Back to Top Skip to main content

Women's Health Month: Take ownership of health, wellness issues

Navy Cmdr. Francesca Cimino, M.D. (standing) confers with a colleague in the Family Medicine department at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. (Courtesy photo) Navy Cmdr. Francesca Cimino, M.D. (standing) confers with a colleague in the Family Medicine department at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. (Courtesy photo)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Women's Health

EDITOR’S NOTE: October is Women’s Health Month, an opportunity to increase awareness about health issues important to women throughout their lifetime such as heart disease, breast and ovarian cancers, stroke, diabetes and chronic lower respiratory diseases, among other illnesses. This month, Health.mil will focus on the importance of recognizing the health and medical needs of women who are part of the DoD community, addressing preventable health concerns and encouraging early detection and treatment of disease among women and girls in the DoD community. 

This month’s first article, by Cmdr. Francesca Ciminio, M.D., a family physician and Assistant Professor at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md., emphasizes small things that you can do to maintain health and fitness to live a healthy life.


October marks Women's Health Month, an opportunity for the Military Health System to increase awareness among female beneficiaries about important health and wellness issues that span a lifetime.

As an experienced family physician, I know, in the MHS, we have a receptive audience. Women are significantly more likely than men to make and keep appointments with their health care providers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey.

Many of these appointments are for routine screenings: mammograms to check for breast cancer, Pap tests to detect cervical cancer. These are important, of course. Thanks to improvements in detection and treatment, more and more breast cancer patients are becoming breast cancer survivors. And U.S. cervical cancer survival rates are among the highest in the world.

But women's health encompasses more than these preventive cancer screenings. Did you know the No. 1 killer of women is heart disease? The American Heart Association's Life's Simple 7 identifies seven risk factors that women as well as men can improve though lifestyle changes to achieve ideal cardiovascular health.

Managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, reducing blood sugar – all of these actions matter. And they're as vital to long-term health and longevity as cancer screenings. Now that I've gotten older, I'm particularly cognizant that as we age, heart disease becomes more of an issue. Damage accumulates over time.

Excess weight also has been linked to heart disease. I know some women find tackling this issue particularly daunting. CDC statistics show that more women than men are obese, and that women are more likely to become obese as we age. (About 36.5 percent of women ages 20-39, and 44.7 percent of women ages 40-59, are obese. These figures compare to 34.8 percent of men ages 20-39, and 40.8 percent of men ages 40-59.)

A small weight loss may not necessarily get you to a healthy body mass index, but it can play a role in overall longevity. Losing even 5 pounds can be exponentially beneficial in terms of how it can improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels and lower risk of heart disease.

One tip is to cut added sugar from your diet. The Food and Drug Administration has updated its guidelines to suggest no more than 10 percent of daily calories come from added sugars. The FDA also updated the nutrition labeling on food packages to help us keep track of this amount in packaged products.

It's amazing how quickly added sugar accumulates. It shows up in the sneakiest places, including ketchup, salad dressing, canned soups, even your favorite "nutrition" bar. Be a smart shopper and read the label -- especially because there are, literally, dozens of different names for sugar on nutrition labels.

Many women are aware of the AHA's recommendation for 150 minutes weekly of aerobic activity. I'd like to encourage you to think about making physical activity an everyday part of life, and not something to accomplish only during dedicated workouts. If your schedule precludes you from spending 30 minutes on an elliptical machine or stationary bike on any given day, all is not lost. Make a daily habit of climbing the stairs instead of riding the elevator, and parking your car further from your destination so you can get a few more steps in.

All movement matters. According to a Harvard study, simply being more mindful of how movement adds up to exercise helped hotel maids lose weight and improve their blood pressure.

Finally, I'd like to encourage you to be your own best advocate when it comes to health and wellness. For example, urinary incontinence comes up frequently when I ask my patients about it, but patients have sometimes been reluctant to be the first to broach the topic. Incontinence may be normal for women who've experienced childbirth, but that doesn't mean you have to resign yourself to it. It's treatable. So are problems associated with sex and comfort, interest, pain, and pleasure.

Mental health is another topic to bring up with your health care provider. Research has shown that hormonal changes at three stages of a woman's life—puberty, post-pregnancy, and during perimenopause—may trigger clinical depression. You don't need to suffer in silence.

The MHS provides a variety of programs, resources, and tools to maintain and improve the health of our female warfighters and beneficiaries. During Women's Health Month and indeed, any other time, let us know how we can help you.

You also may be interested in...

The Head, Hand, and Heart of Women’s Health

Article
10/4/2019
Maintaining peak health is critical for all military personnel. This month, we focus on women whose health concerns and symptoms may be different from those in men. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Roger Jackson)

Health is universal for military personnel and civilians, but some health concerns affect women differently. Here are a few examples.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Preventive Health | Women's Health

Measles Myths: The Measles Can Be Life-Threatening

Video
9/30/2019
Measles Myths: The Measles Can Be Life-Threatening

Measles can be life-threatening, especially for children and among people who have a compromised immune system.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Measles-Mumps-Rubella

Measles Myths: Hand Washing Alone Won't Prevent Measles

Video
9/23/2019
Measles Myths: Hand Washing Alone Won't Prevent Measles

Hand washing alone will not prevent the spread of measles. Dr. Margaret Ryan, preventive medicine physician, debunks some myths about vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Measles-Mumps-Rubella

A surprise delivery at Fort Bragg’s maternity fair

Article
9/19/2019
Pamela Riis (in pink the pink top) learns more about the use of nitrous oxide during labor at the semiannual Fort Bragg Maternity Fair. More than 300 pregnant women, soon-to-be dads, parents of infants, and those planning to have a baby soon participated in the event. (U.S. Army photo by Patricia Beal)

For Linda Steadman, a certified nursing assistant, this will be a day to remember

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Women's Health | Military Hospitals and Clinics

Measles Myths: Vaccines Are Safe

Video
9/17/2019
Measles Myths: Vaccines Are Safe

Vaccine components have been rigorously tested for safety. Dr. Margaret Ryan, preventive medicine physician, debunks some myths about vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Measles-Mumps-Rubella

Measles Myths: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

Video
9/12/2019
Measles Myths: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

Vaccines that prevent measles do not cause autism. Dr. Margaret Ryan, preventive medicine physician, debunks some myths about vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Measles-Mumps-Rubella | Autism Care Demonstration

Prevent to Protect: Analia

Video
8/30/2019
Prevent to Protect: Analia

Cancer left 5-year-old Analia Pages unable to get vaccinated. Her father, Master Sgt. Edward Pages, has to take extra steps to protect her from diseases she’s susceptible to.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Preventive Health | Immunizations

Prevent to Protect: Rosarios

Video
8/30/2019
Prevent to Protect: Rosarios

10-year-old Tatiana Rosario has a weakened immune system as a result of her cancer treatment. Growing up, she and her family made sacrifices to keep her safe from disease.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Preventive Health | Immunizations

Prevent to Protect: Immunization Awareness

Video
8/30/2019
Prevent to Protect: Immunization Awareness

Getting vaccinated not only protects yourself and your family from deadly diseases, but it also saves the lives to those who don’t have the immune system to fend for themselves. The Military Health System shares the stories of families with children who are at risk when others aren’t immunized.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Preventive Health | Immunizations

Prevent to Protect: Barbara and Floriann

Video
8/30/2019
Prevent to Protect: Barbara and Floriann

Barbara’s son Floriann grew up with an immune dysregulation. A Uniformed Services University pathology professor, she’s experienced first hand the importance of vaccines.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Preventive Health | Immunizations

DHA IPM 19-006: 2019–2020 Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Program (IVP)

Policy

This Defense Health Agency-Interim Procedures Memorandum (DHA-IPM), based on the authority of References (a) and (b), and in accordance with the guidance of References (c) through (o), implementing instructions, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes procedures for the seasonal influenza vaccination program. • This DHA-IPM cancels and reissues DHA-IPM 18-005. • This DHA-IPM is effective immediately and will expire 12 months from the date of issue.

Water and sports drinks, what to drink, how much and when

Article
8/21/2019
Staff Sgt. Shaun Martin, a combat medic assigned to Blanchfield Army Community Hospital's LaPointe Army Medical Home on Fort Campbell, drinks from a 16-ounce bottle of water to maintain his hydration for optimal performance. On average, the Army recommends men should consume about 100 ounces of fluid (3 liters) each day, and women should aim for about 70 ounces (2 liters) for baseline hydration. In hot and humid environments and during physical activity, more is needed to maintain hydration — about one ounce per pound of body weight. To reach your goal, drink regularly and frequently, even if you are not thirsty to avoid dehydration. Water is usually the best choice over coffee, soda, energy drinks and alcohol because those beverages can pull water from the body and promote dehydration. (U.S. Army photo by Maria Yager)

Performance suffers from even small amounts of dehydration

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health

Five tips for back-to-school vaccinations

Article
8/19/2019
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Ayla Soltren, a 5th Battalion Army Reserve Career Division counselor, collects school supplies with her daughter, Lana, at a Back to School Info Fair hosted by the 6th Force Support Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Aug. 3, 2019. Another tradition of the season is making sure vaccinations are up to date to keep students healthy and protected. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan C. Grossklag)

Keeping children up-to-date on vaccinations protects them from vaccine-preventable infections that can be spread throughout schools and day care centers.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health

For healthy older adults, new shingles vaccine is worth the wait

Article
8/16/2019
A pharmacist prepares a dose of the shingles vaccine to be administered at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital's Town Center Pharmacy, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. (U.S. Army photo by Maria Yager)

Availability has improved across the MHS, experts say

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health

Three steps for a successful end-of-summer blow out

Article
8/14/2019
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Mario Cardenas, with Provost Marshal's Office, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, prepares lunch for the H&HS Barbecue Cook-off at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Hiatt)

In just three stages, any military family can have a fun-filled welcome party for fall

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Summer Safety
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 8

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing: Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.