05/11/2010 02:38 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

National Women's Health Week, May 9-15: Take the Pledge to Take Care

A woman in our organization went to the emergency room a few weeks ago with heart palpitations. Everything checked out okay, and she was back at work the next day. This episode, however, prompted her to have a check up with her primary care provider and her annual OB/GYN exam--even though it was a bit more than "annual" this year--as well as a mammogram.

Since then, I've noticed a few more fruits and veggies in her lunch, and she is taking the stairs more often!

Whether or not the trip to the ER was the impetus for these preventive health care measures is not important. What is important is that she is taking care of herself. Given that the leading causes of death among women are heart disease and cancer, she is wise to be proactive.

She got a jump start on National Women's Health Week May 9-15, by putting an emphasis on self care, and she has urged the women in her life to pledge to do the same. I encourage all women to follow suit. And, I encourage men to do what they can to help the women they love take good care of themselves.

We often lead the charge in caring for our families--spouses, children, parents and extended family. However, research shows that when women take care of themselves, the health of their family improves. Protecting our health is a matter of prioritizing ourselves.

Ladies, contact your primary and reproductive health care providers for checkups and screenings, including breast and cervical cancer screenings. Discuss with your providers additional screenings and immunizations needed and at what age. Schedule an appointment for at least one of your preventive health screenings during May.

If you do not have health insurance, community health centers, including Planned Parenthood, offer affordable, primary and preventive health care services and facilitate enrollment for state programs for which you may be eligible.

The 11th Annual National Women's Health Week is coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health. On its website, it has posted a wealth of information on women's health care and community events nationwide celebrating women's health and well-being.

Pledge to get a check up. Join the Woman's Challenge. Take preventive measures to good health. Learn about important screenings and immunizations.

The message is simple, Ladies: Take good care of yourself.