Women’s Health Cultivation: Positive Health Care Guide
Positive health care has particular relevance to women. The following statistics show that on average women live longer than men and at some time of their lives will spend an extended period alone.
Families are getting smaller. The average number of people per household has fallen in the last 20 years, due to a declining birthrate and a steady increase in the proportion of people living by themselves.
Approximately two million women in Britain live alone or spend many hours per day with only small children for accompanying.
Divorce rates have increased five-fold in the last 20 years. In 1981 the average life expectancy for a man was 69, for a woman 75. About one-third of elderly people in Britain live alone. More than half of all women aged 75 and over live alone.
Positive health involves becoming aware of and paying attention to every aspect of our lives and fulfilling the potential within each one of us. It also involves being adaptable.
Remaining healthy and in harmony with our constantly changing environment depends on our ability to change and adapt to new situations and people, shifting economic, political, and social values.
Resistance to change, or ignorance and confusion in the face of change, creates tension and rigidity, insecurity and anxiety – the starting points of illness. So health is not something that resides in the individual alone.
Our interdependency with our environment and with other people is experienced most when things either go very wrong, as in serious illness or are very right when the harmony we feel in our surroundings and our relationships gives us inner peace.
A consciousness of the whole being – mind, body, and spirit – as part of a greater whole – relationships, family, and environment – is the essence of holistic health, It means being aware of the continuous flow between desires, thought, needs and hopes, and the realities, demands, approaches, assistance and cooperation of others.
Positive health also involves being able to alter our environment, just as we can learn to change our inner world through understanding and awareness.
This means developing a sense of one’s individuality, taking responsibility for oneself and one’s needs, and making decisions and choices.
It also means developing the capacity to understand and share with others, to know for instance, when it is right to be responsible for someone else, a young daughter perhaps, and to know when to let the child take charge for herself.
Or, with another adult, to know when to let go and let him or her take care of you for a while – the development of mutual responsibility.
To aim for positive health rather than an absence of ill-health involves learning to listen to our bodies’ language, to the finely tuned rhythms within us which can tell us about ourselves and our state of health.
This growing awareness can sometimes be painful; you may become conscious of needs or feelings you have suppressed and of ways in which you hold yourself back from living fully, the fear and anxieties which keep you tied to limiting habits. But awareness brings with it a greater joy too.
Pleasures can be felt more keenly, opportunities grasped more confidently, and choices made more clearly. Positive health is the full creative potential of each one of us; it is a state of being, a continuously changing flow, an adventure in which we seek a richer and more satisfying way of life.
Positive Health Care: Taking Stock:
The first step towards positive health cultivation is to take stock. Give yourself time to look carefully at your present life, your habits, likes and dislikes, immediate goals, long-term aims, and, of course, your potential for change.
Otherwise, any changes you make to your lifestyle and eating habits may well be impulsive and unrealistic. New resolves of this kind are all too easily broken because they may jar with your present lifestyle and involve considerable extra effort.
The second important thing is to take things slowly because all change, for better or worse, may cause stress. A marriage, a new lover or job, moving house, or having a baby can all cause anxiety. This is also true of positive changes such as taking up an exercise regime or changing your eating habits.
By being too radical or ambitious, people defeat themselves; the daily run or the eating of whole foods can quickly become just one more burden, another pressure on already highly pressured lives.
This is not what positive health is all about. So take it step-by-step, and remember that progress does not automatically follow a straight and smooth upward curve.
There will be times when you feel fed up when you revert to old ways; there will be periods when you feel no different from the way you were before you took up exercise, started to eat healthily, and cut down on smoking or drinking alcohol.
Be kind to yourself; old habits are hard to kick, and new ones, however well-intentioned, take a surprisingly long time to establish as an automatic part of your life. Don’t make ‘getting healthy’ into a stick to beat yourself with every time you feel lazy or indulge yourself.
Taking a cool look at how you live may well reveal very obvious problem areas which must be tackled as a first step towards positive health. Making changes will be a great boost to your self-confidence.
How to Quit Smoking
Everyone now should know that smoking causes bronchitis and lung cancer is a contributory factor to heart disease, is very detrimental to health and fitness generally, and decreases the ability to take in and metabolize oxygen. Yet women are not abandoning smoking in the same numbers as men, and deaths from lung cancer in women are rising.
Women’s dependence on cigarettes can be attributed to several factors, among them the increased independence of women which causes them to acquire the social habits associated with more powerful social and financial positions. There is, too the increased stress placed on women today, when many are filling several demanding roles simultaneously.
Much cigarette advertising is now directed at women, playing on their insecurity in recently acquired positions of responsibility at work and the universal desire for escape into a world of glamour and ease.
Other effects of smoking are that like all toxins ingested (coffee, alcohol, drugs, sugar, and so on) they use up the body’s B and C vitamins.
Of particular importance to women is smoking’s implication in low birth weight and possible fetal weaknesses; underweight babies have a significantly reduced chance of surviving the first few weeks of life.
If you have real difficulty giving up there are several strategies to help you. Nicotine-based chewing gum has proved very helpful in getting over the worst pangs of nicotine dependency; it is available from a doctor on a private prescription.
Anti-smoking classes and other forms of therapy can also be very helpful. You can get in touch with Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) or your local health education for information on these.
Positive Health Care:
Quit Smoking Tips
Men still smoke in greater numbers than women but they have been more successful in giving up – between 1972 and 1982 the proportion of adult male smokers in the population fell by more than a quarter.
Between 1980/and 82 the percentage of female smokers fell from 37 to 33 percent. Overall, in these years, more than one million people gave up smoking.
Is Alcohol a Drug?
Like smoking, alcohol is a social drug and as such very difficult to avoid, perhaps even more so than cigarettes, in that almost every social occasion begins with the invitation to ‘have a drink’.
Again, advertisers and manufacturers are aiming their campaigns more at the increasing female market and, just as with smoking, the figures for women with drinking problems are on the rise. The increasing incidence of alcoholism among women is causing great concern in the medical profession.
Some nutritionists and doctors think that a moderate amount of alcohol per day – say a couple of glasses of wine or their equivalent – can be beneficial in its relaxing effect, its aid in the digestion, and because it stimulates the production of prostaglandin E1 (needed for the functioning of the immune system).
Side effects of Alcohol
Any more than this moderate amount, however, will have a generally depressive effect. Alcohol depletes the body of B and C vitamins, thus potentially causing depression, fatigue, digestive disorders, cirrhosis of the liver, ulcers, and impairment of circulation.
Like sugar, alcohol supplies the body with ‘empty’ calories, and so contributes to the problems of being overweight. For women, high alcohol consumption during pregnancy contributes to low birth weight and neural tube defects in the newborn baby.
Fruit juices are preferable to alcohol, especially after diluting them half and half with water to lower their sugar content: try to avoid cola drinks that are entirely composed of sugar.
Positive Health Care:
You Can Never be Too Thin
Body shape has always been a preoccupation in the West and the current obsession is with being thin or getting thin.
The whole is of slimming and dieting is of particular relevance to women, for it is they, far more than men, who feel bound to subscribe to the slim ideal, and they, more than men, who diet, buy slimming aids and go on one grueling slimming regime after another.
But although dieting can be considered a specifically female obsession, and one that has perhaps gotten out of hand, it is also true that obesity is a major problem in 20th-century society.
Furthermore, the food we eat has been cited as the single greatest cause of the so-called Western diseases: heart trouble, digestive and intestinal problems, cancers, diabetes, arthritis, and rheumatism. All these have now reached epidemic levels.
The whole issue of fat and thin is an important one both for women and their families. We need to look closely at the problem for women and their families.
We need to look closely at the problem to gain a proper understanding of a subject that preoccupies most women and, increasingly, has come to concern the medical profession.
We need to look at why we want to be thin, how thin we want to become, the methods we use to achieve this, and whether we are using our energies to pursue an illusion. Most importantly, we need to understand more about the food we eat and, if necessary, change our eating habits for a healthier life.
Every individual’s body has its natural weight, shape, and inherent beauty. However, many of us abuse our bodies over the years through bad eating habits, sedentary lifestyles, cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs.
Consequently, we soon lose that natural beauty, becoming overweight and lacking in energy, with poor health, skin, and poor hair.
The intention of this section is not to provide you with slimming tips or magic diets to follow blindly in the hope of losing unwanted inches and pounds.
The aim of every woman who starts to pay attention to her diet, her weight, and her health should be to find the right shape and weight for her, not to strive for an arbitrary ‘ideal’ set up by some outside authority.
Once you understand the principles of good food and exercise – the two key elements of the energy balance – then you will naturally achieve your proper shape and weight. For many this will involve losing some pounds, for others, it may well mean gaining some in the form of firmer muscle.