Resolve to take care of No. 1 in 1993

WOMEN'S HEALTH

January 12, 1993|By Dr. Genevieve Matanoski | Dr. Genevieve Matanoski,Contributing Writer

You probably don't want to read another word about holidays and celebrations, but I'd like to offer a suggestion for one more gift you should give -- to yourself. Consider it the smartest New Year's resolution you'll ever make.

Resolve to take care of yourself in 1993. Take time to think about your health and how important it is to you and the people who care about you. Then list the options you have for maintaining your physical and mental well-being. And use those options.

It is not unusual for women to put themselves last on their list of personal priorities. Their significant others, children, parents, friends and even their bosses often get better attention. That's not a healthy outlook, so here are suggestions for gaining equal time.

* Give yourself permission to be a priority.

* Make health screenings a way of life in 1993.

* Resolve that you will select a special day of the year -- your birthday, anniversary, a child's birthday -- as the day you make an appointment with your doctor for a checkup.

* What should it include? If you're sexually active, have a Pap smear. If you're 45 or older, have a mammogram, cardiovascular screen and test for colon cancer. All of these tests are routine and noninvasive. In many cases, your insurance will cover them.

* If your insurance doesn't cover the cost of screening, save for them or ask for them as a birthday gift. Contact your local health department to see if you qualify for the free screenings offered to many women.

* If you're overweight, give yourself a break and acknowledge that you won't change overnight. Think of tomorrow as a day of possibilities.

* If you smoke, quit. I'm not minimizing how tough it is, but giving up smoking is one of the best presents you'll ever give to yourself and the people around you. There are plenty of techniques that work, but if you've tried them and still smoke, ask your doctor for the nicotine patch. It has helped millions of people who had given up hope.

* If you are addicted to alcohol or other drugs, don't be discouraged. You don't have to fight it alone. Seek professional help.

* Wear your safety belt every time you're in a vehicle that has one.

* Don't get on a motorcycle without a helmet. And the same is true for riding bicycles.

* Talk to your mother, daughter, sister, best friend or co-workers about the value of good health.

Preventing disease and injury gives you time, prevents unnecessary worry and ultimately is a good financial investment. Like anything of value, you deserve care, so make 1993 your year.

Dr. Matanoski is a physician and professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.

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