May 15, 2012 at 3:46 PM ET
By April Hussar
National Women's Health Week, now in its 13th year, is a week-long health observance coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health. Dedicated to empowering women to make health a top priority, this year's theme is, "It's Your Time."
"Healthy, strong women are essential to having healthy strong children and communities, but too often women place the needs of others before their own needs," says U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Here are 5 ways to put YOURSELF first this week by improving your physical and mental health and lowering your risks of certain diseases:
1. Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings. Monday, May 14 was National Women's Checkup Day. Now, you already know you should be getting a yearly checkup from your general practitioner, and keeping your annual gyn appointment (right?), but don't forget about your teeth, your skin and your eyes! Most health care insurance plans cover a dermatologist checkup, something to take advantage of, considering that between 1970 and 2009, melanoma increased eightfold among young women and fourfold among young men ages 18 to 39, according to a new study from the Mayo Clinic. And if you need to get your teeth cleaned but are worried about the costs, here are SELF's three ways to lower your dental bills.
2. Get active. You might say "no duh" to this one, but remember that getting active doesn't have to mean working out at the gym or going for a run (though those are super healthy ideas, of course!). The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has a great idea for a fun way to burn 100 calories in 20 minutes -- wash your car by hand! You'll get some fresh air and save some money, and it's a fun excuse to put on some cut-offs and splash your cute neighbor with some suds! For 58 (yes, 58) more fun ways to burn 100 calories, check out SELF's slideshow of fun suggestions.
3. Eat healthy. Another no-brainer, but sometimes it just seems "easier" to grab a slice of pizza on the go or swing through a drive-through on your way to work. We've got you covered! Here are 8 "no-excuses" grab-and-go breakfast ideas, and for tasty, easy and healthy dinner recipes, check out SELF's 14 Quick Weeknight Meals.
4. Pay attention to your mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress. Fitness doesn't stop at the banishment of your muffin top. One surefire way of improving your beauty sleep is to banish technology from your bedroom. Desktop computers, iPhones, BlackBerries ... Joseph M. Ojile, MD, board member of the National Sleep Foundation and founder and CEO of Clayton Sleep Institute in St Louis, MO, says they're all "extremely disruptive" -- from the bright light of the screen to the cognitive distraction of wanting to reply to emails or texts. Getting a truly good night's sleep goes a long way to helping you feel good -- in body and mind.
And if you need more ways to combat stress, SELF has 19 of them here (from dining by candlelight to brightening up your desk).
5. Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking and not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet. What if for one week, you treated yourself with the care you'd give to your own kid? Buckle up, don't give in to a "social smoke," wear your sunscreen and make all those smart decisions you'd want your own daughter or best friend to make.
For more about National Women's Health week, visit womenshealth.gov/whw