A woman passes many milestones throughout her life and her health should stay top-of-mind every step of the way.
Now is the perfect time to think about how women can keep their minds and bodies healthy, whether it's a new mom navigating motherhood with her day-old daughter or a woman in her golden years with a lot of life yet to live. Here's what you should know about keeping yourself — and all the women in your life — strong, healthy and happy through every single birthday.
Babies, Toddlers and Young Girls
Babies' brains develop at a lightning-fast pace. Keeping up with normal preventive care and immunizations through well-child visits, as recommended by Kaiser Permanente, is a huge part of raising healthy kids, as is providing nutrition and encouraging exercise that helps them grow.
Beyond that day-to-day support, one of the best things you can do to provide your little one a lifelong boost is to support her early development. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that boost looks different for every parent and baby — not only because of age, but because of personal preferences, too. Often, positive parenting involves a mix of nurturing and engaging that encourages your daughter to explore her world on her terms. You could:
- Read, sing, cuddle and talk to your daughter — and stay present in the conversation (i.e., put your phone down).
- Encourage your daughter to play make-believe games to foster her creativity.
- Provide a helpful nudge when she needs it, but let her safely explore and figure out new games, toys and activities on her own.
- Boost her social skills by scheduling play dates with others and helping her make new friends.
Along the way, don't forget to take some time for yourself, whether that means getting help for postpartum depression or practicing self-care to alleviate the stress that can come along with staying on top of soccer games and school lunches.
Preteens and Teens
At this age, keep those well-child visits going, and pay attention to your teen's exercise habits and encourage good nutrition choices, as advised by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Beyond that, there are plenty of ways to help a teenage girl take control of her health:
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends scheduling her first visit to the gynecologist when she's between 13 and 15.
- Before or when she starts her period, help her understand what's happening to her changing body.
- Don't shy away from tough topics. Talk to her about sex, birth control, bullying, self-esteem, drugs and more.
20s and 30s
As you enter your 20s and continue into your 30s, your life will continue to change in monumental ways. It can be easy to neglect your health when getting caught up in academics, graduation, career and dating — but that neglect can have lifelong consequences.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends yearly well-woman checks. Even though Pap tests are recommended on a three-year cadence after a woman turns 21, women still need annual exams for other wellness topics, such as birth control and pelvic exams.
- Pay attention to heart health. The American Heart Association advises that women stay aware of the risks for heart disease and keep an eye on blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, weight and physical activity to manage those risks.
- The American Cancer Society recommends that women with a high risk for breast cancer (e.g., women with a family history of breast cancer or radiation exposure, or women who have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene) get a yearly mammogram starting at 30.
40s and 50s
You may have a few more gray hairs, but you still have plenty of years ahead of you, and taking care of your health is as important as ever. Your 40s and 50s are a good time to focus on early detection of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
- The American Cancer Society recommends scheduling annual mammograms starting at 40 if you're at average risk for breast cancer.
- Continue to get a yearly well-woman check, and continue to get Pap tests every three years.
- The American Cancer Society recommends that women of average risk start getting screened for colorectal cancer at 45.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides the information you need to familiarize yourself with the symptoms, like hot flashes, that come with perimenopause.
- Continue to manage your blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, weight and exercise.
60s and Older
The golden years are no time to stay idle. A little physical activity goes a long way in retirement age. Keeping an eye on exercise and eating calcium-rich foods for strong bone health are important, and screenings are also a big part of aging gracefully.
- Keep getting annual well-woman exams, though the U.S. National Library of Medicine indicates Pap tests can stop by 65 in healthy women.
- The U.S. National Library of Medicine recommends a bone density screening at 65. It also recommends a pneumococcal vaccine at 65, and it offers resources for learning about the shingles virus, something that may be inside you if you had chickenpox.
- The American Cancer Society recommends maintaining your breast and colorectal cancer screening schedule until 75. After that, you should ask your doctor whether you should continue that routine.
No matter our age, women's health plays a big role in helping us make the most of every moment.