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Women's Health Month: Take time to care for yourself

Tracy Stephens, a radiologic technologist at Naval Hospital Jacksonville, prepares a patient for a mammogram. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it’s easier to treat and before it’s big enough to feel. (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel) Tracy Stephens, a radiologic technologist at Naval Hospital Jacksonville, prepares a patient for a mammogram. Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it’s easier to treat and before it’s big enough to feel. (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel)

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Preventive services are your best defense against preventable diseases.

"Prevention is the best medicine," said Navy Cmdr. Jennifer Wallinger, Naval Hospital Jacksonville director for public health. "Annual women's health service exams are the best way to maintain your health and diagnose potentially serious conditions for successful treatment."

Many issues women face are preventable and treatable. The top two causes of death for women are heart disease and cancer, with diabetes ranking seventh, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Heart disease: Heart disease is the number one cause of death in U.S. women. Key risk factors include: high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking. Other risk factors include: diabetes, overweight and obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use. Know your blood pressure, talk to your primary care manager about diabetes testing, quit smoking, talk to your PCM about cholesterol and triglyceride tests, make healthy food choices, limit alcohol, and find healthy ways to cope with stress.

Cervical cancer: Prevent cervical cancer - with the right test at the right time. Get your first Pap test at age 21. If the test is normal, you can wait three years until the next Pap. After turning 30, you have a choice. Get a Pap test every three years. Or, get a combined Pap and human papillomavirus (HPV) test, and if both are normal, you can wait five years until the next screening.

Breast cancer: Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it's easier to treat and before it's big enough to feel. Starting at age 40, talk with your PCM about when to start and how often to get a mammogram. You have the choice to get an annual mammogram at age 40 and up.

Colorectal cancer: Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in U.S. women. If you're age 50 or over, get screened now for colorectal cancer. Screening can find growths so they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also finds cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure. If you have risk factors, you might need to be tested earlier or more often.

Diabetes: If you have diabetes, see your health care team every three to six months for an A1C test. This checks your long-term control of blood sugar. Make an appointment with your PCM today. You can discuss strategies to manage diabetes at home, work, school, and while traveling.

Chlamydia: Most people who have chlamydia don't know it, since there's often no symptoms. It's the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. Women under age 25 (and older women with risk factors) need chlamydia testing every year.

Talk to your health care provider about non-physical concerns as well. Dealing with high stress, depression, difficulty sleeping, or other non-physical health concerns are just as important to stay healthy.

Proper sleep, physical activity, and nutrition are key components of preventive health and day-to-day wellness.

Women need a mix of cardio and resistance or weight-bearing exercise at least three to five times a week to help prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Exercise also promotes good self-image, which is important to a woman's mental health.

Eating healthy is critical to women's health. A balanced diet of lean proteins, healthy fats, smart carbs, and fiber are essential elements to a proper diet.

For an annual well-woman exam, make an appointment with your PCM by phone or on TRICARE's Online Patient Portal at www.TRICAREonline.com.

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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