The health of women and girls attracts particular concerns because, in many of our societies, they are often the most disadvantaged, facing socio-cultural discrimination that significantly impacts their wellbeing. Knowing the basics of female health can help ameliorate some of the problems. Here is our A-Z guide.
By Dr Sithabiso Dube-Khanda
Know yourself, know your body. Most medical conditions can be caught early by self-probing. If something is different, get it checked out by a doctor. Many common women’s cancers, such as breast cancer, are best prevented by regular check-ups and screening.
Body Mass Index is a measure for the human body shape, based on weight and height. It is a method of screening for issues that may lead to health problemsGet your calculator out. The formula: weight (kg) / height (m)2. Anything above 30 is obese. From 25 to 30 is overweight.
The most common cancer found in sub-Saharan African women. The younger age group is particularly vulnerable due to early sexual activity, several partners and a history of HPV infections. It can be found early and sometimes prevented entirely by having regular Pap Smears. Book yours soon if you have never had one.
Don’t do it! Decide to lead a healthy lifestyle instead. In terms of health and weight loss, lifestyle change has been shown to have a more lasting result. Healthy eating, physical activity and some semblance of control can take you further than any get-thin-quick scheme.
A 30-minute walk every day can do you more good than a dozen doctors! The benefits of exercise are endless, from being good for your heart, preventing osteoporosis and strokes to ensuring a healthy pregnancy, promoting weight loss and improving your sex life. The list really does go on!
Many women are unaware they have fibroids, but they affect 40% of women above 35. Complications include heavy periods and anaemia, bloating, urinary and bowel problems, miscarriage, premature babies and infertility. Do not panic over a diagnosis of fibroids but talk to you doctor about your treatment options.
Book at least one visit a year. A general examination may reveal things you hadn’t noticed. Be honest about any concerns you have.
The main challenge of using herbs is their unknown long-term side effects. Drugs that are not FDA approved have not been researched sufficiently and may pose problems when they interact with other drugs or foods.
A cyberchondriac is someone who searches medical websites for diseases they convince themselves they have. See a doctor, don’t try and be one.
Research has shown that the food you eat when pregnant can affect the health of your baby. The FASEB Journal shows that women who eat junk food during pregnancy give birth to junk food junkies. Junk food has little nutritional value.
Kale Did you know that 1 cup of raw kale has just 33 calories yet contains 684% of vitamin K, 134% of vitamin C, 206% of Vitamin A plus iron, folate, omega-3s, magnesium, calcium, iron, fiber, and 2 grams of protein – according to Dr Drew Ramsey. We say Go Kale!
The preferred method of feeding your baby, the bond formed between mother and baby by breastfeeding cannot be replicated by anything else. And the benefits of breastfeeding are immense: Not only is breast milk perfectly designed for your baby, it also protects your baby from infections and diseases; it also provides health benefits for you as a mother, for example lowering your risks to breast and ovarian cancer and cardiovascular disease, according to this report.
Women need to see this as a transition, not the beginning of the end. To avoid hot flushes, stay away from caffeine, sugar and spicy foods and exercise – walking 10 minutes a day can alleviate symptoms.
Your nails reveal a lot of information about your health. Colour or shape changes can help in the diagnosis of an acute or chronic disease such as lung or liver disease.
One of the most common conditions facing middleaged women. Calcium supplements can help prevent osteoporosis. You should seek advice if you have a positive family history.
Dysmenorrheal (painful periods) and menorrhagia (heavy periods) may be symptoms of something going wrong. If periods are irregular or last longer than usual you may have a hormonal or structural problem with your reproductive system. Get it checked out by your doctor.
Sometimes a woman has a health problem and she may not show any signs of disease. A common condition is high blood pressure, which is often discovered accidentally. Regular BP measurements are recommended.
Amid the flurry of work, kids, home, husband, you still need time to call your own. It is recommended that you get seven hours of sleep a day for good health. Good rest reduces stress, which benefits your heart. S-elf-diagnosis. Although self-diagnosis and self-medication are more common in today’s urban world, be careful not to fall into the trap of misdiagnosis, addiction, or overuse of certain medications. Your relationship with your doctor is one you should nurture, bringing up all your health concerns during your visits.
Deep Vein Thrombosis is the formation of clots in your deep vessels, usually in the legs. It is a condition more common in women than in men. Women more at risk are those on oral contraceptives, who are bed-ridden or often immobile, for example on long plane trips. Complications include pulmonary embolism or stroke, when the clot is flicked over to the lungs or brain.
The sun can be harmful to the skin and may increase the risk of skin cancers such as melanoma or squamous cell carcinoma. If you see changes in the colour or shape of a mole, get it checked out by a doctor. It may need to be removed and biopsied.
In a high cholesterol diet, blood vessels can become clogged up with deposits, leading to atherosclerosis. This increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Get your cholesterol levels measured. They may be higher than you think.
Washing your hands can prevent a number of infections. It is good practice to wash hands coming in from work even if you are not about to eat.
Radio-imaging such as ultrasound and X-ray helps to diagnose problems that may not be seen during a physical examination. Remember to tell the technician if you are pregnant before having an X-ray.
A very common condition but often misdiagnosed as bacterial vaginosis (BV), yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal medication. BV needs a prescription for an antibiotic. If you are not sure see your doctor.
Z – for Size Zero
Anorexia and bulimia are seldom talked about among black women, yet frequently occur. These eating disorders particularly affect young women, commonly linked to poor self image and depression. Seek professional counsel if you know someone with a problem.