Women often carry multiple responsibilities: caregiving for their families, whether it’s children, partners, siblings or aging parents – while shouldering the mental load of running a household, balancing the demands of a job and finding time for themselves. Yet a recent survey found that nearly half of American women – 45% – are forgoing the preventive care services they need partly because they have limited time to schedule an appointment.
Many women are putting their health second to other demands in their lives – which can lead to chronic stress and worsen any mental health issues. Being healthy isn’t just about eating a balanced diet, getting 10,000 steps a day and seeing your doctor once a year. It’s about your whole health, including your mind.
Here are five ways women can take care of their whole health.
1. See your doctor every year
Preventive care appointments like annual physicals, screening tests, treatments and vaccines play an important role in a woman’s long-term health. Regularly seeing a health care provider each year means experts are watching for early signs of chronic conditions and cancers – and can recommend early interventions and treatment options if anything is detected, leading to better long-term outcomes.
Per the American Cancer Society, women of average risk should check for breast cancer with a screening mammogram at age 40, then annually until age 55, then every other year after age 55. However, those with risk factors may need to get a screening mammogram earlier than age 40 and yearly after age 55.
Many preventive services, including mammograms and other cancer screenings and tests, annual physicals, depression screenings are covered under health insurance plans. Annual physicals with a primary care provider are covered benefits by all Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan plans and are an important part of keeping you on track with the recommended schedule of vaccines and screening tests for chronic conditions, including cancer and diabetes.
If you are a Blue Cross or Blue Care Network member, you can find an in-network provider through your member account at bcbsm.com or on the Blue Cross mobile app.
2. Consider a telehealth visit
Finding an in-network provider that’s close, convenient and available can be a huge barrier for some women to getting health care– whether it’s for a physical ailment or for a mental health concern. Telehealth visits can be a great solution to offer women access to the professional advice they need. Women can talk to their health care providers and health plans to see what telehealth options are available to them.
Blue Cross members have options for convenient, 24/7 access to medical experts:
- Blue Cross Online Visits℠ allows you to talk with a U.S board-certified doctor using your smartphone, tablet or computer about minor illnesses and injuries, like a cold, the flu, strains or sprains. You can also talk to a licensed therapist or psychiatrist about any challenges you’re facing. Before you get started, ensure your plan includes access to Blue Cross Online Visits℠ and services. Learn more about how to get started with online visits here.
- The 24-Hour Nurse Line is a free service that connects you with a registered nurse any time of day or night. The nurses can help you assess your situation and will direct you where to go to seek care. To speak with a nurse, call 1-800-775-2583 (for Blue Cross PPO members) or 1-855-624-5214 (for Blue Care Network HMO members).
- Blue Cross and Blue Care Network members aged 18 and older with behavioral health coverage are able to access mental health help through AbleTo, a virtual behavioral health provider.
3. Move more
More than half of all adults in the U.S. do not meet the guidelines for aerobic activity – and about 75% of adults don’t meet guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that each week, adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, and two muscle-strengthening activities. This could look like:
- Walking 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week; and two days with muscle-strengthening activities like lifting weights, using resistance bands, body weight exercises, heavy gardening or some forms of yoga.
- Jogging or running for a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes each week; and two days with muscle-strengthening activities.
You don’t need 10,000 steps every day. Simply going for a walk brings a host of physical and mental health benefits. Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.
4. Don’t ignore signs of stress, anxiety or depression
While women are more likely than men to seek help for their mental health, the multiple responsibilities and roles they fill in their families often brings stress. Prolonged stress can lead to long-term physical and mental health issues. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as managing your blood pressure. While making time for self-care is important for women, it may not be enough. Don’t ignore prolonged symptoms of anxiety and depression. These conditions are common and treatable – and help is available.
Primary care providers are also a good starting point to discuss any behavioral health questions or concerns, like for depression or anxiety. Doctors can either connect you with an in-house behavioral health provider in their practice or refer you to another professional.
5. Ask your health insurance plan what extra resources are available to you
Taking care of your health doesn’t have to be an individual journey. Many health insurance plans offer members a suite of tools and resources, and some plans may have programs and smart phone apps that give members access to board-certified professionals. Call the number on the back of your card – or log in to your online member account to learn more about what’s available to you.
For example, eligible Blue Cross and Blue Care network members have access to Livongo by Teladoc Health – a program that helps individuals with diabetes, prediabetes and hypertension, and assists and guides members through every step of their health care journey– including mental health. Blue Cross also offers eligible members support for family building and women’s health through pre-conception, maternity, return to work, parenting and menopause through Maven Clinic, a virtual health care provider that offers high-quality, evidenced-based information and professional expertise. Eligible members will receive access to a personalized digital care app that can assist them throughout their health journey – and includes access to experts and to a network of peers for communal support. To learn more about Blue Cross’ Family Building and Women’s Health Support Solution in partnership with Maven Clinic, visit bcbsm.com for additional details.