Mother’s Day marks the start of National Women’s Health Week. We asked women’s health researcher Wendy Hellerstedt what women need to know about staying healthy.
“Obesity is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. 40 percent of women in the United States are obese, and those rates are continuing to rise,” she says. “Diet has a huge impact on health. Eat vegetables and stay away from processed food,” she says.
She also emphasizes the importance of exercise. “If women are just starting to exercise I don’t think they should be overwhelmed. [It can be as simple as] putting just one foot in front of the other foot and taking a walk,” she says.
She also says women should prioritize health screenings.
“Heart disease is the biggest killer of women,” she says. “And the screening for heart disease is pretty straightforward . . . and a lot of women don’t have that done. And it should really start in their 20s.”
Hellerstedt says health policy plays a role too. “We do have to pay attention to health legislation and health policies. Paying attention to the capacity of our population of women to maintain health care and health insurance that’s going to cover preventive services, like pap smears and cardiovascular screenings. A threat exists if those services become too expensive or if they become accessible only to those who have the education to seek them out.”