HYDERABAD: Changing lifestyle habits and pressures have led to a significant rise in adverse health effects in women across all age groups. From school going girls, young working women to elderly ladies, they all have to cope with health related challenges at different phases of their lives.
The best way to stay healthy is to have a good understanding of health risks and their preventive measures. Some of the conditions women need to be aware of are: Heart disease, Premenstrual Syndrome, Osteoporosis and Urinary Tract Infections. These predominant issues if not tackled correctly may lead to serious health consequences.
Heart disease is the number one killer in both men and women. However, it tends to remain undetected in women as the symptoms are subtle and are often missed by doctors and even patients themselves. It is therefore very important for a woman to know her own risk factors including familial history, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. High cholesterol is a major cause of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) in women; it requires lifestyle modifications like exercise, healthy diet and a stress free life.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) develops several days before the period. It affects nearly 75 per cent of women during their childbearing years. PMS symptoms begin to appear during late 20s and early 30s. The symptoms can also appear any time between puberty and menopause. The most common symptoms of PMS include mood swings, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, breast tenderness, changes in appetite, etc. Some women with PMS may develop cramps as well.
PMS is caused by rising and falling levels of estrogen and progesterone, which may influence brain chemicals, including serotonin, a substance that has a strong effect on mood. Dietary changes & exercise may help relieve symptoms. When symptoms are severe, serotonergic antidepressant medication may be prescribed. Increased serotonin levels reduce PMS symptoms.
Osteoporosis is a medical condition that leads to decrease in bone density and diminishing strength which results in fragile bones. Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men and the risk augments during menopause. By the age of 30, bones in women reach the peak bone mass and are at their strongest. The bones begin to breakdown as the age increases and the process speeds up as women approach menopause. In the first five to seven years following menopause, women are likely to lose up to 20 percent of bone mass.
Steps to reduce risk of osteoporosis:
- Ensure proper calcium and vitamin D intake as per the recommended values. Sources of Calcium include dairy products, leafy vegetables, soy milk and calcium-fortified foods and beverages like orange juice, cereals etc.
- Exercise regularly. As far as preventing and managing osteoporosis is concerned, two kinds of exercises are most effective:
- Resistance exercises using dumbbells or resistance bands
- Weight bearing exercises such as walking, jogging and climbing stairs.
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables
- Drink alcohol in moderation
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in Women
Women are particularly prone to UTIs as they have shorter urethras. The E.coli bacteria escaping the anus invade the urethra and then travel to bladder (if not treated) and continue on to infect the kidneys as well. Poor hygiene is also one of the causes of UTIs in women.
Burning sensation during urination, frequent urge to urinate, tiredness, pain in your lower abdomen & back, pressure in the belly are some of the symptoms of UTI. Permanent damage to the urinary tract, kidney failure and blood poisoning are some of the serious complications of UTIs. Please seek immediate medical help, if pregnant or diabetic and have high temperature along with malaise, lethargy, chills and vomiting.
A doctor evaluates on the basis of symptoms, history, medications, lifestyle and physical examinations. The lab tests complete the evaluation. A quick urine dipstick test and then urine culture will help the doctor to confirm the infection. Urine analysis will help test the urine for signs of infections such as presence of blood, pus, epithelial cells and bacteria.
The basic preventive action is to drink plenty of fluids, particularly cranberry juice as scientific evidence strongly shows that cranberries help prevent adhesion of bacteria to the bladder cells. After every bowel movement, wipe from front to back (Vagina to anus), not the other way – to prevent the entry of bacteria from anus to vagina.
Women can have a healthy life by getting early and regular health checkups. They should also get the recommended breast cancer, cervical cancer, and bone density screenings done to rule out future complications and risks.