Healthy women, healthy world….

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It is time to celebrate women and their achievements. But it is also time to take a closer look at major health issues concerning them…

In 1900, a woman’s life span was about 50 years. Now, in the new millennium, average life expectancy for women is 82 years of age. Not only are women living longer, but they also can anticipate the possibility of enjoying a quality life. In order to accomplish this, it is essential that women take charge of their own bodie, and that they comprehend how they can maximise their personal health and fitness.

Women experience health issues and conditions, from pregnancy and menopause to gynaecological conditions. Many women tend to neglect their health as they are busy caring for others. However, it is important to stay on top and have a system of self-care to experience positive health and well-being. Certain health issues, if detected early, can be tackled in a better way. This week, You! has compiled a list of major health issues concerning women…

Reproductive health: Sexual and reproductive health problems are responsible for one-third of health issues for women between the ages of 15 and 44. Unsafe sex is a major risk factor – particularly among women and girls in developing countries. 225 million women in developing countries have an unmet need for family planning, contributing to 74 million unplanned pregnancies and 36 million abortions every year, according to a recent survey.

Research has shown that numerous pregnancies and closely spaced births erode a mother’s nutritional status, which can negatively affect the pregnancy outcome. Unwanted pregnancies terminated by unsafe abortions also have negative consequences for women’s health.

Maternal mortality: Maternal mortality is unacceptably high. About 830 women die from pregnancy – or childbirth-related complications around the world every day. 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and among poorer communities. It was estimated that in 2015, roughly 303000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth.

Most maternal deaths are preventable. It is particularly important that all births are attended by skilled health professionals, as timely management and treatment can make the difference between life and death for both the mother and the baby. It is also vital to prevent unwanted and early pregnancies. All women, including adolescents, need access to contraception, safe abortion services to the full extent of the law, and quality post-abortion care.

Gynaecological health issues: Women also face some issues related to pregnancy like miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm labour and premature birth. Women in developing countries often do not get medical access immediately, and this leads to a number of issues like infections, blood loss and even death. Pregnancies in rural areas are often handled by non-medical people, who may not have sufficient knowledge or skills. There is a dire need to strengthen primary maternity care in developing nations.

Osteoporosis: It is a growing global problem that knows no boundaries: worldwide, fractures affect one in three women over the age of 50. Hip fracture risk equals the combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer. Women are twice as likely to suffer from osteoporosis on account of the fact that women have thinner bones. During menopause, the hormone estrogen takes a dip causing bone loss, weakening, and consequent stress fractures.

It may limit mobility, which often leads to feelings of isolation or depression. Many patients require long-term nursing home care. Knowing the risk factors especially during menopause can go a long way in preventing disabling fractures. Women undergoing menopause must increase their daily dietary calcium and vitamin D intake. Getting sufficient sunlight during the day is a good way to get vitamin D. Exercise helps prevent Osteoporosis.

Osteoarthritis: It is most common among women above 45. It is believed that the process of menopause is a trigger for osteoarthritis. This disease occurs when the cartilage tissue cushioning the ends of bones in the joints, breaks down and wears out. Osteoarthritis commonly affects the knees and hips though it also affects the hands, spine and wrists.

There is no known preventive measure except keeping fit and active. The best way to avoid pain is exercise especially joint strengthening and motion exercises along with low-impact activities like brisk walking. Most women seek non-drug relief like massages, hot and cold compresses, acupuncture etc.

Mental health: Evidence suggests that women are more prone than men to experience anxiety, depression, and somatic complaints – physical symptoms that cannot be explained medically. Depression is the most common mental health problem for women, which can lead to suicide – a leading cause of death for women under 60.

Women are also prone to certain types of psychiatric disorders especially during times of physical stress such as pregnancy and post-partum period. Depression is especially common during pregnancy and post-partum period. Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia also affect women more than men. Helping sensitise women to mental health issues, and giving them the confidence to seek assistance, is vital. Seeking the help of counsellors and psychiatrists is the best way to overcome mental health issues.

Diabetes: Women have unique health concerns because pregnancy can often bring about gestational diabetes. Diabetes during pregnancy can lead to complications like miscarriages or birth defects. Gestational diabetes raises women’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Women with this, are twice as likely to suffer from early heart attacks. Kidney diseases also affect women worse than men.

Heart disease: Accounting for more than 25 per cent of female deaths, heart disease is by far the leading health concern for women. The most common form of heart disease is a condition called coronary artery disease (CAD), in which plaque build-up damages the artery walls and limits the heart’s access to blood. Although more men die of heart diseases than women, females tend to be under-diagnosed, often to the point that it’s too late to help them once the condition is discovered. A combination of healthy nutrition and regular exercise can help prevent heart disease.

Cancer: Skin and breast cancer are the two most common types of cancer among women. The risk for developing these illnesses usually increase with age. While both forms of cancer are treatable, early intervention is vital to the survival. In addition to regular check-ups, it is recommended to have a mammogram at least every two years.

The good news is that survival rates have improved for many types of cancers in recent years. But, you can lower the risks by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Screenings can also help find and treat some cancers early on.

Adopt a healthier lifestyle:

While some of the above health issues are not totally preventable due to hereditary and genetic causes, one can still take precautions and make simple lifestyle changes to live a healthy life.

Eat a healthy diet: Eating a balanced, nutritious diet along with sufficient exercise can ensure prevention to some extent. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit foods high in saturated fat, added sugar and sodium.

Get moving: Exercise can help you control your weight and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. It might also lower your risk of certain types of cancer. Choose activities you enjoy, from brisk walking to ballroom dancing.

Don’t smoke: If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.

Manage stress: If you feel constantly on edge or under assault, your lifestyle habits might suffer – and so might your immune system. Take steps to reduce stress – or learn to deal with stress in healthy ways.

Watch closely: All women are encouraged to listen to their body signals and take proper care to seek medical help whenever required. Even minor bodily changes can signal the onset of a major disease and hence women should immediately seek medical attention.

A disease caught in the early stage has a better chance of cure and recovery. Staying positive and connected to family and friends goes a long way in increasing immunity and disease fighting power

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