Exercise and a healthy diet are important for both men and women when it comes to living a healthy life, but both food and physical activity have different effects on men and women. This is because certain illnesses and diseases are more prevalent and have different effects on the different genders. Men may need more of one thing, while women will need more of another. Women also tend to live longer than men, but certain diseases are more prevalent in women. Here’s how nutrition and physical activity relate specifically to women’s health.
Nutrition for Women
Eating the right foods can improve your health and even prevent certain diseases. While eating healthy is essential for both men and women, each has their own unique nutritional needs. For one, women don’t need as many calories as men unless they are pregnant or more physically active. Certain illnesses also affect women more often than men, such as cardiovascular disease, migraines, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Women and Cardiovascular Disease
Some of the most common heart diseases are coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, and microvascular disease. Women with high blood pressure/cholesterol, who are overweight, who are smokers, who have a family history of heart disease, and who are older have a greater chance of developing heart disease in the future.
Eating plenty of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are ways that women can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Foods high in fiber include vegetables, berries, and beans. Fish, especially fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel) are good sources of EPA and DHA.
Women and Migraines
About 75% of migraine sufferers are women, and not all migraines have a specific cause. Most women know what triggers their migraines, while they may be random for others. Diet is thought to be a part of it, as some women have described alcohol, processed foods, dairy, and aspartame as possible triggers.
Women and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, and autoimmune diseases are another thing that affect women more often than men. RA is related to bone loss, which is more common as we age, and bone loss is related to a calcium and Vitamin D deficiency. Foods high in calcium include sardines, salmon, leafy greens, squash, broccoli, and kiwi, while getting plenty of (safe) sunlight is a good source of Vitamin D.
Physical Activity for Women
Exercise is important for women for a lot of reasons other than just losing weight. Because many diseases are more prevalent in women than they are in men, regular exercise along with eating healthy can help limit the risk of developing several of these diseases. Yoga and pilates are some of the best exercises for women. Yoga improves flexibility while pilates improves strength. As beneficial as these exercises are, women can still benefit from weightlifting and cardiovascular exercise.
Women and Aging
As women age, they lose bone mass quicker than men. Physical activity, even in later life, can help protect women from osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and other bone conditions. It can even help alleviate some of the pain associated with arthritis. Regular exercise may even help prevent dementia, another illness more common in women than men.
The more active a woman is later in life, the more likely she’ll be able to independently perform daily activities. Maintaining independence is especially important to seniors, as independent living improves their quality of life. Many seniors refuse to go into assisted care facilities or nursing homes, due to fear of being a victim of abuse, falls, and even death. An active lifestyle helps both women and men remain independent in their daily activities.
Other diseases women are at a higher risk for are Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, chronic pain, depression, and multiple sclerosis. Many of these risks are increased due to a family history. If that’s the case, a healthy diet and exercise can still be beneficial in either preventing or delaying the onset of certain diseases.