Woman’s health assumes utmost importance as women are the pivots and the primary care givers of the family. Today, women are multitasking by balancing professional careers along with looking after the home and children. Often women prioritize the health and needs of their family members especially children, over their own, and in their busy multidimensional life, the woman’s health becomes an often ignored aspect.
Women need to be aware and take care of the following 5 dimensions of their health:
Women are often prone to develop nutritional deficiencies like those of iron, folic acid and vitamin B12 (causing anemia, and sometimes fatigue and weakness), calcium-vitamin D (causing weakening of bones) as well as vitamin C, which can lead to a general reduction in immunity. On the other hand, obesity and increased BMI in women due to inappropriate diet dependent on packaged/processed foods is also a risk factor for increased BP and blood cholesterol, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Therefore, a healthy diet is extremely important for women which includes more of green vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and pulses. Meals should be well chewed and taken without hurry and on time. They should remain hydrated at all times, and water intake daily should be at least 10-12 glasses.
Busy lives torn between professional work and home-family, leave women little time to themselves for appropriate physical exercise. Choosing relaxing exercises like yoga, outdoor walking, aerobics or dancing with music, cycling, swimming, or playing a sport for at least 30-45 minutes, on at least 5 days a week, is highly recommended for physical fitness. Consulting trainers to design, structure and customize a regular exercise routine is beneficial.
Another essential aspect of lifestyle is adequate rest and sleep, which should not be compromised on most days. 8 hours of night sleep, helps improve overall health and daytime performance. Correct postures and ergonomics at the workplace especially during long hours of sitting, using laptops and mobile phones, are important to prevent backaches and neck-shoulder pains which are common in working women.
Women often suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), increased or abnormal menstrual bleeding, or painful periods (dysmenorrhea). These conditions impact their quality of life, professional performance, fitness, and productivity. It is very important that these are effectively addressed so that women can cope better during such times, and also get adequate and deserved comfort and rest. Women can also impart guidance on menstrual hygiene and usage of proper sanitary pads to underprivileged and uneducated women whom they may be interacting with as part of their domestic staff, workplace or social work.
Irregular or painful periods can be due to conditions of the reproductive organs like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis which should be investigated for. Menopause is an especially sensitive time for women due to hormonal and physical changes, and some women suffer symptoms like hot flushes, weight gain, hair thinning, mood changes, and vaginal dryness in addition to irregular periods. This may require treatment with hormonal and other medicines.
SCREENING AND TIMELY DIAGNOSIS
Women should have regular health check-up by blood pressure (BP) checks, and blood tests for hemoglobin, blood counts, sugar, lipids (blood cholesterol and triglycerides), and thyroid function to pick up conditions like anemia, diabetes, hypertension, and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) timely. They should also be guided on screening for cervical and breast cancer. Post-menopausal women should be screened with a bone mineral density test for weak bones (osteoporosis).
MENTAL HEALTH AND STRESS
This is probably the most underrated aspect of woman’s health and should be given immense importance both at home and at the workplace. Diagnosing issues of mental health like depression, anxiety and stress promptly, and facilitating counseling and supportive therapies or groups can greatly improve the lives of several women.
Stress management is of utmost importance. Indulging in relaxing hobbies, spending time and having discussions with family and friends, and taking rejuvenating breaks from intense routines at home/work can be very useful.