Diseases women should look out for

27 Jan, 2018 - 00:01 0 Views
Diseases women should look out for

The Chronicle

Breast Cancer Pic1

Bongiwe Nkomazana
Women are more prone to diseases  compared to men due to socio-economic conditions that generally deprive half of the population access to healthy food and healthcare facilities.

That being said, today, I would like us to concentrate on some of the diseases that are associated with women, not because men do not get them, but because they attack us disproportionately to men due to variations in genes, anatomy, and hormone levels. I repeat, to any men who are reading this, that the “women” diseases that we will discuss can absolutely be found in men too so watch out for the symptoms just as much as the ladies will be.

So when I was thinking about this subject, the disease that jumped straight into my mind was breast cancer. I think this one is immediately associated with women for obvious reasons right? Women have breasts and men do not. Only one percent of men get it. We make up the other 99 percent because we have more breast tissue. I mean every good thing has its downfall including our “girls” and this is a tragedy not only to women but to men also so let us take a moment of silence. I am sure most of us know we should self-examine our twins regularly to feel for any peculiar lumps but what causes that lump?

Researchers have identified hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors that may cause breast cancer…and to me that is a bit broad so I will break it down. Basically, breast cancer occurs when some breast cells begin to grow abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate, forming a lump or a mass. Some women are more likely to have it in their lifetime than others and some of the risk factors include a history of breast cancer in your family, obesity or having never been pregnant. Is it not so true how we learn something new every day? Who knew that if you started your period earlier or if you went into menopause late you are at more risk of being diagnosed with this type of cancer? The many risk factors make it sound like each and every one of us is at risk and that is okay because WE ARE!! Let us get ourselves checked.

Other ailments that hit the “shes” and “hers” of this world are eating disorders. Correct me if I am wrong but there is a common view, especially amongst my African people, that eating disorders are a choice. Let me reassure you that they are not and study shows that the mortality rate associated with anorexia (which is a type of eating disorder) is twelve times higher than the death rate of all causes of death for females aged between 15 and 24 years of age and without treatment, up to 20 percent of people with serious eating disorders die.

Eating Disorder Hope describes them as illnesses that are characterised by irregular eating habits and severe distress or concern about body weight or shape. Who are more concerned about their weight and body image…women! We are so engrossed in trying to have the perfect body that we forget that there is no such thing. I have heard of the absurd diets that include drinking water with cayenne pepper only with no solids for weeks to weight loss pills that claim to give super fast results. These are successful industries worth billions of dollars because they saw this vulnerability and prey on the woman’s need to look good. This vulnerability is what makes us more prone to an eating disorder of some form. Of which the different forms are bulimia, the already mentioned anorexia, purging disorder and binge eating disorder to name a few.

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So a lot of people will wonder how a human being could hate food and have an unhealthy appetite. Well, there are a lot of causes for eating disorders.

Usually a woman who has been out of shape before will go to all measures to never return to that state. Also a lot of female dominated professions like, modelling, air-hosting and ballet require the employees to be a certain weight and not to mention the body goals we see on Instagram…those are enough to drive you insane leading to obsessions with calories and contents of food. Talking about obsessions, which are a symptom, if you want to know whether you or someone you care about has an eating disorder the signs to look out for include persistent or long-term dieting despite being unhealthily underweight, avoiding social gatherings and isolation and ritualistic patterns when eating like only eating five spoons of a meal. This is a complex disease that involves a medical practitioner and its treatment can vary from therapy to nutrition restoration.

The last one I will touch on is osteoporosis. My dictionary defines it as a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, typically as a result of hormonal changes, or deficiency of calcium or vitamin D. In  simpler terms, it is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both resulting in weak bones that may break from even a minor fall or sneezing and minor bumps. Guess who the poster child for osteoporosis is… You got it right if you guessed women. The worst part about it is that you do not actually know you have it until you fracture a bone. The spine, hips, ribs, and wrists are common areas of bone fractures from osteoporosis and come to think of it this could be why we hear the elderly complain of back pains and have hip replacements. As much as it seems to affect older women, osteoporosis can be prevented or treated at an early age through supplements, stopping the intake of alcohol and cigarettes, getting adequate exercise and a diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D.

There is way more diseases women should look out for like thyroid problems, bladder infections, lupus the list is endless but please allow me to throw in this interesting fact. A woman’s body is different from a man’s and because of the basic inequalities between man and women; women face a greater risk of disease and poor health. However, for some reason, we are hesitant or less likely to seek and receive treatment until we are on a death bed. Hesperian Health Guides gives an example of how tuberculosis is rife in both men and women but fewer women will get treatment. Why are we like this? I think the strongest tool is knowledge. So, if you know what you are likely to suffer from just by virtue of being female and then keep educating yourself on the different preventions, symptoms and treatments to these sicknesses half the battle has been fought. Our life expectancy as the female species is still higher but imagine if we were pro-active in our health. This felt a bit too statistic oriented but we need to know the cold hard truth sometimes. Let us do right by ourselves.


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