How to Take Charge of Your Health

When it comes to your health and wellbeing, you need to think not only about your body but your mind and spirit too. Everything about you and your life matters, and deserves your time and attention. Use your 2016 calendar and reminder stickers to schedule time for fitness, shopping for and preparing healthy meals, “down time” to relax and have fun, and a checkup with your doctor. Doing so will help you to balance your own health and wellness needs with your everyday commitments.

Each month, you are invited to share tips and success stories about living healthy with others via Facebook and Twitter. Health observances important to women also are featured each month. Read on to learn more about these health topics, risk factors for disease, and ways to take charge of your health and wellness.

 UNDERSTANDING RISK FACTORS     

Part of learning how to take charge of your health involves understanding your risk factors for different diseases. Risk factors are things in your life that increase your chances of getting a condition or disease. Some risk factors are beyond your control, such as your age, sex, family history, race or ethnicity, or health problems you may have. Risk factors you can control include:

  • What and how much you eat
  • How much physical activity you get
  • Whether you use tobacco
  • How much alcohol you drink
  • Whether you use illegal drugs
  • Whether you have unprotected sex
  • Whether you wear your seat belt
  • Whether you use medicines as directed

You can have one risk factor for a disease or you can have many. For some diseases, the more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to get the disease. How do you find out what risk factors you have? Schedule a general checkup, and ask your doctor or nurse about your personal health risks and what you can do to lower your risks.


TOGETHER, THE POWERFUL STEPS THAT FOLLOW WILL HELP YOU TO TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR HEALTH AND CONTROL MANY RISK FACTORS FOR DISEASE.

01 

KNOW YOUR HEALTH CARE OPTIONS

If you have health insurance, learn about your benefits and preventive services. If you need health insurance, visit

www. healthcare.gov to learn what options you have.

02 

GET IMPORTANT TESTS AND VACCINES

Ask your doctor or nurse what screening tests and vaccines you need, and how often you need them. Screening tests can help find health problems early such as high blood pressure, breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, and bone loss. Vaccines can protect you from harmful infections such as the flu and human papillomavirus (HPV).

03

GET ENOUGH FOLIC ACID

If you are planning to get pregnant or are able to get pregnant, you need 400 to 800 micrograms (400 to 800 mcg or 0.4 to 0.8 mg) of folic acid every day, even if you are using birth control or not planning for pregnancy. You can make sure you get enough by taking a vitamin with folic acid every day. Use your calendar to help you make taking folic acid a daily habit.

04

PRACTICE SUN SAFETY

  • Apply sunscreen that is at least SPF15 and that blocks both UVA and UVB rays (broad spectrum).
  • Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Sunscreen isn’t enough. Also wear a hat, protective clothing, and sunglasses to help block the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Tell your doctor about any new moles or mole changes you notice.

05

STAY SAFE

If you are a victim of sexual assault or violence and abuse in your home, you are not alone—call for help. The following hotlines are available 24 hours a day:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-SAFE (7233), TDD: 800-787-3224
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE (4673)

To learn more about these types of violence as well as stalking, dating violence and more, visit www.womenshealth.gov/violence-against-women. If you find yourself in danger, try to find a safe place away from your attacker. Then call 911 or the police. Remember, the victim is never at fault.

06

USE MEDICINES AS DIRECTED

Follow the label information carefully. Use your prescription medicine only as directed. Do not stop taking your medicine until your doctor tells you it’s okay to stop.

Tell your doctor about all the over-the-counter and prescription medicines you use. Also, tell your doctor about any vitamins, diet supplements and herbs you use. This is especially important if you are or are planning to become pregnant.

07

GET ENOUGH SLEEP

Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night.

08

KEEP YOUR TEETH AND GUMS HEALTHY

Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice daily. Floss your teeth daily. Get regular checkups. Ask your dentist how often you need a dental exam.

09

PRACTICE SAFE SEX

Keep in mind that you cannot tell if a person has a sexually transmitted infection (STI) by the way he or she looks. Many STIs have no symptoms.

Be faithful. Having sex with one uninfected partner who only has sex with you will lower your risk of getting an STI.

Use a condom correctly and every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex to lower your risk of STIs. Most other birth control methods do not protect against STIs.

Women 26 and younger can get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which protects against the types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts.

Ask your doctor if you should be tested for STIs, and if and when you should be retested.

10

GET MOVING

Pick an aerobic activity that’s easy to fit into your life. Aerobic activities make you breathe harder, and your heart beat faster. If you choose activities at a moderate level, do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week. Walking fast, dancing and raking leaves are examples of activities that take moderate effort. If you choose vigorous activities, do at least 1 hour and 15 minutes each week. Jogging, jumping rope, swimming laps and riding a bike on hills are examples of vigorous activity. You can combine moderate and vigorous activities.

Do aerobic activities for at least 10 minutes at a time.

Do muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days each week. Include all major muscle groups.

Start slowly if you have been inactive and do a little more as you are able. You can build up by being active more often, longer or by increasing your effort.

Talk to your doctor if you have a chronic health problem to find out what physical activities are right for you.

Use your calendar to make physical activity a part of your weekly routine.

11

LIMIT ALCOHOL

If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For women, that means no more than one drink per day. One drink equals 12 fluid ounces of regular beer,

5 fluid ounces of wine or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

12

MANAGE STRESS

Set realistic standards and goals. Use your calendar to avoid taking on too much.

Make time each day to relax and unwind, even if only for a few minutes.

Reach out to people who encourage and support you. Ask for help when needed.

Find outlets such as a hobby or volunteer work.

Learn healthy ways to cope with daily stress.

Talk to your doctor if emotional problems interfere with daily living.

If you are having thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

13

EAT HEALTHY

Balance calories to manage body weight. If you are overweight, enjoy your food, but eat less and avoid oversized portions. Eat mainly:

  • Fruits and vegetables (Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.)
  • Grains (At least half of your grains should be whole grains, such as whole-wheat, oatmeal and brown rice.)
  • Fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk, cheese, yogurt and other milk products
  • Lean sources of protein, including more fish, as well as beans and peas, unsalted nuts, eggs, skinless poultry, lean meat and soy products
  • Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats
  • Cut back on sodium. Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals, and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Limit foods that contain saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and added sugars.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks like soda and energy drinks.
  • Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D.
  • Use food labels to make healthy food choices.

Visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov for tips to build a healthy plate at meal times and adopt healthy eating habits.

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