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The Priority of Preventative Health

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

A middle aged woman with brown hair cut in a bob with bangs, wears light tan pants and a light blue sweater with a white button up shirt under it, shops in a pharmacy isle of a store.

Preventative health is the key to empowering yourself with knowledge, resources, and information that can impact your overall wellbeing. As the pandemic becomes something we’ve acclimated to — at least somewhat — it’s still impacting women’s health and even causing some women to continue putting off preventative screenings.

For women, neglecting regular health care visits because of the pandemic may lead to long-term health implications from things like missed cancer screenings or lack of access to birth control and fertility treatments. Missing these appointments may seem like "not a big deal" in the short term. But, in the long term, it can have deadly consequences — especially when you consider the fact that chronic disease is worsening and cancer is being diagnosed at later (harder to cure) stages because of lack of preventative care and provider visits.

This is why it is paramount to resume regular check-ups and preventative screenings as we adjust to the “new normal.” These check-ups count for mental health too.

According to a KFF Health Tracking survey, 53% of women respondents said that COVID-19-related stress has negatively impacted their mental health, compared to 37% of men. That difference only grows when comparing mothers of children under 18 to fathers; in this group, 57% of the respondent women said the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health, compared to 32% of men.

Women’s Mental Health and COVID-19

The pandemic is a cause of colossal stress for women everywhere. In fact, researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine found “alarmingly high” rates of stress from health anxiety, health-related socioeconomic risks, and interpersonal violence.

Further studies have found that in the wake of the pandemic, women are experiencing more anxiety and higher depression rates and related issues, like alcohol overuse — 29% of women reported depression and anxiety symptoms, nearly double the pre-pandemic rates.

Other ways that COVID-19 is impacting women’s health include:

  • Social isolation and loneliness caused by quarantine, lockdown orders, and social distancing. Loneliness and social isolation are proven to lead to poor mental health.

  • Job loss, layoffs, and reduced hours stemming from the COVID-19 economy and leading to increased depression, anxiety, distress, and low self-esteem.

  • Burnout among front-line workers and increased anxiety or mental illness among those with poor physical health.

  • The direct effect of COVID-19 on the nervous system.

Seeking Extra Support

Help is available if you feel like the stress of the pandemic is too much to bear. You can schedule an appointment with your primary care provider, who can prescribe medication for depression and anxiety, refer you to a specialist or therapist, and help discuss lifestyle changes that have been shown to help fight depression and anxiety naturally.

The Pandemic and Domestic Violence

Health experts agree that a higher risk of intimate partner violence (IPV) is another consequence of the stay-at-home orders and another impact on women’s mental and physical health.

In the U.S. and abroad, stay-at-home orders were linked to surges in calls to domestic violence hotlines in addition to limited access to services, including shelters.

According to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, domestic violence cases increased by 25-33% worldwide in 2020. The increase in violence is linked to how COVID-19 intensified many of the conditions that fuel partner arguments and violence as families faced economic tension and stress related to the pandemic.

Alcohol use also increased during the pandemic, something known to add “fuel to the fire” of intimate relationship arguments and increase aggression and violence.

It’s important to remember that you are not alone. Support groups are a safe space for like-minded people to come together if they feel unsafe at home, feel as if they have nowhere to turn, or need some extra motivation to know they are strong enough to leave their abuser.

If you are the victim of domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, or visit their website for resources. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Help is available.

Stop Neglecting Your Health

Have you been using COVID-19 as an excuse to avoid routine doctor’s appointments and health screenings for the past two years? If so, please stop neglecting your health. Reach out and contact your doctor. Women’s health check-ups and screenings can detect problems early on, allowing you to start any necessary treatments ASAP to boost your odds of fighting a potential illness and preventing larger issues down the road. Even though COVID has taken the #3 spot in cause of death for women, heart disease is the #1 killer of women and cancer still ranks high. Examples of screening include:

  • Blood pressure (heart disease and stroke)

  • Cholesterol (heart disease and stroke)

  • Glucose and Hgb A1c(blood sugar/diabetes)

  • Pap Smear (cervical cancer)

  • Mammography (breast cancer)

  • Colonoscopy or DNA Screening (Colon cancer)

Talk with your health care provider about your specific risk factors and screening recommendations.

As always, it’s important to maintain your healthy behaviors, such as:

  • Get vaccinated against COVID-19.

  • Take deep breaths, stretch, and practice meditation.

  • Eat whole, nutritious foods.

  • Stay hydrated.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Get enough sleep.

  • Avoid excessive alcohol and substance abuse.

Limiting Your Risk of COVID-19

The good news is that there are several things you can do to slow the spread and limit your risk of contracting the coronavirus, including:

  • GET VACCINATED! Although it appears the virus is waning — for now — it’s still out there, and it can still be deadly for the unvaccinated.

  • MASK UP! Wear a face mask every time you are out in public for maximum protection

  • Practice social distancing.

  • Wash your hands.

  • Increase your immunity by eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress.

Women’s health is still a top priority during COVID-19, and you must continue to care for yourself so that you can keep caring for others. Don’t skip medical care because of the pandemic. Go to the doctor for preventative screenings and treating chronic health problems, especially if you have been putting it off since the pandemic started.

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