Share the gift of health this Valentine’s Day

Make this a Valentine’s Day to remember by giving a woman you love the message that it is time for her to take better care of herself and that you want to help make that happen.

It doesn’t mean the box of chocolates, that quiet dinner out, or the box with a lovingly selected piece of jewelry whether from the dog or cat, you or the kids – no matter how young or old – isn’t going to be the perfect gift.

It just means there is another gift to be shared that will, make life better for everyone.

Valentine’s Day: the perfect time to let the women in your life know they are loved and the things they do to make life a little easier or better for others are noticed and appreciated, and would be very much missed if they were not there to share those very personal gifts of love.

The real message to share with the woman of today: it is to make herself a priority on her own list of “To Dos”.

While it may sound completely ridiculous to think that any women needs to be told to take better care of themselves, the proof is there simply for the asking when it comes to healthcare issues.

Women are great caregivers of others but rarely of themselves.

It is time for women to realize their health and wellbeing take nurturing too in order to be healthy and to stay that way: a reality too many women still choose to ignore say healthcare professionals nationwide.

This is the basic message healthcare experts are working hard to share with women of all ages who shoulder almost any kind of caregiver role.

Ask just about any expert in health related fields that serve female patients, they will quickly confirm one of the things women who are caregivers cannot seem to do well is take care of themselves. Some do, but most don’t give it more than a passing bit of attention at the start of the year, or a family vacation is about to arrive.

The simple truth is women generally do not make their own everyday health and happiness anything even close to a personal priority until something devastating happens to them or someone close to them.

The good news is that in many cases there are simple things to do on an everyday basis that can improve a woman’s overall health, both physically and mentally.

The basics like good nutrition, a healthy sleep schedule, and a commitment to adding some regular exercise and relaxation time to the week, can go a long way toward improving a person’s overall outlook on life, about their own body image, their self-worth, and even the value of their role in the lives of those they care about, say experts with such places as The Mayo Clinic and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Choosing a Valentine’s Day gift for a women you care for who spends much of her time and energy caring for others: consider giving her a gift of a written promise to commit 30 minutes of your time to helping oversee homework and the like so she can go walking three times a week.

A simple walk without anyone or anything to be responsible for while enjoying a that “me” time, is a gift many a woman will happily receive, and appreciate.

Kids of just about any age can step up to the idea of taking on a little more responsibility by asking what one thing they can do to give mom’s heart a break and spirit a lift: then try to follow through and do it.

Making it a point to get even a little better informed about important basic women’s health issues just might make all the difference in the life of someone you love say experts such as those with the American Heart Association the Office of Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The good news is there are more positive things that can be done to improve those numbers for men and women alike than ever before, but it does take at least a little effort and a little time – there is no way around that investment requirement say healthcare officials.

“You know what makes you feel good, you know when you don’t feel well. Understanding your body is key,” offered Dr. Saralyn Mark, a senior medical advisor with the Office on Women’s Health, a federal resource. “Women need to work in partnership with their doctors by finding out their family medical history, educating themselves on health issues and paying attention to their bodies.

The top five health concerns in general for women today include heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis, depression and autoimmune diseases.

Heart disease is responsible for almost 30 percent of the death of women each year, according to the CDC.

“The real trouble is in premature death and disability,” said Cindy Pearson, of the National Women’s Health Network.

“There are far too many women dying of heart disease in their 60s, when no one expects to die because that’s too young in this country,” she said. “There are also many women who, for many years, are really ill with heart disease – being out of breath, not being able to walk up one flight of stairs because heart disease impairs their ability to get around.”

Women with heart disease tend to go under diagnosed, often to the point that it is too late to help them once the condition is discovered, said Mark.

“The symptoms for women are typical for women, and they are often missed by doctors and patients themselves. We often think of symptoms like chest pain. Some people have that, but others may just have a little bit of jaw pain, shoulder ache, nausea, vomiting or shortness of breath,” she said.

Like it or not, the family relationship is increasingly seen as vitally important to understanding each generation’s challenges and how best to head off health problems.

The role of family history when it comes to preventing heart disease is increasingly seen as vital information for mothers to share with daughters, as that genetic tie can have substantial influence when it comes to increased risk factors for stroke, according to a report from the American Heart Association rooted in a study from Britain.

“The earlier folks adapt healthier behaviors, the lower their overall risk for heart disease or stroke outcomes,” said Dr. Gregory Burke of the department of public health sciences at Wake Forest University’s School of Medicine.

Improved health does not just happen, but the point is that it can happen – and can start with a gift of love this Valentine’s Day- it can start with simply making a point of getting her out the door for a walk or something similar but specific to your household.

You never know what package a gift of love will come wrapped in: a handwritten note from a small child who loves to go on walks, or a seemingly ordinary envelope with a gift certificate for walking shoes.

Love: it starts with a first step toward an even better life together.

Loccisano may be reached at