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Five major health concerns for women

While breast cancer is the most prevalent among women over 20, cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer. Poor hygiene and unsafe sex are also cited by WHO as two big reasons behind mortality in women. Here’s how you can avoid them.

health and fitness Updated: Apr 24, 2012 14:57 IST

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 80 per cent of women face health risks associated with diet and the environment. While breast cancer is the most prevalent among women over 20, cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer. Poor hygiene and unsafe sex are also cited by WHO as two big reasons behind mortality in women. Here’s how you can avoid them.

Five diseases to guard yourself against

Breast Cancer
Causes: Obesity and delayed age of child birth, among others. “Less than 2 per cent of breast cancer cases are hereditary. However, if a first degree relative had or has breast cancer, women should start screening five years before the usual age of examination,” says Dr Purvish M Parikh, oncologist, Medico.in.

Prevention: Doctors say that regular exercise, even a 15-minute brisk walk, is a must to fight obesity that leads to this cancer. Regular breast self-examination is also a must for early detection. “It should be done every month from the age of 20 years. After 40 years of age, women should go for an annual mammography and sonography of the breast,” says Dr Parikh. The right diet: Low fat food, plenty of green leafy vegetables and fruits are best.

Cervical Cancer
Causes: Infection by a type of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the biggest cause for cervical cancer, followed by smoking. Sex at an early age, multiple sexual partners and having a partner who has had many sex partners increases the risk of cervical cancer. However, this is one of the most preventable types of cancer, say doctors.

Prevention: Take regular pap smear tests to detect cervical changes before they turn into cancer. “Limit the number of sexual partners. Avoid smoking as smoking combined with an HPV infection can accelerate cervical cancer. Take the HPV vaccine that requires a series of three injections over a six-month period,” suggests Dr Neema Sharma, gynaec and cancer surgeon, Fortis Vasant Kunj, Delhi. The right diet: A diet high in antioxidants, carotenoids, flavonoids, and folate can help fight infection. Eat apples, broccoli, cabbage, garlic, lettuce and beans.

PCOS
Causes:
Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a lifestyle disorder in which there is an imbalance of female sex hormones due to which the eggs do not mature and are not released from the ovaries. Instead, they form tiny cysts. This may result in weight gain, acne, fertility issues and breast cancer.

Prevention: Doctors say that weight loss is the most effective method of restoring normal ovulation/menstruation. Intake of low-fat food also helps keep hormone levels in control. “A low-carb, low-fat diet and sustained regular exercise may help in weight loss,” suggests Dr Anup Dhir, senior consultant, Apollo Hospital. The right diet: Experts recommend a low glycemic index (GI) diet in which a significant part of carbohydrates are obtained from fruits, veggies and whole grains.

UTI
Causes:
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) are more common in women as the female urethra is closer to the anus, hence organisms can find their way to the urinary bladder more easily and cause infection. UTIs may result in increased frequency of urination, burning and pain during urination, accompanied by fever with chills.

Prevention: Maintaining good hygiene is imperative to prevent UTI, say doctors. “Couples must
be counselled to wash after intercourse and avoid urinating before intercourse,” says Dr Nikita Trehan, gynaecologist and laparoscopic surgeon, Sunrise Hospitals. “Post menopause, women may need local oestrogen in case they have frequent UTIs. UTIs should be treated promptly as the failure to do so may cost the person their kidney.” The right diet: Drink plenty of fluids like plain water and juices. Cranberry juice has been shown to be effective.

Anorexia
Causes: Primarily a psychological disorder involving an intense fear of gaining weight. Anorexia nervosa is a complex eating disorder characterised by drastic diets and fasting, or through forced vomiting and using laxatives. Extreme anorexia can lead to heart and stomach problems and kidney failure.

Prevention: “The food and weight-related issues are symptoms of something deeper, like depression, loneliness, insecurity, pressure to be perfect. These patients need to see a psychiatrist,” says Dr Anup Dhir, senior consultant at Apollo Hospital. The right diet: A normal diet along with zinc, omega 3 fatty acids and micronutrients. In fact, at least for the initial period, you should eat everything to your heart’s content. You needn’t bother about gaining weight, because that is the idea!