5 proactive steps women can take for their health during COVID-19 crisis
Here’s how women can give themselves every advantage over illness.
In the age of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, it can be difficult to get a handle on the sudden loss of control over your own life. One effective way to keep perspective is to focus on the things that you can control, like taking care of your health to the greatest extent possible.
Your underlying health, after all, will be an important asset in the event that you do need to battle any illnesses. Washing your hands frequently and correctly is a good start, but it’s just the beginning.
Both during the pandemic and immediately after it subsides, here’s what you can do to make sure you’re giving your body every advantage in the ongoing battle to stay healthy.
1. Schedule — or reschedule — your annual wellness visit for after June
The pandemic-related restrictions will eventually be lifted, and when they are, it will be important to check in with your doctor. If your scheduled wellness checkup was or will be canceled due to the coronavirus, reschedule now for after June. While it’s impossible to know for sure what the situation will look like in the future, it’s good to at least have a date set on the calendar.
If you didn’t already have a wellness visit on the books, go back and check the date of your last one. As a general rule, you should have an annual checkup with your family physician. If it’s been longer than a year, make an appointment for sometime after June. With health at the forefront of everyone’s mind these days, it’s a great time to commit to getting your health back on track.
"As our lives slowly return to normal, it's important that women reschedule their annual wellness visit if it was previously canceled," said Karol Otteman, DO, an obstetrician-gynecologist on staff at Westside OB/GYN, a St. Joe’s Medical Group practice. "A wellness visit gives us an opportunity to identify health concerns early. Working with our patient, we are able to customize a health plan unique to them and reduce their risk of developing a serious illness."
2. Don’t assume anything. Instead, call your doctor.
Given the current situation, many people are unsure whether they should see a doctor when health concerns arise that are unrelated to the coronavirus. With so much confusion regarding what’s necessary and what’s safe, some people may talk themselves out of getting the help they need.
"No matter how small it may seem, it's important to address a health issue as is arises and before is develops into a larger, more serious threat to your overall health and wellbeing," said Dr. Otteman.
Instead of trying to make difficult decisions on your own, give your doctor a call and ask for their opinion. As the professionals, doctors should be the ones advising you on whether or not your concerns warrant a visit — whether in person or via a telehealth platform. Their answer can not only ensure that you don’t ignore important concerns but also help you keep those concerns in proper perspective.
3. If you smoke, quit
It’s always a great time to quit smoking, but the current crisis provides an especially powerful incentive to stop procrastinating and ditch your bad habit for good.
That’s because the coronavirus invades lung cells, often leading to complications like pneumonia and eventually respiratory failure, which can be deadly. Smokers may already have reduced lung capacity or lung disease and are therefore at greater risk of illness, according to the World Health Organization.
While it’s impossible to totally turn back the clock on lung damage from a prior history of smoking, quitting can provide short-term benefits, including a reduction in overall inflammation in the body and a chance for infection-fighting cilia in the lungs to heal.
4. Find a way to exercise
With gyms closed and outdoor movement limited, it can be easy to let your normal exercise routine get away from you. In order to maintain your physical strength and health, take some time to think about how you can create a new, stay-at-home-friendly routine.
You don’t need an at-home gym or expensive equipment to stay in shape, either. Your exercise plan could be as simple as joining an online Zumba or yoga class, following along with YouTube videos, or chasing your kids around your backyard. No matter what you do, just make sure to keep moving.
5. Boost your mental health
Concentrating on your physical health is important, but so is taking care of your mental health; it’s impossible to ignore the inextricable link between the two.
One strategy is to try to maintain some vestige of normalcy among the chaos. That could include activities like getting dressed in the morning, even if you’re not going to see anyone; eating at regular mealtimes instead of nonstop throughout the day; finding ways to socialize virtually via phone calls, FaceTime chats, or Zoom happy hours; and getting some sunshine each day to the extent that you’re able.
Taking care of your health is more important than ever right now. By following these suggestions, you’ll increase your chance of emerging from the coronavirus crisis strong and healthy.
The St. Joe’s Medical Group is continuing to serve patients during the COVID-19 crisis. For more information about steps women can take to protect their health, visit Saint Joseph Mercy Health System at stjoeshealth.org.