Why Wait-Create Your Own Legacy of Health and Wealth

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March is Women’s History Month – a time for us to celebrate "her story"– an opportunity to remember the accomplishments of women who have come before us, those who dared to be different, and those who said "no" while the vast majority conformed to male standards. Traditionally, "history" means political history–a chronicle of key events and of leaders, primarily men who influence how a story will be told. But, women’s history ("the new social history") speaks to a broader spectrum of American life, including such topics as ethnicity, wealth, health, marital status, employment, etc. In the pursuit of "living well", The National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, Inc., (NCBA) would like to encourage African–American women to create a legacy of good health.

With the stressors of today, it is important for all women to become advocates for their personal health. Some women need certain screening tests earlier, or more often, than others, but it is important to establish a dialogue with your doctor or care provider to determine what preventive care is best for you. Every woman should take time to seek preventive care to prevent illness or injury. Preventive care is a set of measures taken in advance of symptoms to prevent illness or injury. This type of care is best exemplified by routine physical examinations, screenings, and immunizations.

Schedule routine screening tests such as a mammogram (every 1 to 2 years starting at age 40); pap smears (every 1 to 3 years if you have been sexually active or are older than 21); a cholesterol check (regularly starting at age 45). If you smoke, have diabetes, or if heart disease runs in your family, start having your cholesterol checked at age 20; a blood pressure check (at least every 2 years); a colorectal cancer test (starting at age 50); a diabetes test (if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol); and an osteoporosis tests (at age 65 to screen for thinning of the bones). If you are between the ages of 60 and 64 and weigh 154 lbs. or less, talk to your doctor about whether you should be tested. Make it a point to discuss "uncomfortable" health concerns with your physician. For example, if you have ever felt "down", sad, or hopeless, or have felt disinterested in participating in activities, talk to your physician about whether he or she can screen you for depression. Furthermore, if your doctor has not recommended you having tests for sexually transmitted diseases, take the initiative and have yourself tested for HIV/AIDS, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.

Moreover, talk to your doctor about preventive medicine and therapies. If you are a menopausal woman, discuss the benefits and risks of taking hormone replacement therapy. Also, if your mother, sister, or daughter has had breast cancer, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking medicines to prevent breast cancer. Likewise, ask your doctor about heart disease. Many women are still misinformed about heart disease. Women are at risk for heart disease and heart attacks, just like men. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death among women over 65. Similarly, it is important to stay on top of your immunizations (have a flu shot every year starting at age 50, have a tetanus–diphtheria shot every 10 years, have a pneumonia shot once at age 65, and talk to your doctor to see whether you or not you need hepatitis B shots).

Whether you are reading this article in the United States, the United Kingdom , Africa, the Caribbean , or in other areas of the world, the NCBA would like to encourage women to strive to live healthy, happy, and productive lives. Why wait for history to recognize you– recognize yourself by taking control of your health. Create your own legacy for yourself and for generations to come.

For additional information on women’s health, visit www.ncba–aged.org or contact the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, Inc. at 202–637–8400.

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