The Basics: Overview

Compared to women, men are more likely to:

  • Smoke
  • Drink too much alcohol
  • Make unhealthy or risky choices
  • Put off regular checkups and medical care

The good news is that you can start taking steps to improve your health today!

How can I take charge of my health?

See a doctor for regular checkups even if you feel healthy. That’s important because some diseases and health conditions don’t have symptoms at first. Plus, seeing a doctor will give you a chance to learn more about your health.

Here are some other things you can do to take care of your health:

  • Eat healthy and get active
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation
  • Quit smoking
  • Know your family’s health history
  • Get screenings (tests )to check for health problems before you have symptoms
  • Make sure you’re up to date on your vaccines (shots)

Take Action: Healthy Habits

Use these tips to take charge of your health.

Eat healthy and get active.

Remember, it’s never too late to start healthier habits. A healthy eating routine and regular physical activity can help control your:

  • Blood pressure
  • Blood sugar
  • Cholesterol
  • Weight

By keeping these numbers in a healthy range, you can lower your risk of serious health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Find out how you can:

In addition:

Make small changes every day.

Small changes can add up to big results — like lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes or heart disease. Here are some examples of small changes you can make:

  • Take the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator
  • Try a salad or mixed vegetables as a side instead of fries
  • Drink water or unsweetened iced tea instead of soda or other sugary drinks

Get more ideas for small changes you can make to stay healthy.

Take Action: Talk About Your Health

Know your family history.

Be sure to talk to family members to find out which diseases run in your family.

Use this family health history tool to keep track of health problems that run in your family. Then share this information with your doctor.

Talk to your friends.

Try asking friends what they like to do to stay healthy. You could even try getting active with friends, like by taking a hike or playing pickup basketball.

Take Action: Get Preventive Care

Get preventive care to stay healthy.

Many people think of the doctor as someone to see when they’re sick. But doctors also provide services — like screenings and vaccines — that help keep you from getting sick in the first place.

Get screenings to find problems early.

Screenings are medical tests that doctors use to check for diseases and health conditions before there are any signs or symptoms. Screenings help find problems early, when they may be easier to treat.

Depending on your age and medical history, you may need to get screened for things like:

  • Certain types of cancer
  • High blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • STIs (sexually transmitted infections), also called STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
  • Mental health conditions, like depression

Learn more about getting screened.

Stay up to date on your vaccines.

Everyone needs vaccines to stay healthy. Ask your doctor or nurse which vaccines you need to stay healthy — then make sure you stay up to date. For example, everyone age 6 months and older needs a seasonal flu vaccine every year.

Find out which vaccines you may need if you’re:

Use the MyHealthfinder tool to get personalized recommendations for screening tests and vaccines.

Take Action: Help Make Sure You Get the Care You Need

You have the right to get the care you need to be as healthy as possible — your race or ethnicity, sexual identity, or other factors should not affect this. But sometimes bias in the health care system can affect the types of treatment and care people get.

Follow these tips to help make sure you get the right care:

  • Ask as many questions as you need to during your appointment — and ask the doctor or nurse to repeat information if you missed something. Consider writing down your 2 to 3 most important questions before your appointment and asking those first. 
  • If you’re not comfortable speaking with the doctor or nurse in English, ask for translation services.
  • Keep in mind that you can ask another doctor for a second opinion if you’re not sure about the care you’re getting. You may need to check with your insurance company to see if your plan will cover a visit to another doctor.
  • Ask a friend or family member to come with you to appointments — they can offer support, take notes, or help you ask questions.

Take Action: Cost and Insurance

What about cost?

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans must cover many preventive services. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get services like screenings and vaccines at no cost to you. Check with your insurance company to find out more.

Medicare also covers certain health services at no cost. Use this tool to see what Medicare covers.

If you don’t have insurance, you may still be able to get free or low-cost health services. To learn more, find a health center near you.

You can also check out these resources: