As it’s Women’s Month in August, we thought we’d have a little fun and spice things up by creating an acronym that you can use to super-charge your month as a fabulous South African woman. It’s called WOW BOD – and it is the 6 most common health risks for women that you need to be aware of, to create a healthy body that is wow!
Here they are:
1. W = women-only health problems
A big worry for women is being healthy enough to have children, as they are our future generation. The 4 H’s are a concern in this regard: HIV infection, Herpes, HPV (genital warts) and Hepatitis can all be life-threatening and may put an end to having babies. Although these problems are not limited to women, HPV is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer, which only affects women. They are also at greater risk of HIV infection. Always practice safe sex and ensure that you are in a monogamous relationship. Visit your doctor for more information or STD testing.
2. O = osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the body’s bones to become brittle and weak. In worst cases, even a cough or bending over can cause bones to fracture or break. The most vulnerable spots in the body are the wrist, hip and spine. The disease can also affect men and women of all races, but white and Asian women are most at risk. Calcium supplements and increased calcium intake from milk and other products have been shown to aid prevention, while sufferers of osteoporosis should exercise more regularly to strengthen muscles. A bone which has a muscle pulling on it becomes stronger. See your doctor for more information, a bone density test or about treatments ranging from hormone therapy to bone-building medications.
3. W = weight gain
Obesity carries with it a multitude of health risks, from heart attack to cardio-vascular disease (CVD), circulatory problems and respiratory problems. CVD alone is responsible for killing almost 17-million women around the world each year. The incidence of this disease in South Africa among women aged 35 to 44 is 150% higher than in the United States. Although carbohydrates are singled out as being the biggest culprit, any food intake in excess of 1,500-2,000 calories per day (depending on the size of the woman) will lead to weight gain. Processed carbs are the easiest way to gain weight (junk food and sweet drinks are especially dangerous), so these should be eaten as a treat on special occasions only, or avoided altogether.
4. B = breast cancer
This cancer is a leading cause of death in women, with over 3-million women dying of cancer every year. Fear is also a problem here, which may prevent women from seeking proper medical advice and being screened by doctors, before undergoing radical surgeries like mastectomies. Watch out for lumps, growths and soreness in the breasts, and ask your doctor about a mammogram.
5. O = overly-high blood pressure (hypertension)
Hypertension is the primary cause of strokes, which may cause irreparable brain damage and/or physical disability. Too much sodium (salt) in the diet, which causes the body to retain water, pushes up the blood pressure. A lack of potassium may also be responsible. Regular exercise, sustained weight loss and a reduction of salt are all advised. It is vitally important to be checked (anything higher than 120/80 is high), as high blood pressure is known as ‘the silent killer’ because of the lack of symptoms. See you doctor immediately if you suspect you may have it.
6. D = diabetes
This disease affected 143-million women in 2010 and is expected to rise to 222 million by 2030. Over 2-million women die each year from it. Type-2 diabetes is almost always linked to poor diet and excessive lifestyle. An addiction to sugar, gradual weight gain, lack of exercise and smoking are factors leading to diabetes, which occurs when the body stops responding to insulin. Black and Asian women are most vulnerable, but this disease can affect women of any race group who are overweight and not physically active. See your doctor for a simple blood test to determine whether you are at risk.
Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.