Women and Body Image

As women, we all want to look and feel our best. This is not always easy, considering the busy life today's woman leads and the many responsibilities she may have. It can be tough to find time for exercising and eating right, not to mention controlling stress! Sometimes women can feel pressured to look and feel a certain way. We live in a culture that puts much emphasis on physical appearance. Developing and nurturing a positive body image and a healthy mental attitude is crucial to our happiness and wellness, as we move through the different stages of our lives.

Body image and our health and well being

Our health, which we sometimes can and cannot control, affects not just how we feel but how we look. Our body image - how we feel about how we look - can change when we have a health condition or illness. Pregnancy and menopause, natural life events women experience, can also affect body image. Learning about how our health affects our body image is an important first step in developing a positive body image.


The following resources focus on some of the top health concerns that can affect a woman's body image. Information and resources are provided for each health concern.

Aging

Every year, Americans spend billions of dollars on products, from vitamins to face creams, to stop aging. We worry about many things such as losing our memory, teeth, eyesight, hearing, sex drive, and ability to get around. Women can have special concerns about osteoporosis (thinning bones) and menopause. As we age, staying active and involved helps us to have a positive outlook on life. A healthy diet and regular exercise can ease common conditions like arthritis and can help prevent or control heart disease and high blood pressure.

In a society that places much value on youth, a woman's body image can be affected by aging in many ways. Physical changes such as weight gain, hair loss, and wrinkles can affect a woman's self-esteem. Menopause can be a stressful time for women due to hormonal changes. Osteoporosis can lead to broken bones and fractures, affecting a woman's independence. Women can often have two stressful roles - as caregiver and caretaker - raising children and taking care of elderly parents. Women can also feel lonely and less useful as they age, leading to depression. But aging is not all gloom and doom. It can offer women new opportunities in life and a new outlook. It is important to keep a positive attitude about aging.

Alopecia and Hair Loss

Bad hair days. We have all had them and know how they can ruin our day. Hair is something we notice right away about a person. When a woman has hair thinning or falling out, it can have a big impact on how she feels about herself. The most common type of hair loss in women is female pattern alopecia or baldness. It affects women mostly after menopause, although it can start as early as the pre-teenage years. Causes can include physical stress such as surgery and illness, emotional stress, thyroid problems, certain medications, and hormonal changes. Hair most often returns to normal once the causes are resolved. Another hair loss condition, which is also temporary in most cases, is alopecia areata. While researchers do not know what causes this condition, they think it may be an autoimmune disease. Hair loss, which is also temporary, is very common in women undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer.

People who have hair loss are usually in good health. But emotionally, this condition can be hard to handle and can change a woman's body image. There are treatments available for hair loss, along with a wide range of wigs, hairpieces, and techniques for styling hair. It is important to first talk with your health care provider if you have concerns about hair loss. Be aware that there are products on the market that make lots of promises but have never been tested for safety or effectiveness.



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