The Doctor Is In – Women’s Health and Prevention

By Brig. Gen. W. Bryan Gamble, M.D. deputy director, TRICARE Management Activity

Brigadier General W. Bryan Gamble, M.D. Deputy Director, TRICARE Management Activity

Almost half of TRICARE’s 9.7 million beneficiaries and nearly 15 percent of the military are women. The 2012 National Women’s Health Week is May 13-19, a good time for women to examine their health habits and learn about the women’s health services and programs offered by TRICARE.

The leading causes of death in women are heart disease, cancer and stroke according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the military community, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and other behavioral health issues are also serious issues.

National Women’s Health Week is sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health (www.womenshealth.gov/whw), and the theme for 2012 is “It’s Your Time!” The theme encourages women to take steps to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risks of certain diseases.

Some tips include:

  • Get at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity and one hour or 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity a week (or a combination of both), and engage in muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week. Coincidently, recent data from the ongoing Copenhagen City Heart study presented last week in Europe indicates that women who jogged one to two hours per week increased their life expectancy by 5.6 years over those who did not.
  • Eat a nutritious diet including fruits, vegetables, grains, fat-free or low-fat milk products and lean proteins like fish, poultry, beans or eggs and limit saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugars.
  • Visit your primary care manager for regular checkups, preventive screenings, and specific guidance on your fitness and diet program.
  • Avoid risky behaviors, such as smoking and not wearing a seatbelt.
  • Support your mental health by getting enough sleep and managing stress.

No two women are exactly alike in their medical needs, and there is great variation in the type of care right for you. Talk to your primary care manager about the appropriate schedule for screenings and preventive services. Your individual and family history, your age, if you’ve had children and other factors affect what is best for you.

TRICARE covers preventive care and screenings for many diseases that affect women, including breast and reproductive system cancer screenings, behavioral health visits, cholesterol tests, blood pressure tests, maternity care and many others. You can see a list of the popular services for women TRICARE covers at www.tricare.mil/mybenefit/jsp/Medical/IsItCovered.do?topic=Women.

Stay active, eat a healthy diet and get preventive screenings, and you will give yourself the best chance at a healthy life and keeping serious illness at bay. TRICARE is committed to making women’s care a top priority in the military community.