By Robin Hilmantel, Women’s Health
May 11 – 17th, 2014, is National Women’s Health Week. Every day this week, Women’s Health will share stories and advice on how to take better care of yourself, like tips to instantly boost your health, and the health issues six female senators think women need to be aware of.
Making healthy behaviors a habit while you’re still young boosts the likelihood you’ll hold onto them throughout your life. So, we’re kicking off the week with 15 health choices every woman needs to make by time she reaches the big 3-0. (And if you’ve already blown out 30 candles but haven’t made some of these choices yet, there’s still time–better late than never!)
Find a Workout You Actually Enjoy
Exercise improves your mood, makes you sleep better, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and more. But if you don’t like it, you’re so much less likely to do it. Need some new ideas to try? We’ve got a ton of workouts and lots of info about running, yoga, Crossfit, and more.
Drink More Water
It can help you lose weight, improve your mood, and more. Want some suggestions on how to gulp down more during the day? Check out these 10 ways to hydrate more.
Quit Smoking (or Don’t Start in the First Place)
You know that smoking seriously increases your odds of getting lung cancer and may even hurt your brain–and research published in 2012 indicates that women who quit before they hit 40 live longer than those who keep lighting up past the big 4-0.
An increasing amount of research shows that the more time you log planted in a chair, the higher your risk of suffering from from obesity, heart disease, and diabetes (which is why some people have started warning about the danger of “sitting disease”). Even scarier, this holds true whether you work out regularly or not.
Find the Best Birth Control for You (if Any)
Yes, there are very legitimate reasons to decide not to use birth control–but the fact is that it’s important to make a conscious decision on the subject one way or the other, rather than leaving yourself open to an unplanned pregnancy. And if you choose to use some form of contraception, you’ll want to pick the best one for you by learning about all of your birth control options first.
Drink Only in Moderation
If you’re anything like most Americans, you’re probably not that concerned about blowing this one off sometimes (see: birthdays, post-breakups, the holidays, regular happy hours, etc.). But here’s why you shouldn’t exceed the U.S. dietary health guidelines to consume no more than seven drinks a week and no more than three in one day: Regularly throwing back more than that can lead to both minor health issues like low energy and blotchy skin and major problems like strokes and certain cancers.
Get Health Insurance
Regardless of what you think about the Affordable Care Act, the fact remains that you need health insurance. Whether you get into an accident, develop a disease, or get pregnant, you will appreciate having coverage at some point. Not convinced? Read this article about how not having health insurance kills thousands every year, and then talk to us.
Love Your Body
Notice we didn’t say, “when you reach your goal weight” or “if you’ve got a great rack.” The truth is, your body does a ton for you, even if you’re not thrilled with every single aspect of it. Learn how to appreciate your body now, and you’ll be so much happier and healthier for it.
Schedule Regular Friend Dates
Not only will it help you de-stress (which is important for mental and heart health), but at least one animal study also suggests that it may result in your body burning more calories. So even when things get crazy-busy, make some time to catch up with your girls–your health will thank you!
Learn How to Cook at Least a Few Truly Delicious Healthy Dishes
Recent research shows that, if you enjoy the food you’re taking in, it’s so much easier to stick with a healthy-eating plan–whether it’s designed for weight loss or just overall wellness. So get cooking!
RELATED: 50 Food Tips That Will Change Your Life!
Find a Doctor You Love, or At Least One You’ll Listen To
Recently, we wrote about new research that suggests women may be better doctors than men. Of course, it’s impossible to make wide-sweeping statements about all medical professionals. But we can tell you this: Your doctor’s gender doesn’t matter nearly as much as how comfortable you are with them. Because when you like and trust your doc, you’re more likely to give them the information they need, listen to their suggestions, and even just make the trip to see them once a year.
Learn Your Family’s Health History
No, your mom may not want to talk about her father’s struggle with heart disease or her uncle’s mental health issues–but your wellbeing depends on it. The more you know about your family’s health history, the better prepared you and your M.D. will be to deal with any issues that come up for you down the road.
Do Regular Health Checks
To really stay on top of your health, you’ll need to do more than just see your OB/GYN and general practitioner once a year. This nifty guide will help you keep track of which health checks you should be doing and how often to do each.
Get Your Vitamins From Your Food as Much as Possible
Some studies have linked supplements to negative health consequences, and recently, an editorial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine discouraged consumers from spending money on multivitamins. Yes, your doctor may recommend supplements in certain situations. But in general, getting as many of the vitamins and minerals you need from your diet as you can is a better idea than relying on pills, since you’re less likely to face toxicity concerns.
Swear Off Extreme Dieting
Experts say that the max amount you can aim to safely lose in one week is one or two pounds. Since that means creating a calorie deficit (through diet and exercise) of 500-1,000 calories, you’ll probably want to consume about 1,500 calories a day and supplement that with regular (reasonable) workouts. Anything more extreme will prevent you from getting all of the nutrients you need and set you up for yo-yo dieting since your body will go into starvation mode.