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From "Healthy Women, Healthy Lives," edited by Susan E. Hankinson, Graham A. Colditz, JoAnn E. Manson, Frank E. Speizer:

It is an exciting time for women's health. Women are living longer lives today than ever before, and research on the treatment and prevention of disease in women is finally catching up with that of men. Even more important, women are increasingly making health a top priority in their own lives. Traditionally women, as the primary caregivers in the family, have looked after the health of others before their own, but now they are realizing how important their own health is to leading productive, fulfilling, and happy lives.

The average life span of American women has increased from around 50 years in 1900 to close to 80 years today. Yet there is more to good health than a long life. Quality of life throughout the years is also important. Chronic conditions (such as heart disease and osteoporosis) that can make doing things you enjoy more difficult are much more common as people age... Taking steps to avoid such disorders is important.

Following some basic lifestyle rules can greatly lower your risk of disease and enhance your overall health. By simply going for a walk at lunch time or adding an extra serving of vegetables to your meals, you are taking an important step... These five key lifestyle choices have a large number of health benefits and virtually no risks:

  • Do not smoke.
  • Be more physically active.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber and low in saturated and trans fats.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and o not gain excessive weight as an adult.
  • Take a multivitamin every day.
  • Overall, people tend to have the greatest success when they begin with only one or two changes and slowly add on others. You can pick the one thing you think will be easiest to change-such as taking a multivitamin every day-or the one thing you think will have the biggest benefit for your health-such as stopping smoking-and then build from there. Changing too many things at once can be overwhelming and set you up for failure. Beginning slowly allows time for new behaviors to become ingrained in your daily routine. This way, when you tackle the next behaviors, the first ones are already part of your lifestyle. And it is never too late to make these changes.

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    Also on Beliefnet:

  • Women's Health Guide


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