sexuality and reproductive health, including abortion. They distributed it for 75 cents (if only things cost that much today!). A year later, these women changed the title to “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and with this, they changed the women’s health movement around the world. Women are playing a more active role in their health decisions than ever before. Women are asking more questions and weighing the pros and cons for their health.

So, in celebration of Women’s Health Week, it seems appropriate to share some simple tools when it comes to supporting a strong, healthy brain and body to help last you a lifetime. While reading this, throw on ‘I AM WOMAN’ and move your body as Emmy Meli sings her heart out.

5 Ways to Support Your Health Starting Today

1. These boots were made for walking.

Walking has many benefits from burning calories to improving mood and sleep. Sometimes we take this simple movement for granted, but the truth is, we are walking less and less in this digital age. Lunchtime walks and walks to and from work have faded away for many, never mind a quick sprint for the bus.

Can you relate? Did you know walking speed is directly correlated with brain health? Get those feet moving; your boots were made for walking! Research has shown that brisk walking not only affects hip circumference but also improves scores on the 6 minute walk test(1). How far can you walk in 6 minutes?

2. Hello Spring... Hello friends!

Relationships are important and research shows that maintaining a healthy social life across your lifespan is protective against dementia and may also help promote healthy cognitive aging. In a five year prospective study of 2,249 older women without dementia, social network size was directly associated with reduced risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. The women who had daily contact with friends and family cut their risk of dementia by nearly half! All the more reason to pick up that phone and start inviting your girlfriends out for a walk(2).

3. You are my sunshine.

Getting adequate sunlight is very important as it lets your brain know when you are supposed to be awake and when it is time to wind down. Start your day by taking at least a few minutes to look towards the sun, take some deep breaths, and soak up some natural vitamin D.

During the day, avoid wearing blue-light blockers. While these are all the rage and preached by celebrities near and far, they can actually interfere with your natural circadian rhythm if you wear them during the day. Why? Well, we are actually supposed to be getting light in our eyes during the day (Logical, right?). Plus, the Canadian Optometrist Association does not uniformly recommend them due to mixed research on benefits.

Getting enough vitamin D is especially important for those living in northern areas. Make sure to get your vitamin D levels checked and supplement accordingly, either with over-the-counter supplements, opening your blinds as much as possible on sunny days or if you’re lucky enough maybe a vacation down south! Margarita, anyone?!

4. Forest Bathing, rub a dub dub.

Yup, you read that right. And if you don’t know what it is, you are in for a treat. Of course, we know nature is good for us. It literally feeds us with everything we need to survive: oxygen, nutrients, and stimulation. Forest bathing is a term for spending time in nature (shoes off!) and there is a lot of research to support this (although common sense would be enough to know this is beneficial). The key for forest bathing is tuning into your senses, not your phone. In fact, turn your phone on airplane mode or leave it at home for the best effect. Recent research on middle aged women (ages 39-53) showed that 2 days of forest bathing improved both psychological and physiological states(3).

Forest bathing reduces confusion, fatigue, anger-hostility, tension, and anxiety levels. In contrast, positive mood states (vigor) were improved after forest bathing. For physiological responses, a significant decrease in blood pressure response was found. I’m sold, are you? Hike anyone? Where’s your favorite place to go?!

5. Downward dogs and telescopes… Or telomeres.

By now you probably know yoga and meditation are good for you, but do you know how good? So good that you will wake up a little earlier to make sure it is part of your day? What if I told you that in healthy individuals (the hardest group to show benefits) who participated in 12 weeks of yoga and meditation experiences decreased biomarkers of cellular aging (ie. oxidative stress) and increased telomere length. Telomeres are little cellular components that deplete with damage as we age and are a hallmark of cellular aging and lifestyle diseases(4).

Supporting our telomeres and reducing oxidative stress helps to ensure our skin glows, our brain computes, our body moves, and our belly laughs. So, put on that spandex, let’s live to 100, and have fun doing it!

To all the women out there doing your best, Nurosene and I celebrate you and wish you ongoing health! ☺

References:

  1. Serwe, K. M., Swartz, A. M., Hart, T. L., & Strath, S. J. (2011). Effectiveness of long and short bout walking on increasing physical activity in women. Journal of women's health (2002), 20(2), 247–253. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2010.2019
  2. Krivanek, T. J., Gale, S. A., McFeeley, B. M., Nicastri, C. M., & Daffner, K. R. (2021). Promoting Successful Cognitive Aging: A Ten-Year Update. Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD, 81(3), 871–920. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-201462
  3. Chen H-T, Yu C-P, Lee H-Y. The Effects of Forest Bathing on Stress Recovery: Evidence from Middle-Aged Females of Taiwan. Forests. 2018; 9(7):403.
  4. Tolahunase, M., Sagar, R., & Dada, R. (2017). Impact of Yoga and Meditation on Cellular Aging in Apparently Healthy Individuals: A Prospective, Open-Label Single-Arm Exploratory Study. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2017, 7928981. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/7928981