Every September, the last Wednesday of the month is recognized as National Women’s Health and Fitness Day. Keeping realistic goals for your health and wellness can help many women better manage their epilepsy. Take this time to prioritize yourself and read more about how health and exercise can be incorporated into your regular routine. Please remember that every woman’s body is different and what works for some may not work for everyone. Consult your healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your health and fitness goals.
Health and good physical and mental condition
Women and girls with epilepsy have unique health problems that may be affected by their epilepsy or by treatments used to control seizures. Below are some important health topics that women should keep in mind when discussing their health with their doctor.
Hormonal changes can affect epilepsy from puberty through menopause. Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle are the most likely cause of changes in attack frequency. The brain contains many nerve cells that are directly influenced by estrogen and progesterone, the main sex hormones in women. While doctors continue to study the relationship between hormones and seizure frequency, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the best way to minimize the frequency of seizures during certain stages of the menstrual cycle.
Birth control and anti-seizure medications
When discussing contraception with your health care team, it is important to note that some antiseizure medications can affect the effectiveness of hormonal birth control. When you talk to your doctor, be sure to discuss all possible contraceptive options that best suit your needs based on your antiseizure medication.
Other health considerations
For some women, epilepsy can be debilitating and cause many different health problems. Some may have epilepsy along with other disabilities. Women with multiple disabilities may also have problems with mobility, sensation, pain, thinking or memory, sleep, fatigue, sexuality, and other hormonal problems. Unfortunately, these issues cannot be discussed openly. Never be afraid to bring up a health topic that is important to you when you talk to your health care team.
As you monitor your health with your doctor, consider working on a fitness routine. Studies show that regular exercise provides physical and emotional benefits for people living with epilepsy. For some women with epilepsy, it can be difficult to find an exercise routine that works for them and feels safe. Below are some suggestions to help you feel comfortable as you begin your fitness journey.
Exercise with epilepsy may pose a safety risk for some women, depending on the frequency of their seizures. Never start a new exercise routine without first checking with your doctor. Once it’s safe to start exercising, there are additional steps you can take to avoid injury. Using the buddy system while training is a great way to communicate and get moving. Take your friends or family for a brisk walk or try an online yoga class. If you are doing an in-person group activity, be sure to let your instructor know in advance that you have epilepsy in case of an emergency. Also consider wearing a medical identification bracelet or necklace with your name, emergency contact information, medications, allergies, and more in case you have a seizure.
Start at your own pace
It can be tempting to jump into a new exercise routine, especially if you’re excited about the activity you’ve chosen. If you’re new to exercise, start with short intervals once or twice a week. Once you feel more comfortable with your abilities, consider increasing the frequency and intensity of your training. Don’t exercise if you haven’t gotten enough sleep, if you haven’t eaten well that day, or if you feel you’re too stressed to properly focus on the activity you’re doing. Remember that your workout routine is designed to fit you and your comfort level. If you don’t think exercise is right for you at any point in your epilepsy journey, talk to your healthcare team and stop your activities until you feel well enough to start again.
No matter where you are in life, paying attention to your own health and staying fit is vital to happiness and overall quality of life. We encourage you to connect with other women living with epilepsy to share your personal health goals and make new connections. Together, women in the epilepsy community can improve their health one step at a time.