By Robert Stanley London, M.D.
Today, being “busy” has become a way of life – from 24/7 communication to endless to-do lists. But despite busy schedules, we all need to commit the necessary time to take care of ourselves, both physically and mentally. As an obstetrician and gynecologist, I can say this is especially important for women who often overlook their own health and well-being to attend to their jobs or care for their families and friends.
This Women’s Health Week, we can help remind millions of women to take the first step towards improving their health status – from accessing healthcare providers; getting recommended immunizations, screenings and mammograms; or just taking some time for themselves.
As a first step, I highly recommend scheduling a well-woman visit with your healthcare provider who can evaluate your current needs and identify preventive screenings and vaccinations. They also will work with you to evaluate and minimize potential risky behaviors like smoking, poor eating habits, not wearing seat belts or lack of contraception.
When it comes to women’s health, there are a number of conditions women and their physicians should check for regularly. One of the most overlooked and hidden health risks is heart disease, which can go underdiagnosed in women as they age. Reducing your risk for heart disease is as easy as getting your blood pressure normalized and having cholesterol levels checked. Regular age-appropriate testing for breast cancer and bone fracture risk through mammograms and bone density evaluations are equally as important. Also if you are considering pregnancy, see your doctor for a pre-conception evaluation. Just taking folic acid supplements or getting a rubella vaccination before you get pregnant can reduce your chance of complications.
Other tips for living a healthy life include getting active through physical fitness programs or just by taking daily walks; healthy eating, including more fruits and vegetables, and reducing the intake of salt, sugar and alcohol; watching your weight; and focusing on your mental health.
But everyone is different and has health needs that are unique to them. By seeing your healthcare provider on a regular basis, you can begin working on a healthy lifestyle for you and your loved ones.
You can find out more about how to ensure you’re living your healthiest life by starting a conversation with your primary care provider and by visiting https://www.womenshealth.gov/nwhw/.
Dr. London is Chief Medical Officer for WellCare of South Carolina.