Women Should Stop Doing This Now, Say Health Experts
When it comes to health and wellness, women face a unique set of challenges and concerns. "We have many of the same stressors as men: family roles, various personal and professional roles, financial issues," says behavioral therapist Amy Brodsky, LISW-S. "But in addition to all of that, some stressors apply specifically to women." Here are five things that will wreak havoc on women's health and hormones—and should be avoided. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Stop Smoking, Now
There are few things more damaging to women's health than smoking. "About one in six American women is a current smoker," says Nancy C. Lee, MD. "Smoking is directly responsible for 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in American women each year. In fact, lung cancer kills many more women than breast cancer in the United States."
Drinking Too Much Alcohol
Not only does drinking too much alcohol impact fertility, raise the risk of cancers such as breast cancer, liver disease, and heart disease, but it also makes depression and other mental health issues worse. "It's not only that we're seeing women drinking more, but that they're really being affected by this physically and mental health-wise," says Dawn Sugarman, a research psychologist at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts. "From less years of alcohol use, women are getting sicker faster."
"The first thing that springs to mind when we think about unhealthy stress management are those big glasses of wine we call 'mama's helper,'" Brodsky says. "We joke about it and normalize it, but we often forget that alcohol is a depressant."
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Not Getting Enough Sleep
Not getting enough sleep can negatively impact women's hormones, which in a vicious circle makes getting sleep even harder. "Insomnia is much more common in women than men," says Yale Medicine sleep specialist Christine Won, MD. "This can be caused by a variety of reasons, including psychological, social, and physiological."
"In our society, nowadays, people aren't getting enough sleep. They put sleep so far down on their priority list because there are so many other things to do – family, personal stuff and work life," says Harneet Walia, MD. "These are challenges, but if people understand how important adequate sleep is, and how to sleep better, it makes a huge difference."
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Not Practicing Self-Care
It can be difficult for women to focus on taking care of themselves, especially with other responsibilities and stressors—but not taking time for yourself can have long-term health consequences. "There are very entrenched societal ideas about the ways we are expected to be good wives and mothers," says Brodsky. "The primary responsibility of taking care of the children, making sure there's food in the house, and overseeing homework and housework are often assigned to women, whether by society, their relationship, or themselves." Studies show the COVID-19 pandemic made this even worse. "If you don't properly care for yourself, your body will let you know in negative ways," says wellness and preventative medicine expert Sandra Darling, DO, MPH. "Self-care simply means you're taking time to care for yourself."
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Obesity is Harming Women
According to the Office on Women's Health, 2 out of 3 women are obese or overweight—which is linked to a concerning number of health issues including heart disease, stroke, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Being overweight can also negatively impact fertility and make it difficult to conceive. "Being obese or significantly overweight may make it harder to get pregnant," says Rebecca Starck, MD. "Why? It's a complex dance between the hormones that trigger ovulation and your progesterone and estrogen levels. Fat cells often produce higher estrogen levels, which can work against your body when it's trying to ovulate. While out-of-balance hormone levels don't always mean you'll have trouble getting pregnant, you may experience less regular ovulation and menstrual cycles — which makes it harder to conceive."