08 Mar Happy International Women’s Day
For us women, on this day, we celebrate how far we have come while reminding ourselves how much more we need to achieve. In the spirit of celebrating women, we need to shed more light on some of the issues that are particular to women and how to prevent and manage them. In a nutshell, how do we get women to live a healthier and more fulfilled life? Let’s dive in.
Dr. Esther Dairo shares with us what can be done to live a better life as a woman.
There are several aspects of health which can be simplified into three categories – Physical, Mental and Social – all three are affected by genetics, relationships, environment and education.
There are several medical conditions that are particular to women and for those that are not, women have been found to have symptoms that are quite different from their male counterparts. This in turn makes diagnosis harder as the symptoms are nonspecific and may eventually lead to a higher risk of dying. This is true for heart diseases, autoimmune disorders, certain infections like UTI, STIs and mental health problems like depression, stress and anxiety disorders. Heart attack for example can present with subtle symptoms like abdominal pain, lightheadedness or fatigue and it is advised that one pays attention to these symptoms and not be so quick to brush them off.
The key to maintaining a good health is knowing and understanding one’s body and if something unusual is noticed, please seek help immediately. Also, screen for and manage chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and any form of cancer. For breast cancer, monthly self-breast examination is adequate before the age of 40, after which yearly mammograms and monthly self-breast exam is recommended. Have your yearly physical examination with a physician and keep all chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid problems, etc. optimally managed with the help of a specialist.
Secondly, adopt a healthy lifestyle. Making healthy food choices cannot be overemphasized as nearly all chronic medical conditions have been directly linked with the food we eat, as such, it is important to make choices that are safe, packed with essential nutrients, minimally processed and wholesome. Being active must be incorporated into our daily routine in form of sports or regular exercise; and limit alcohol consumption and don’t smoke.
According to the WHO, gender is a critical determinant of mental health and mental illness. Depression for example, has been found to be overrepresented among women and also found to be more persistent and unresponsive to treatment among women. Pay attention to symptoms of excessive fear and worry, social withdrawal, decreased energy and any dramatic changes in general wellbeing and it is important to speak to a physician about any of these symptoms as they may be indicative of an underlying illness.
As we know, women are natural nurturers and have a tendency to nurture and care for everyone around, while forgetting to tend to themselves. So, spend some designated time away from work and family duties for rest and relaxation, and treat yourself with a “me day”. Also, build and maintain meaningful relationships with people, with whom you can relate to in a healthy and positive fashion. This can help reduce stress and provide a sense of belonging and security that will eventually promote good emotional health.
Gender disparities in diagnosing and managing medical conditions is slowly coming to light and as much as we as women are grateful for how far we have come, we still have a long way to go in research and studying what works for women in particular. While we wait for more to be done, let’s take charge. So, look out for yourself, report any unusual symptoms or feeling, make healthy choices, build strong relationships, and be happy and grateful.