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Department & Division News

Committing to Better Health

(This article first appeared in the January-February 2016 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

The start of a new year almost always brings New Year’s resolutions. Most people take the opportunity to start anew and make sweeping, life-changing resolutions. However, resolutions need not be huge to be effective. Consider committing yourself to better health by participating in an annual mammogram program and managing your hypertension. These are two attainable goals that could save your life or improve the quality of your life.

Mammograms are one of the most effective ways to diagnose breast cancer early and give patients the best options and outcomes for treatment. They are low-dose x-rays that examine the breast to look for abnormal changes, such as lumps and calcifications. Mammograms are performed by x-ray technicians; the images are read by a radiologist.

Recently, medical experts have offered differing opinions on the appropriate age to begin regular mammogram screenings, which is why women should discuss mammograms with their health care providers. Your doctor will make a recommendation for you based on medical guidelines and your personal and family health history.

Hypertension

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a common condition that carries very serious risks if it is left unchecked. The dangers include heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.

Most often, hypertension develops silently over the course of many years without any symptoms. The few symptoms that may present themselves – headaches, shortness of breath, and nosebleeds – are so common that they aren’t typically recognized as symptoms of high blood pressure. Even worse, these symptoms don’t occur until hypertension has reached a life-threatening stage.

Risk factors for hypertension include age, race (hypertension is particularly common among African-Americans), family history, being overweight, not being physically active, using tobacco, too much salt in your diet, too little potassium and Vitamin D in your diet, drinking too much alcohol, stress, and certain chronic conditions.

Testing for high blood pressure is done simply with an inflatable arm cuff, and is part of every regular medical appointment. You can also monitor your blood pressure in between doctor’s visits with a home blood pressure monitor or with a blood pressure cuff machine, which is often available for use in a drug store or pharmacy.

If you have hypertension the most important thing you can do to get healthy is to change your lifestyle by eating a healthy diet with less salt, exercising regularly, quitting tobacco products, and maintaining a healthy weight. If these things are not enough to control your high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medication.

They’re Covered

All Federal Employee Health Benefit carriers offer coverage for mammograms and hypertension. APWU Health Plan coverage includes:

  • Routine Mammograms: Annual routine mammograms are covered at 100% with in-network providers, starting at age 35 as follows:
    • From age 35 through 39, one during this five-year period.
    • From age 40 through 64, one every calendar year.
    • At age 65 and older, one every two consecutive calendar years.  
  • Hypertension: The APWU Health Plan offers its High Option members free access to its Hypertension Management Program. High Option members with hypertension should enroll and participate in the Hypertension Management Program to receive 100% coverage for:
    • In-network medical office visits for the specific purpose of lowering your blood pressure.
    • In-network lab tests related to hypertension management.
    • Generic drugs purchased through mail order.
    • Phone consultations with a coach every 90 days.

Make 2016 your best and healthiest year yet!