How to be a healthy mum at any age
If you’re a mother, chances are you’ll be treated to a card, a bunch of flowers or even breakfast in bed when Mother’s Day arrives. But this year, why not also make a pledge to make your own health – not just that of your family’s – a priority?
Being a mum means you’re probably the primary carer in your household. But just because you look after everyone else, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of yourself too. After all, eating healthily and leading an active lifestyle isn’t just good advice for kids (and if you adopt healthier behaviours yourself, the rest of your family are likely to follow your example).
Here are some of the other things you should bear in mind for your health at different times during your life:
Healthy bones The possibility of developing osteoporosis later in life may seem far away, but the years leading up to your mid-20s are critical for bone-building. So make sure you’re getting enough calcium in your diet. To boost your calcium intake, eat plenty of dairy products, fortified breads and cereals, oily fish with bones and leafy vegetables. Ask your pharmacist for advice if you think you may need a calcium supplement.
Health checks During your 20s you should start having cervical cancer screening. All women who are registered with a GP should be invited for screening every three years from the age of 25 to 49, then every five years from 50 to 64.
You’ll also need an eye test every two years as well as regular dental check-ups as often as your dentist recommends (if you have diabetes you may need more frequent eye tests).
Healthy weight As you get older it becomes even more important to eat healthily and take regular exercise, as many people start putting on a pound or two when their 20s are behind them. Gaining too much weight can increase your risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers, so ask your GP to check your body mass index (BMI), which can reveal whether or not you’re overweight for your height (you can also calculate your BMI using the BMI Healthy Weight tool on our Weight Loss page).
If you need help with shedding weight, your local Careway pharmacist may be able to help, as many pharmacists these days offer weight management support and advice.
Health checks It’s a good idea to develop breast awareness in your 30s if you haven’t already done so. Be aware of what your breasts feel like – when you know what’s normal, it’s easier to spot what’s not normal.
Healthy blood sugar Type 2 diabetes can affect people of any age, but it’s more common in people aged 40 and older (or those over the age of 25 in those are from an African-Caribbean, Black African, Chinese or South Asian background).
According to health charity Diabetes UK, there are an estimated 1.1 million people in the UK who have Type 2 diabetes but don’t know it. So even if diabetes doesn’t run in your family, it’s worth getting your blood sugar levels tested by the time you’re 40.
Health checks If you’re 40 or older and living in England, you can get the NHS Health Check every five years up until the age of 74. This is designed to spot early signs of serious illnesses such as stroke, kidney disease, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. You can also get your blood pressure and cholesterol tested privately at many Careway pharmacies, as well as lots of advice on improving or maintaining your health.
During your two-yearly eye tests, you should also start having checks for glaucoma, a disease that can cause vision loss. Ask your optician for details.
Healthy hormones The average age for a woman to reach the menopause, says the NHS, is 51 – it most commonly happens between 45 and 55 years of age. Common symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, sleeping problems, vaginal dryness, reduced sex drive, low mood and anxiety. If your symptoms are interfering with your daily activities, your GP can discuss treatment options, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Eating healthily and taking regular exercise may also help with menopausal symptoms, the NHS claims.
For more advice about coping with menopause symptoms, speak to your local Careway pharmacist.
Health checks At this age you’ll start receiving invitations for breast cancer screening every three years until you’re 70.
Your 60s and beyond
Healthy heart According to the British Heart Foundation, women are on average affected by coronary heart disease at a later age than men. But after the menopause women’s risk increases, and during their 60s and 70s it increases more rapidly. So eating a healthy low-salt diet, limiting your intake of alcohol, staying physically active and managing your blood pressure and cholesterol is essential as you get older from this point on.
Your GP can arrange heart health checks, but blood pressure and cholesterol screening is also available at many Careway pharmacies. Your pharmacist can also help you to manage your medication if you’ve been prescribed medicines for high blood pressure or cholesterol.
Health checks When you reach the age of 60 you’re eligible for NHS bowel cancer screening. This involves using a home testing kit called a FOB test (FOB stands for faecal occult blood), which checks for the present of blood in a stool sample. Ask your GP or pharmacist for more information.
Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.