The month of August is dedicated to raising awareness of the achievements of our nation’s women through National Women’s Month. the 9th August is also National Women’s Day, which historically marks the anniversary of the Great Women’s March of 1956, in which women marched to the Union Buildings to protest the carrying of passport books. It celebrates women in general and the leadership and change brought about by women’s resilience and leadership in our country, not only historically but to this day.
Although common health issues with various chronic diseases and lifestyle challenges are very similar for men and women, women’s physical and mental health issues are unique and therefore need to be addressed differently. Promoting women’s well-being focuses on those aspects of health that affect women disproportionately or exclusively, such as: B. reproductive and hormonal issues and bone health to name a few.
This awareness and proactive management of well-being across a woman’s life continuum is of great importance, as health status at one stage of life can affect health at the following stage. So as we celebrate men’s health awareness each November, we must also focus on women’s health and wellness awareness while celebrating the important achievements of women in our society. Again, it is important to consider the definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. (World Health Organization). The whole man!
To gain a better understanding of the unique issues that impact women’s health and well-being, it is helpful to remember that women’s lives can be broadly divided into distinct life stages, each of which is, on the one hand, deeply miraculous , on the other hand, but also presents special challenges on the other side. Generally, think of pre-teen elementary school girls, teens entering menses and adolescence, young post-teen women now in their reproductive stages of life, mature but relatively young women after they have reached menopause, and aging women Women after the age of 65.
To understand why women’s health and well-being needs our support every step of the way, consider the following:
The girl who menstruates for the first time. Over time, her age at the onset of her first menses had dropped to around 12-13 years old due to hormonal changes at that point in her life. Teenage years are associated with increased physical and emotional development. Often under peer pressure and with an increasing trend towards early first sexual intercourse. Health issues therefore include a significant increase in sexually transmitted diseases, but also in unwanted pregnancy and requests for abortion. Psychological and mental health issues such as depression and, in those with body image issues, eating disorders are also common at this stage of life.
The health problems during the reproductive phase of life, approximately between the ages of 19 and 40, brings the miracle of a healthy pregnancy and child birth. But the challenges associated with breastfeeding an infant, breastfeeding sometimes difficult and colicky infants depriving mothers of sleep. Mental health problems can stem from the different roles that are socially associated with being a woman, and the challenge of keeping lots of balls in the air – being a good mother, partner and career – can lead to burnout and depression. Don’t forget about premenstrual syndrome – it’s real! Real issues such as contraception, painful menstrual periods, excessive menstrual periods with chronic anemia, chronic pain due to endometriosis or screening, and awareness of unique female cancers of the breast, ovaries, uterus and cervix are of great importance at this stage of life.
When a woman achieved this menopause (literally meaning the end of menstruation), the menopause begins when the mind and body have to adjust to the physiological effects that the decrease in the female hormone estrogen and the production of the ovaries have on health and well-being. It can cause the so-called hot flashes, abnormal sweating and sometimes mood swings. The way women experience this period in life varies greatly, with symptoms ranging from very mild to distressing. Due to the hormonal change, there is a real risk of osteoporosis with the risk of bones breaking easily and even spontaneously.
In which older person (over 65 years) health management and early detection and early treatment of emerging chronic diseases become very important. Female life expectancy still exceeds male life expectancy by about 7 years, which means that women of this age often experience the loss of loved ones, are lonely and depressed.
As we celebrate Women’s Month, each of us, women and men, should take a moment to reflect on our role in promoting women’s well-being in our country. Starting with those who are close to us – as daughter, wife and mother or grandmother. We need to educate, we need to support and empathize, we need to play a role to unleash the magic of women!
dr Martin de Villiers, MBChB (Act) DOM(Act) FCFP(SA) MBL is Medical Director at Medwell SA. For more information visit www.medwell.co.za