Live life queen size

SHE WOMAN Altering lifestyles and tweaking choices can help women enjoy life in all its hues, suggests Dr Nirmala Chandrashekhar

health

Although both women and men do share many similar health challenges, the differences are such that the health of women deserves particular attention. It has been stated that women generally live longer than men because of both biological and behavioural advantages. However, notably in some parts of Asia, these advantages are overridden by gender-based discrimination, so that female life expectancy at birth is lower than or equal to that of males.

There are conditions that only women experience and hence potentially negative effects only they suffer. Some of these, such as pregnancy and childbirth — are not diseases, but are biological and social processes that carry health risks and require healthcare. Women’s health during the reproductive years (between the ages of 15 and 49 years) is relevant not only to women themselves, but also affects the health and development of the next generation.

Lifestyle is an important factor of health. World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that 60% of factors related to individual health and quality of life are strongly correlated to lifestyle. There are many variables of lifestyle that contribute to the health of a person, such as:

Diet and Body Mass Index (BMI): Diet plays a pivotal role in facilitating a healthy lifestyle and has a direct and positive relation with health. Poor diet leads to consequences like obesity which can be measured by BMI. Obesity in women is associated with alterations in the reproductive cycle with a reduction in fertility. It also leads to a potential risk of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and infrequent or no ovulation. Overweight women with PCOS have a tendency towards insulin resistance and are prone to developing diabetes. All these issues make the treatment of infertility more complicated and less effective.

Exercise: Regular exercise provides a host of benefits. It helps in preventing weight gain and maintains weight.

Sleep: Lifestyle may affect sleep and it does influence one’s physical and mental health.

Sexual behaviour: A normal sexual relationship is necessary to live a healthy life. Dysfunctional sex relations may result in various family problems or sex-related illnesses. There is a lack of knowledge regarding contraception and unsafe sex which result in unwanted pregnancies and its complications like unsafe abortions, complications of pregnancy and childbirth, and sexually transmitted infections including HIV.

Substance abuse: Addiction is considered as another contributor to an unhealthy lifestyle. Smoking and other substance abuse may result in various illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, cancer etc.

Application of modern technologies: Use of electronic devices late into the night affects the sleep pattern and worsens the quality of sleep. This may in turn trigger other diseases such as depression and obesity.

Heart disease, cancer, and stroke are currently the top three leading causes of death in females. A woman can reduce her risk for these and other diseases by adopting healthier lifestyle choices. Below are few simple measures women can take to protect and improve their health. These include:

Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in unhealthy fats.

Exercising 20 to 30 minutes most days of the week.

Avoiding consumption of cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and also avoiding passive smoking.

Maintaining a healthy body weight.

Getting regular health check-ups and screenings, including those for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers.

Getting appropriate vaccinations.

Awareness regarding one’s health risks based on family and medical history, lifestyle choices, and other factors.

Get enough sleep, relax and manage stress.

(The author is consultant obstetrics, gynaecology & gynaec oncology, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital, Bengaluru)

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