The 20th annual National Women’s Health Week kicks off on May 12, 2019 and is celebrated through May 18. This week serves as a reminder to make your health a priority, and to build positive habits for life. Focusing on health doesn’t have to be time consuming – here are five easy self-assessments provided by Every Day Health and Women’s Health Magazine that you can do at home, some of which take less than a minute.
1.) The Skin Test – performed once a month
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., but is also the easiest to see. Regular skin self-exams may catch early signs of cancer at stages that are treatable and even curable. Inspect every inch of your body, from your scalp to the soles of your feet, using a full-length or hand-held mirror. Even if an area isn’t often exposed to the sun, it should still be included in your inspection. Look for the appearance of or changes in moles, and get anything suspicious checked out by a dermatologist as soon as possible.
2.) The Waist Test – performed every three to four months
Your waist circumference is a large indicator of future risk for many health conditions, as fat around your belly has been linked to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Even if you are at a healthy body mass index and weight, waist size is considered to be the best indicator of potential health risk. In general, women are healthiest when their waist is less than 35 inches. To measure your waist, encircle a soft tape measure around your body at the level of your belly button, making sure the tape is snug, but not tight. Remeasure your waist circumference every three to four months and assess any changes.
3.) The Breast Test – performed once a month
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stresses the importance of “breast self-awareness” among women over age 20. Ideally, you should be familiar with your breasts’ normal appearance and feel so you can notice any changes. Simply assessing the area when taking off your bra or washing in the shower is a great way to look for any changes in your breasts, such as dimpling, puckering, redness, swelling, rash or pain. Performing this self-check in addition to staying up-to-date with necessary doctor’s exams is a great way to detect any complications before they become serious.
4.) The Pulse Test – performed once a month
Your heart rate can provide important insight into overall heart health. Place your index and third finger on the side of your neck or wrist and count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply that number by four to find your heart rate. To get an accurate reading, perform the test when you first wake up or after a period of time in which you haven’t been exercising to ensure you are measuring your true resting heart rate. A normal reading falls between 60 and 100 beats per minute, and anything in the 110s or 120s could be cause for a trip to the doctor. However, don’t jump to conclusions based on one reading – instead look for a pattern over time by testing once a month.
5.) The Height Test – performed once a year
Measuring your height is an easy way to keep tabs on how healthy your bones are – a loss of height may be an early sign of osteoporosis. If you notice any significant drops in height, you may want to talk to your doctor. In the meantime, make sure you’re getting enough calcium through dairy products and green, leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli. Weight-bearing exercises like walking, running, jogging and lifting weights can also help strengthen your bones.