Health & Safety

May 11, 2012

National Women’s Health Week around corner

by Capt. Helena Guerra
56th Medical Operations Squadron

The 13th annual National Women’s Health Week kicks off Mother’s Day, Sunday, and runs through May 19. The theme for this year is “It’s Your Time,” acknowledging that most women are busy taking care of everyone else leaving little time for their own physical and mental health. Therefore, the focus of the National Women’s Health Week is to encourage women to make their health a top priority by visiting a health care professional for regular checkups and preventative screenings, staying active and eating right.

Preventative screenings play an important role in health promotion, allowing providers to identify and treat potential health problems before they develop or worse. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has developed guidelines of important screening tests for women; these include a blood pressure test, cholesterol test, diabetes screening and bone mineral density test. In addition, females between ages 21 and 65 who have a cervix need cervical cancer screening (also known as the Pap test) at least every three years. All pregnant females need to be screened for sexually transmitted infections, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV. Also all sexually active females at increased risk should be screened for these infections.

Starting at age of 40, an annual breast cancer screening (mammogram) is recommended; and starting at age 50, colorectal cancer screening is needed. However, keep in mind these are only general guidelines; health care providers personalize the timing of these screening tests based on the health history and the family health history.

In addition to preventative screening tests, regular physical activity is paramount to staying healthy and lowering the risk of early death from numerous health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and depression. All adults, not just women, should participate in at least two and half hours of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity each week or at least one hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity and muscle strengthening activities at least twice a week. Moderate intensity activities include walking briskly, bicycling, tennis and general gardening; vigorous intensity activities include jogging, swimming laps, and jumping rope. As a general rule of thumb, during moderate intensity activity the heart rate increases but conversations are still possible; whereas during vigorous physical activity it is difficult to carry on a conversation.

Lastly, “heart healthy” eating is extremely important in maintaining health and reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and other diseases. Choosing healthy foods doesn’t have to be complicated. As a general guideline, a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat free or low fat dairy products, fish, skinless poultry, lean red meats, beans and nuts is ideal. Also, limit foods that contain saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars. Reading nutritional labels on food packages helps determine the amount of fat and other substances present in the foods eaten. For more information on how to plan healthy meals, explore the U. S. Department of Agriculture website ChooseMyPlate.gov.

With Women’s Health Week just around the corner, make time and visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website womenshealth.gov to learn more about changes for a longer, healthier and happier life. Finally, if it’s been more than a year since your last visit with you primary care provider, call today to make an appointment. Tricare beneficiaries enrolled at the 56th Medical Group should call the central appointment line at 623-856-2273 to schedule the annual physical or well women exam.




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