By Black Health Matters

Having friends is an important part of life. Celebrate female friendship and support your girlfriends by helping them stay safe and live well.

Eat healthy when hanging out. Whether you’re gathered at home, a birthday celebration, or a girls’ night out, make healthy choices in what you eat and drink. Eat less junk food and foods high in calories, saturated fat, or added sugars or salt. Beverages can be high in calories too. 

Choose drinks with no calories, such as water, sparkling water, or unsweetened iced tea. A healthy weight contributes to good health now and as you age.

Be active while having fun. Regular exercise can help improve your health. Exercising with friends can be fun. Adults should be active for at least 2.5 hours a week. Kids and teens should be active for at least 1 hour a day. Talk and enjoy each other’s company while you walk, bowl, swim, dance, play tennis and more. If your fun activity is outdoors, be safe and remember to protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun’s radiation.

Help your girlfriends through hard times. A friend with a chronic or mental illness, abusive relationship, or caregiving issues may lead a complicated life for a period of time. Do what you can to be supportive and encouraging, and recognize that it may be challenging for you and your friend. Be informed. Maintain your own mental and physical health.

Help before, during and after pregnancy. If you or your friends don’t intend to get pregnant, there are safe and effective methods of birth control. It is important to use birth control correctly and consistently. Are you or a friend thinking about having a baby? Prepare by taking care of your own health before you get pregnant to make sure that whenever you’re ready to have a baby, you’ll be healthy for yourself and your future child. You can also help your girlfriend prepare for after the baby arrives. She can sign up for Text4baby, which provides free text messages with health information for mothers about having a healthy pregnancy and baby. 

States have different programs to help women have healthy babies. For information on prenatal services in your community, call (800) 311-BABY (2229).

Empower each other to take control. If your girlfriend is not taking care of her health, is being careless, or is putting herself or others at risk, let her know, or tell someone who can help. Realize that she may need professional help.

Don’t let substance use or abuse come between you. Binge drinking results in around 23,000 deaths in women and girls each year. For women, binge drinking is 4 or more drinks on one occasion. Prescription painkiller overdoses are a growing problem among women as 18 women die every day of overdoses in the U.S. Drinking excessive alcohol, smoking, and abusing prescription drugs are bad for your health and can be very dangerous. Call (800) 662-HELP (4357), and get information about drug and alcohol treatment programs in your local community and speak with someone about alcohol problems. For help to quit smoking, call (800) QUIT-NOW (784-8669).

Be a role model. Get exams and screenings, vaccinations and other health care you need. Manage stress from work, children, marriage, commuting and life! Get enough sleep. Lower your risk for injury and disease. Take steps to live a healthier life.