Women’s Health Month: Time to reset your health care

by Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono
Defense Health Agency

I was recently a speaker at a women’s leadership symposium and was asked for strategies for proactively managing one’s health when faced with hectic schedules and numerous responsibilities. I could totally relate and the timing couldn’t be better! October is Women’s Health Month and a great time to remember that we, as women, owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to make our health a priority. Focusing on healthy lifestyle habits, ensuring we get regular checkups and immunizations, and being our own best advocates for care will help us live healthier and happier lives. Throughout October, we will feature stories about important women’s health topics. To start things off, I’m encouraging women to take command of their health by resolving to do three things today that will make a difference in your tomorrows.

First, get to the heart of the matter! Heart disease accounts for about one in every four deaths in women each year, making it the leading cause of death for women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But you can take steps to reduce your risk through healthier habits and lifestyle changes such as limiting alcohol consumption, saying no to smoking, eating plenty of vegetables and fruits, getting quality sleep, reducing stress, and exercising. As a bonus, these same habits reduce the risk of developing diabetes, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and other chronic conditions. Check out the resources TRICARE offers, including tools to help you quit smoking, as well as tools on health.mil to help you focus on your physical fitness and weight management.

Second, don’t slack off on preventive care, including regular checkups, cancer screenings including colonoscopies, and reproductive health care. TRICARE covers well-woman exams annually for women younger than 65. This can include breast exams, pelvic exams, and Pap smears as needed. Keeping up with immunizations is another essential preventive measure. Your doctor will advise you on scheduling immunizations during your regular checkups.

Finally, be a strong advocate for your own health. Some time ago, I was at my doctor’s office discussing a recurring issue I was having. Despite being a physician and hospital commander at the time, he doubted my problem because a lab result had not yet been added to my record. This kind of dismissal of a patient’s concerns undermines health care delivery. Which is why we, at the Defense Health Agency, are committed to ensuring that every member of our beneficiary population of 9.4 million people gets personalized, responsive, and respectful care. By taking charge of your wellness and lifestyle habits, and clearly expressing your health concerns and questions, you become an active partner with your provider in staying healthy.

Women’s Health Month can be your starting point to reset your habits – and make lifelong differences in your health and wellness. Let’s take command of our health!

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