This Valentine’s Day, show your heart some love

Although popular love songs might tell you otherwise, a broken heart can’t kill you—but heart disease can. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, taking more than 600,000 lives each year.

You might not be able to avoid Cupid’s arrow, but you can take steps to lower your risks and prevent heart disease. Start by scheduling an appointment with your doctor to discuss whether you’re at risk for heart disease.

Medicare covers a cardiovascular disease screening at no cost to you every 5 years. The screening includes tests to help detect heart disease early and measures cholesterol, blood fat (lipids), and triglyceride levels.

If you and your doctor discover that you’re at risk for a heart attack or stroke, there are steps you can take to help prevent these conditions. You might be able to make lifestyle changes (like changing your diet and increasing your activity level or exercising more often) to lower your cholesterol and stay healthy.

February is American Heart month, so start it off right by visiting the Million Hearts® Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Resource Center. Million Hearts is a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. The resource center was developed in partnership with EatingWell magazine, and features lower sodium, heart-healthy recipes and family-friendly meal plans to help manage sodium intake, a major contributor to high blood pressure and heart disease. All the recipes include nutritional facts and average cost per serving information. Use the search and filter options to quickly find the right meal for yourself and your family based on prep time, cuisine, course, number of servings, and your health needs.

Detect cervical cancer early – get screened

All women are at risk for cervical cancer, but did you know it occurs most often in women over 30? About 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest female cancers to prevent. Medicare covers 2 types of screening tests – the Pap smear and human papilloma virus (HPV) test – that can help prevent cervical cancer, or find it early when treatment can work best.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. Watch our Cervical Health Awareness Month video and visit our cervical & vaginal cancer screenings page to learn what these tests do and how often they’re covered.

Also, visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition website to find ways you can raise awareness about cervical cancer and how you can make a difference.

Prevent vision loss from glaucoma

How much are you at risk for getting glaucoma? Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes loss of vision—usually side vision—by damaging the optic nerve, which sends information from your eyes to your brain.

Fortunately, you can prevent vision loss by finding and treating problems early. Medicare covers a glaucoma test once every 12 months for people at high risk for glaucoma, including people who answer “yes” to one or more of these questions:

  • Do you have diabetes or a family history of glaucoma?
  • Are you African American and 50 or older?
  • Are you Hispanic American and 65 or older?

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. The start of a new year is the perfect time to schedule a regular eye exam to check for glaucoma.

Visit Medicare.gov to find more information on Medicare’s glaucoma screening coverage, or watch our glaucoma awareness video. Also, visit the Prevent Blindness website to see how you can join the ongoing fight against vision loss.

Get your free flu shot

Flu season is in full swing, so protect yourself and your loved ones by getting your free flu shot.

Get your flu shot early and stay healthy! Flu viruses change from year to year, so it’s important to get a flu shot each flu season. It’s free for people with Medicare, once per flu season when you get it by doctors or other health care providers (like senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.

National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) is December 6–12. Celebrate by getting your free flu shot today.

Support World AIDS Day: Wear your red ribbon

About 50,000 people in the U.S. get HIV each year. Of the 1.1 million people currently living with HIV in the U.S., 1 in 8 don’t even know they have it. December 1 is World AIDS Day and the 2015 theme is “The Time to Act Is Now.”

HIV is the virus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. Early testing and diagnosis play key roles in reducing the spread of the disease, extending life expectancy, and cutting costs of care. At least 1 in 3 people in the U.S. who test positive for HIV is tested too late to get the full advantage of treatment. However, thanks to better treatments, many people with HIV and AIDS in the U.S. are living longer. Testing is an important first step in getting HIV-infected people the medical care and support they need to improve their health and help them maintain safer behaviors.

Medicare covers HIV screening for people with Medicare of any age who ask for the test, pregnant women, and people at increased risk for the infection (like gay and bisexual men, injection drug users, or people with multiple sexual partners).

Visit Aids.gov to learn more about World AIDS Day and CDC.gov to learn more about their Act Against AIDS campaign.

To find an HIV test site, visit HIVtest.cdc.gov or text your zip code to “KNOWIT” (566948).

Make today the day you quit smoking

Smoking tobacco can cause many diseases including heart disease, respiratory diseases, and lung cancer —the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Over 56 million people in the U.S. still smoke tobacco, but quitting can reduce your risk of getting these diseases. You can quit smoking today, and Medicare is here to help.

Besides being famous for Thanksgiving, November is also Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the Great American Smokeout. While you’re making lists for the upcoming holiday season, make a note to talk with your doctor about quitting if you smoke. Medicare covers 8 face-to-face smoking cessation counseling sessions during a 12-month period. If you haven’t been diagnosed with an illness caused or complicated by tobacco use, you pay nothing for these counseling sessions, as long as you get them from a qualified doctor or another Medicare provider. Watch our video to learn more about Medicare’s benefits to help you quit.

Get smart: Know when to use antibiotics

It’s that time of year again—flu season! But if you get sick, think twice before going to your doctor for antibiotics. If you get a cold or flu, antibiotics won’t help. That’s because these are viral infections, and antibiotics only cure bacterial infections. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them can be harmful. Every time you take antibiotics, they kill sensitive bacteria, but resistant germs may survive to grow and multiply. These resistant germs can lead to severe infections, hospitalizations, and death—especially among people over 65.

The CDC has marked this week as Get Smart About Antibiotics Week. Here are 3 things you can do to make sure you’re using antibiotics the right way:

  1. Take antibiotics only to treat true bacterial infections. It should be for only as long as your doctor prescribed to treat the infection, to reduce your risk of getting the infection again, or to reduce the risk to those around you.
  2. Always talk to your doctor before taking an antibiotic to be sure it will treat the infection you have.
  3. Never take antibiotics for a viral infection, like a cold, cough, or flu. Antibiotics won’t cure your virus, they won’t keep those around you from getting sick, and they won’t help you feel better. In fact, taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do you more harm than good, because you increase your risk of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection later.

Antibiotics won’t help you recover from the flu, but you can keep yourself from catching the major flu viruses in the first place by getting your flu shot! It’s free for people with Medicare, once per flu season when given by doctors or other health care providers (like senior centers and pharmacies) that take Medicare.