Jean Shinoda Bolen had aptly said, “When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, cares enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.” Ladies, you need to make a room for your wellbeing, where at least you can think about how to look after your wellness.
Women, you look after your family members, children, and others around you sincerely. You spend time with them to provide them a better life. And, you do so by compromising with your own-quality-time. But as you already know, a woman’s health can be assessed on multiple indicators, including geography, culture, and socio-economic status. Her health, as is the biological anatomy, differs from men in several ways. WHO has defined the term, “health” as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". This indicates that a holistic approach is the key, and in fact, essential.
At present, women in India face a horde of health glitches that ultimately affect the aggregate economy's output. Addressing the gender, class or ethnic disparities that also exist in healthcare and improving the health outcomes can add to economic gain through the creation of quality human capital and increased levels of savings and investment.Climate havoc alsotriggers of heart problems in women. Dr. Taruna Dua, Consultant, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Aakash Healthcare Super Specialty Hospital, said, “A change in the climatic conditions does significantly affect health of women and pregnant women in particular. The change in climatic conditions lead to a rise in the prevalence of infective agents enhanced occurrences of infectious diseases, particularly vector borne diseases. The pregnant women being the vulnerable group tend to get more affected. There is also increase incidence of lung cancer, asthma, Heart attack, and strokes and dementia in older women. While these are the direct impacts there are also indirect impacts like occupational impacts, Under Nutritional Impacts and also mental stress.”Starting with heart health, as someone has correctly said, “Heart health is at the heart of all health.”
We checked with Dr. Parvatagouda C, Consultant, Cardiology & Cardiac Surgery, Aakash Healthcare Super Specialty Hospital to understand the common heart problems. She shared that Hypertensive heart disease; Coronary artery disease (Blockage in arteries leading to heart attack); Valvular heart disease; (Rheumatic heart disease leading to stenos is & regurgitation of valves); and Arrhythmia like atrial fibrillation (irregularly beating heart with increased rate) are different types of heart diseases.A study says that Indian women are being more prone to heart attacks due to high-stress lifestyle, and the symptoms are often ignored or misconstrued. Susceptibility to heart attacks for women is mostly due to ignoring the symptoms and fast-paced lifestyle.We read a study by a diagnostic chain SRL Diagnostics, which stated that 48 percent women in the age group of 46-60 years had the highest level of abnormality in the lipid profile tests. A lipid profile test measures the amount of cholesterol present in lipid-carrier proteins like low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and fats (triglyceride) present in the blood and determines the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). It is based on more than 3.3 million lipid profile tests performed at SRL diagnostic labs across India between 2014 and 2016. The same survey also stated that nearly 50 per cent of women in India live with an abnormal cholesterol level, an alarming indicator of the risk of their being prone to cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Stress is one of the major causes of heart risks, especially in women, who tirelessly try balancing both their personal and professional or social lives. We spend nearly one-third of our time working in the office, home or somewhere else.
Lifestyle imbalance and high stress also leads to unhealthy habits like smoking. Shamantha K- Counselling Psychologist-Fortis Hospitals, Bangalore, explained how smoking and stress are related to a woman. “Women tend to reach out for a smoke more likely than men when in a stressful situation.. The reason why one feels calm after smoking is because nicotine is a mood-altering drug, in other terms dopamine is released. The fact is it increases the levels of stress in one’s body by increasing the blood pressure, heart rate, constrict blood vessels, decrease the flow of oxygen to the brain and restrict healthy coping skills to the individual.” In fact, “the chemicals in the tobacco enter our bloodstream and expose the whole body to risk of several diseases like lung cancer, colon cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, hypertension, risk of heart diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, reduced fertility and the list goes on. Enough literatures say that maternal smoking isclearly associated to birth related defects. It could lead to a wide range of defects, including cardio vascular abnormalities in the baby and various other defects. So, maternal smoking is an absolute NO”, says Dr. Walia Murshida Huda, Senior Medical Officer, Healthians.
Working tirelessly, causes exhaustion and stress. Needless to say, women are more prone to stress. Ms. Pritika Singh, CEO and Planning and Strategy, Director of Prayag Hospital, explained how stress impacts a woman's health, “According to many studies women differ from men not only in their emotional responses to stress, but also in their physical and mental health, particularly their acute and chronic stress may take a greater toll. Women may face many problems due to stress that includes irregular periods, acne breakouts, hair loss, poor digestion, depression, insomnia, weight gain, and many more.” If you refer the descriptions mentioned above, you would realize that most of these resultants directly or indirectly, impact a heart’s health.Dr. Ranjana Sharma, Senior Consultant, Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, shared that stress can lead to the problems with delivery. “When a mother goes into labour, if she is stressed then it is not good for a normal delivery. The labour lasts for hours, if the mother is stressed out, it may interfere with a normal delivery. But there is no evidence to suggest that if the mother is stressed then the baby will be abnormal.”
AWHO study reveals that a thousandwomen die every day because of the consequences of pregnancy and childbirth. Discrimination between girls and boys often squeezes the access to nutrition and healthcare services and well-being. In some parts of the world girls are forced into early marriage, pregnancy and harmful practices like female genital mutilation, etc., which pose serious health risks. Dr. Sharma shared the following hacks to avoid gynecologic problems. Infection: To avoid infection, women must follow proper hygiene.One must also know the medical history of one’s sexual partners, whether they have had a history of infection. Use of condom is a very good idea. To avoid infection in urine, which can occur due to sexual activity- passing urine before and after sexual intercourse, can help in avoiding UTIs? The HPV vaccine can prevent cervix cancer. One must vaccinate against viruses against which vaccines are available, for example Hepatitis B.In case of Endometriosis,you must see a doctor well in time, especially if you have severe painful periods. If one ignores it or delays seeking medical help, then it can lead to infertility.
Dr. Parinita Kaur, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Aakash Healthcare Super Specialty Hospital, emphasized that women should never ignore certain symptoms like even general weakness as it could mean anything from a nutritional deficiency to chronic infections, anaemia, cardiac disease, malignancy to even psychological disorders like Depression. Other common symptoms and signs to watch out for are prolonged fever, menstrual irregularities, post-menopausal or post coital bleeding, new onset headaches, any swelling or lumps on the body, etc.”
Now, coming to hygiene and sanitation, which plays a significant role in women’s health, Dr. Geeta Baruah Nath, HOD Obs & Gyne Department, Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon, expressed, “Maintaining Hygiene and Sanitation is extremely important for a woman to remain healthy. Good habit of washing and drying, to use cotton undergarments and lowers so that skin can breathe to prevent infection need to be inculcated from childhood. Unhygienic habits and unsafe sex can lead to bacterial, fungal, mixed infection, which in turn can cause tubal block and infertility along with other health hazards even reproductive tract cancer.”
Vikas Bagaria, Founder -PeeSafe, India's leading personal hygiene brandexpressed, “Poor sanitation practices are depriving women to use publictoilets for the chances of getting infections, vaginal burns and UTI. It can be even worse, however, PeeSafe aims at giving women a comfortable and safe experience while they use the toilets - with the help of toilet seat sanitizer spray that protects users from the deadly germs and bacteria while using the toilet.” Amazing solution indeed! But we were curious to know if it is safe for pregnant women and children, to which he answered, “It is a unisex spray which is completely safe and can be used by pregnant women as well as children above five years of age.”
Dr. Gayatri Despande, Consultant Genealogist, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital describes, “...As soon as you have a confirmatory test of the pregnancy you must consult a gynaecologist to know what is right and wrong for your baby’s health and you. The basic tests like ultrasound, thyroid profile, evaluation of anaemia and vitamin deficiency are some of the necessary investigation for pregnant women. There are lots of supportive groups as well as prenatal classes and workshops available, which can take care of physical and emotional needs of expectant mothers. Lastly, one must choose the right place where the facility for the mother as well as the new born is available under one roof.” Dr. Snehal Singh, Sr. Wellness and Lifestyle Management Consultant, Healthians, underlined that a pregnant woman has to be watchful of normal body changes that happen during each trimester of pregnancy as wellfor the signs like severe pain in lower abdomen, bleeding, cramps, excessive vomiting, headache, sudden bleeding, vaginal discharge, and fever, as the doctor needs to be consulted in such cases. Even after a baby is born, a new mom needs to be careful as Kejal Sheth, Founder of Nutrivity.in and Nutritionist suggests. She suggested that a new mom should consume whole grains, cereals, pulses, dried fruits, fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs and chicken; avoid aerated drinks and alcohols and switch to fresh vegetable juice, fruit juice, coconut water or fruit infused water; add galactagogues like Halim seeds, flax seeds, garlic, barley water, Methi nuts ladoo, etc., to promote milk formation; have at least 10 glasses water a day; include 3 servings of dark green leafy veggies a day, and 2 fruits at least and have good quality protein; and avoid high fat and junk foods.
Throwing light on fighting Menstruation Taboos, Dr. Rita Bakshi, Senior Gynaecologist and Founder, International Fertility Centre talked about menstrual hygiene. She said that there are disadvantages of using unhygienic clothes during their menstruation days. “Most women in rural areas spend most of the money in buying sarees and bangles but still think that buying a sanitary napkin is something which is not really required. Women in rural areas, in today’s times also use soil and ash during their days of menstruation which is even more agonizing and dreadful. It is very important for them to understand that deviations for sanitary napkins like cloth and ash can easily bog down and are unhealthy for the vagina. It is important to realize that there are number of germs and infections that these alternatives carry, which can be tumorous and cancerous.”Studies by National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR) reveal that for every two women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, one woman dies of it in India. Tobacco (smoked and smokeless) use accounted for 3,17,928 deaths (approx.) in men and women in 2018. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in India and accounts for 14% of all cancers in women. It is believed that two-third of cancers are preventable. Some of the cancers like breast, cervical, skin, ovarian, lung, and endometrial cancer are the most common cancers in women. Paying regular attention to the abnormal changes in a woman’s body helps. Coming back to menstrual hygiene, which on being neglected may lead to cancer, Ms. Lina Ashar, Founder of Kangaroo Kids Education Ltd. said, “the schools can opt to provide sanitary napkins through vending machines; they should also provide medical assistance and counselling sessions to cope with the monthly cycle.”
Dr. Bakshi alsomentioned about having women-friendly toilets. “The women friendly toilets must be easily accessed and afforded by women (in cases where maintenance charges are required). It must have a provision of a women care taker and restrict loitering of men around it as this eventually leads to increased rapes and malpractices in and around the toilet. Along with this, it must cater to menstrual hygiene management with access to sanitary pads, clean water and hygienic toilets for prevention from various threats of diseases.”
As one-third of all female deaths are due to cardiovascular diseases and strokes, as per WHO studies, weight management becomes imperative for having a healthy heart. Sonal Saxena, Co-Founder of EatWithIndia (EWI) in the context of healthy eating and staying fit suggested, “Eat organic as it’s important that what you eat benefits your health rather than hampering it; b) Portion control - eat small quantities / portions; and c) Eat at right time, try and maintain a cycle.”Ms. Sheth, whois also a Weight Management Expertshared a few hacks that include, jogging and yoga, staying hydrated (to avoid bloating and water retention), consumption of seasonal fruits and vegetables, and being mindful while eating.While discussing about this, we also felt that the aspects of body shaming shouldn’t be left out. Body shaming may lead to depression, eating disorders, etc. aggravating various ailments. We asked Ms. Sheth to talk about it. She said, “Everybody is unique and there is certain uniqueness in that imperfection. Today, young girls want to achieve a zero figure, and starve themselves to being skinny. Social media has given rise to this so-called trend of body shaming, but every person, be it male or a female should develop a sense of pride in the way they look and their body. All bodies are different; the physic characteristics can be linked to metabolic difference between the individuals. Everyone should not work their way in being thin or skinny instead develop a lifestyle that is healthy not just for the body but for the mind too.”
Body shaming is actually a torture in disguise. More than this, torturing oneself by staying unhealthy is even an intenser torture. A woman is the foundation brick and pillar of every house, her health condition can ensure the health condition of her family. Stay fit ladies, if you want to take care of your family so they can stay fit.