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Sitting around the table at a recent family gathering, I was surrounded by four generations of amazing women. My mother is 93. My granddaughter is 5.

In thinking about National Women’s Health Week, May 12-18, I wondered what these two females would say about what it takes for women to stay healthy. Although I asked them separately, their answers were quite similar.

My granddaughter’s list: Wash your hands. Drink your milk. Drink water. Play a lot. Take your medicine.

My mom’s list: Keep a positive attitude. Eat properly. Drink water. Get adequate sleep. Have a yearly checkup. Enjoy friends and recreation. Keep a good sense of humor. Remember to enjoy one thing each and every day.

Remarkably, their recommendations mirror the priorities promoted during National Women’s Health Week. Those include:

• Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings.

• Eat healthy.

• Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.

• Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, not wearing a seat belt or bicycle helmet, and texting while driving.

My granddaughter’s first tip was simple, but amazingly effective. Washing your hands frequently and effectively with soap and water remains one of the best weapons to prevent the spread of infection and illness.

Although she is far too young to understand the basics of healthy eating, she’s off to a good start. Eating a healthy diet -- rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, nuts and beans -- can help prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and some cancers. As my granddaughter grows, I hope she’ll become a food label reader, and watch out for saturated fats, which increase cholesterol.

She already knows she should drink water. The human body is composed of 60% water and the body loses water continuously through evaporation, breathing and elimination. Drinking water every day helps maintain the body’s balance of fluids.

My granddaughter also realizes the importance of a good workout. She calls it play. Adults call it exercise. Both are good for body and soul. Our family likes getting exercise during family outings. With a membership to ZooMontana, my husband and I can take our grandkids to the zoo as often as we like and for a reasonable cost. We also spend precious time with our grandchildren exploring the trails around Billings.

Few 5-year-olds advocate getting more rest, but their parents and grandparents know everyone needs time to rest and rejuvenate. Sleeping seven to nine hours per night improves body and mind.

My granddaughter advised us to take our medicine. National Women’s Health Week reminds us to make regular checkups and preventative screenings a priority. A yearly checkup allows us to share our health concerns, have a complete assessment of our current health status, consider our risk factors and receive important medications and immunizations. In addition to the yearly checkup, individuals with certain chronic diseases may need to have more frequent follow-up visits. Your medical provider will guide you through the suggested time frame for screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, bone density, breast, cervical and colorectal cancer.

Let your provider know of any concerns, including financial concerns. The website healthcare.gov offers information on free or low-cost health care.

My mom emphasized the importance of keeping a healthy attitude and a good sense of humor. Our family believes the old adage that laughter is the best medicine. Have fun and do something you enjoy each and every day.

Next time you find yourself at a gathering of friends and family, look around the table and think about what you can learn from the women in your life.

Carol Blank is a registered nurse and manager of the RiverStone Health Clinic and Healthcare for the Homeless. She can be reached at 651-6470 or carol.bla@riverstonehealth.org.

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