Hello again, I hope that everyone is staying healthy with their loved ones as we persist through this difficult time. Regardless of what has already happened, we are still here, and things will return to normal in time.
On a lighter note, to celebrate the end of National Women’s Health Week I have put together some information concerning a few of the current major concerns in women’s health and how women worldwide are combatting them. While the list of women’s health issues is expansive, medically, politically, and otherwise, for the sake of time I have decided to concentrate on three medical ones today. That being said, I have included a link below to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “Top issues for Women’s Health”, written by Dr. Flavia Bustreo who is the Assistant Director General for Family, Women’s and Children’s Health for the WHO.
The first of these issues includes both breast and cervical cancers. As many of you may know, cancer is a disease in which cells in our bodies start to divide uncontrollably and begin to cause issues for the normal, healthy tissues around them. As of right now, breast cancer is the most common form of female cancer in the world. However, thanks to years of focus on screening with mammograms, early diagnosis, and research towards finding effective ways of treating breast cancer the death rate due to breast cancer has been declining.1, Cervical cancer, on the other hand, is the fourth most common female cancer in the world, however the rate of cervical cancer deaths has plummeted even further than breast cancer thanks to the use of the HPV vaccine and pap smears. The leading cause of Cervical cancer is the Human Papillomavirus, also known as HPV. There are two strains of HPV in particular that have been directly linked to cervical cancer, HPV-16 and 18. This virus replicates inside of cells and causes them to form warts on the skin, inside the mouth, and even in the cervix itself. Due to the turnover rate of the cells in the cervix, these warts can often times become cancerous.
A second issue in women’s health highlighted by the WHO is the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. Dr. Bustreo warns that as we enter the third decade in the fight against HIV the prevalence of young women being afflicted by the disease is only on the rise. The contraction of HIV ultimately causes patients to develop Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, more commonly known as AIDS. This syndrome is a result of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, replicating inside of and then killing cells in the immune system that are in charge of telling other immune cells when to fight. Patients can then become susceptible to infections that otherwise healthy individuals can fight off such as Tuberculosis. The increase of HIV in young women speaks to many systemic issues related to the education and availability of contraception available to this population, as well as others, to protect them from sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. This issue is compounded by the fact that young women will sometimes find difficulty in seeking treatment for HIV due to the disease being so closely associated with the homosexual male population.
A third concern in women’s health as described by the WHO centers around reproductive health. According to the WHO, reproductive health issues, as well as other sexual issues, make up around a third of health issues reported by women ages 15-44. This issue, again, can largely be solved by increasing the availability of contraception in the US as well as furthering efforts to better educate on topics such as safe sex. The WHO cites that around 222 million women go every year without access to these types of resources, putting them women at heightened risks for contractible diseases and unnecessary trauma. Another area of emphasis is on the continued use of well-woman visits by female patients in the US. Ultimately, you know your body infinitely better than your physician ever can. Which is why when you feel as though something isn’t quite right, or you find something somewhere it shouldn’t be it is always your right to bring that someone’s attention.
Which brings us to the next topic of this post; ways to protect yourself from many of these health concerns. These are by no means the only ways to help prevent the conditions we have discussed, and I would always heavily encourage you to talk to your doctor if you are having concerns about your health. In fact, one such way to protect yourself from diseases such as cervical and breast cancers is to have well woman visits. It seems like a given, however, well woman visits don’t always have to only revolve around annual checkups like mammograms. Well woman visits can cover topics as well, like counseling about sexually transmitted infections, immunizations against certain diseases such as the HPV vaccine, and screening and counseling for interpersonal relationships and domestic violence.
Another important habit is being mindful of aspects of your body changing. Ultimately, any and all decisions about your healthcare come from what you are able to tell your doctor about your body and your relationship with it. There are innumerable changes that happen to the female body of the course of a lifetime and so being aware of those changes and their frequency of occurrence can help you and your physician discuss where in that journey you are. Additionally, checking your person regularly, such as for lumps or changes in your skin, is one of the mightiest tools that you have available to detect diseases like certain cancers early.
Lastly, both nutrition and exercise are always important in the conversation of personal health. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that people try to attain a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or some combination of the two. In this case, moderate aerobic activity means any physical activity which causes your heart to beat faster and your breathing to get harder but you are still able to talk, whereas vigorous aerobic activity causes you get warmer or even sweat and you won’t be able to talk as much. The great thing about this time scheme is that you can split up these minutes over as many days and in as many ways as you like. If you have a more open schedule, you could go for a brisk walk for 50 minutes three times a week. If you find your time a little more constrained, you could do an intense core exercise for 15 minutes every weekday and take the weekend off. The possibilities are endless! The other half of that equation is trying to eat well balanced diet to give your body the right fuel it needs to keep you going. A better diet gives your body the ability to better fight off infections and can slow the wearing down of joints. Every individual’s situation is different and so being able to afford a healthier lifestyle may not always be feasible. However, if it you make these things a focus and commit to treating your body well then there is no limit on the things that it can do for you in return.
I have more than overstayed my welcome today and I appreciate anyone who stuck with me through the entirety of all of that! Once again, I hope that everyone is staying safe and healthy. If anyone would like the resources that I used for writing this piece I would be more than happy to add them. Thank you for your time, HAPPY NATIONAL WOMEN’S HEALTH WEEK!
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