Women’s Health Month: A Focus on Preventable Illness
The U.S. Department of Health established May as Women’s Health Month to bring awareness to the screenings and information that women could use to improve their health. In recent years the focus of the month has also included highlighting not only physical health but mental health too.
While you can attend an annual visit any time of the year, this month serves to be a reminder to get that visit scheduled with your provider.
How Often are Women Visiting the Doctor?
According to 2016 information from the CDC, women are more likely to visit the doctor at least once a year compared to men.
Males age 18 to 44 – 41.5% visit a provider in a year
Females 18 to 44 – 59.9%
Males 45 to 64 – 38.9%
Females 45 to 64 – 44.6%
Annual visits play an important role in helping detect preventable illnesses early. While it is good to see women taking the lead on visiting the doctor, there is still a substantial population of women who do not attend annual visits.
What Visits Screenings Should Women Complete?
It is a great idea to attend an annual physical each year for a checkup with your provider. However, there are a number of other screenings (usually not annually) that women are recommended to complete as well. Your provider can help guide you on what screenings you should attend.
A few of the most common screenings for women include:
Mammogram – Between the age of 45 and 54, the American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms. After age 55, screenings become every other year.
Pap smears – These cervical cancer screenings are recommended to be completed every 3 years by women aged 20 to 65.
Colonoscopy – Patients over the age of 45 are recommended to complete a colonoscopy every 10 years.
Bone Density Test – This one can be completed in-house by your Integracare provider. Because women are at a heightened risk of osteoporosis, tracking the strength of your bones can be important as you age.
How does Physical Activity Play a Role?
In 2020, the CDC reported that just 20.4% of women met the physical activity guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. It is worth noting less than 30% of men also meet these criteria.
Regardless though in 2019 it was reported that 41.8% of women were obese, with 45.2$ having hypertension (high blood pressure). Unfortunately, nearly half of all women over the age of 20 are impacted by these two major health concerns. While physical activity can not solve obesity and high blood pressure alone, it is among the major contributors alongside diet.
Physical activity can also be helpful for your mental health as it can reportedly help reduce anxiety, depression, and negative mood behaviors.
Where Can you Start to Make Improvements in Your Health?
Schedule your annual visit! Many insurance plans will cover a significant portion of the physicals cost once per year. You can set up a physical with a Williams Integracare provider or your primary care provider.
The percentage of Minnesotan women without health insurance coverage has steadily declined since 2011, with the most recent data from 2021 reporting 3.4% are without health coverage. For those with coverage, be sure to clarify with your insurance company if these preventative visits are no-cost to you (they usually are) and take advantage! If you are without health coverage, know that there may be free community screening opportunities available, or take advantage of a cash-pay discount at a clinic.
Lastly, making an effort to exercise more and eat healthier can make a big difference in your health. If you are currently smoking, then quitting can help reduce your risk of a number of illnesses.
Take time this month to focus on improving your health!