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Wednesday, September 24, 2008 9:00 AM
Navigating Health Care: Tips for Women on Staying Healthy

Debra: Women and men face many of the same health concerns. But some conditions, such as osteoarthritis and obesity, are more common among women. And other conditions, such as cervical cancer, are unique to women. That’s why it’s important for women to know what preventive screenings or tests are best for them. AHRQ Director Dr. Carolyn Clancy is with us to talk about women’s health. Welcome Dr. Clancy.

Dr. Clancy: Thank you.

Debra: Tell us, what are some of your tips for women on how to stay healthy?

Dr. Clancy: To stay healthy, women should: not use tobacco; be physically active; eat a healthy diet; stay at a healthy weight; and get the preventive tests and treatments recommended for you based on your health and age.

Debra: But how are women supposed to know what types of preventive tests they need?

Dr. Clancy: It’s important to talk to your clinician about preventive health. AHRQ has a brochure for women that can help guide that discussion. It’s called "Women: Stay Healthy at Any Age." The guide explains which tests and counseling services most women need based on their age and risk factors. For instance, it gives recommendations for when women should ask their clinicians for tests such as mammograms, PAP smears and cholesterol checks.

Debra: Are there any tests that women may be surprised to hear that they might need?

Dr. Clancy: Well, in the past several of years, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has emphasized the importance of all adults being screened for depression. In fact, depression tends to be more common in women than men. In addition, the Task Force has recommends that women speak with their doctors about taking aspirin to reduce their risk of heart disease.

Debra: Well, you mention aspirin. Does your guide provide information on what medicines women might need to take to prevent diseases?

Dr. Clancy: Absolutely. In addition to aspirin, the guide discusses using hormone therapy and preventive medicines for women with a high risk of breast cancer. It also covers immunizations including the flu shot and pneumonia vaccine. All of the recommendations in the guide come from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a nationally renowned panel of experts that provides evidence-based recommendations on preventive health.

Debra: Any final health tips for women?

Dr. Clancy: Eat right, exercise, don’t smoke and ask your doctor which preventive tests and treatments are right for you. And ask a lot of questions until you have the answers you need. And last, always use a seatbelt.

Debra: Dr. Clancy, thanks for the advice.

Dr. Clancy: My pleasure.

Debra: You can access your own copy of AHRQ’s women’s health guide online at ahrq.gov/consumer.

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