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:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | 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...

Good oral care requires lifetime commitment

Article
2/25/2021
Military health personnel, sitting in front of a group of children, showing them how to brush their teeth using a stuffed animal

Children’s Dental Health Month focuses on the importance of developing good oral hygiene habits at an early age.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health | Total Force Fitness

Proper diet, sleep, exercise, and joy key to heart health

Article
2/24/2021
Military personnel working out at the gym

Heart health is crucial to service members’ readiness throughout their high-stress careers. Working to achieve that takes self-discipline and moderation, but also joy, integrity, and social interaction

Recommended Content:

Heart Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Total Force Fitness | February Toolkit | Healthy Heart and Total Force Fitness | Preventing Heart Disease

Training for a healthy heart can improve overall health

Article
2/22/2021
Military personnel wearing a mask exercising in the gym

Service members must be heart healthy to perform optimally throughout their military careers.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Physical Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Total Force Fitness | Heart Health

WRNMMC nurses recognized for work with Virtual Cardiac Rehab

Article
2/19/2021
Two military personnel wearing face mask standing on gym equipment

WRNMMC’s Cardiac Rehab Center continues to care for patients during ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Heart Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Keeping kids’ teeth healthy during a pandemic: brush, floss, no sugar

Article
2/18/2021
Military health personnel wearing a face mask examines the mouth of a child

Pediatric dentistry requires tooth brushing, flossing and sugar avoidance. During a pandemic, getting to a checkup has been hard.

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

DOD initiatives address the sexual health of our military

Article
2/17/2021
Image of a bacterium

STIs are important to identify and treat because they can impact service members’ health and readiness, as well as their ability to perform their duties.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Health Readiness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Men's Health | Women's Health

Total Force Fitness Reintroduction

Video
2/17/2021
DHA Seal

The Military Health System is reintroducing Total Force Fitness. The Total Force Fitness concept focuses on a service member’s entire health throughout their career, connecting eight dimensions of fitness to optimize health, performance, and readiness holistically.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Environmental Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Ideological and Spiritual Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Social Fitness | Financial Fitness | Health Tools

COVID-19 vaccine does not affect fertility, immunization experts say

Article
2/16/2021
Black and white photo of a couple holding hands

COVID-19 vaccination when pregnant or breastfeeding shows no harm, immunologists weigh in.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Decreasing cervical cancer – one HPV vaccine at a time

Article
1/7/2021
Medical personnel showing report to soldier

Early detection and prevention methods are key to help women fight and prevent this form of cancer.

Recommended Content:

January Toolkit | Women's Health | Total Force Fitness

Transition support for servicewomen planning to leave the military

Article
11/10/2020
Three women in military uniforms standing together

As of today, the WHTT has supported more than 1,300 servicewomen to date.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Weed ACH hosted breast cancer awareness event

Article
10/28/2020
Woman in pink hat and shirt, wearing a racing number, speaking to an audience

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a chance to raise awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Combat Support | Women's Health | Health Literacy Month 2020

Special care given to families experiencing stillbirth or infant loss

Article
10/23/2020
A couple standing in front of a wall covered in notes

The cot is specially designed to give parents extra time with their baby.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Children's Health | Men's Health

Weed ACH holds Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month event

Article
10/22/2020
Group of people standing outside hospital

[I]t's important to acknowledge pregnancy and infant loss awareness events because it isn’t healthy for families to suffer in silence.

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Women's Health

Proactive screening and detection help to battle breast cancer

Article
10/22/2020
Soldier standing in front of a colorful display with pink ribbon

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

NH Bremerton relies on experienced nurse to help new moms

Article
10/16/2020
Military personnel gives nurse an award

"Navy Medicine has taken me from novice to expert over a 20 year career..."

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Women's Health | Patient Safety
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 7

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.