Although both women and men are faced with many health challenges today, women are more vulnerable than men to certain health conditions owing to cultural and biological factors.
We discuss some of the health challenges that majorly or exclusively face women and highlight some of the ways women can manage these challenges amidst their work and family roles.
A lot of women are subjected to extreme strain from work, domestic responsibilities as mothers and wives, and hormonal and aging changes. As a result, they are highly susceptible to a wide range of mental illnesses and conditions that affect their thinking,mood, and behavior. These include anxiety, depression, dementia, and schizophrenia. It has been established that women are more prone to mental illnesses when compared to men.
Women with mental health issues can seek the support of counselors and mental health specialists to help cope with challenges related to mental illnesses. A stress-free work schedule can help women preempt the strain underlying most mental illnesses. This can be achieved by seeking the understanding of employers and adopting more flexible work rhythms through practices such as flextime, at office daycare for children, work shifts, and teleworking among others.
Sexually transmitted diseases and infections
The physiology of women’s reproductive system and the extensive mucosal exposure to seminal fluids predispose them to sexually transmitted diseases and infections. The list of sexually transmitted diseases that women are predisposed to is endless and includes recurrent herpes and vaginal yeast infections, human papillomavirus (HPV), pelvic inflammatory disease, syphilis, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, chlamydia, as well as HIV.
According to WHO untreated syphilis among pregnant women is responsible for 200,000 stillbirths and over 90,000 postnatal fetal deaths. Also, HIV/AIDs affects more women than men.
Women can limit the likelihood of sexually transmitted diseases by taking responsibility in using protective measures when risks are perceived. For example, if you suspect that your consistent partner is having other sexual relations, you should take protective precautions. Also, talk to your gynecologist about how often you should be screened for sexually transmitted diseases and follow up on treatment if need be.
Cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease are among the non-communicable diseases affecting women. Different from the common thinking that these diseases are more among men, studies have shown that they are present in both women and men at almost equal measure. In the US, for example, heart disease is responsible for one out of every five deaths in women. Women are also affected by gender-exclusive cancers such as cervical and breast cancer.
Going for cervical cancer screening every 3 years for those between 21 to 29 years and every 3-5 years for those between 30-64 years is a wise preventative measure. Breast cancer screening should also be done every 3 years for those below 40 years and every year for those above 40.
Other health challenges
Apart from the three discussed, there are many other diseases and conditions affecting women. They include:
- Diseases and conditions of aging including perimenopausal and menopausal conditions like osteoporosis(weakening of bones).
- Maternal health issues including anemia and pre and postpartum depression.
- Autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis,and others that are symptomized by exhaustion, psychosomatic pains, fever, and skin irritation among others.
Early detection and a healthy lifestyle marked by low consumption of sugar and unhealthy fat as well as low stress and frequent exercise, are all key in preventing and managing these health challenges.