The world is abuzz talking about women CEOs and women athletes – including women wrestlers – women in science, and politics, in space and so on. We’ve also finally gotten to a point where fashion is being a little more inclusive when it comes to bodily dimensions (even if this inclusiveness is only token inclusiveness, displayed as one normal-sized model among 49 anorexic-looking models). We’ve come some bit of the way, for sure.
But how exactly are regular women like us supposed to take the world by storm when many of us are not exactly in the pink of health?
Weakness and sickliness, low immunity and mental health issues hold many women back from their dreams and ambitions. Meanwhile, a host of critical illnesses – including breast cancer and cervical cancer – cut short the stories of many would-be legendary ladies. Countless old, ailing women have insufficient funding to take care of themselves. Lack of sleep, self loathing linked to #bodygoals and lack of sufficient nutrition (in the pursuit to the said #bodygoals) are some other reasons why many women suffer from ill health. Women’s health care has a long way to go. We can’t change society in our lifetimes, most likely. And it might be a while before the powers that be are able to really prioritise women’s health and invest heavily in it.
However, as strong, independent women surely we are not going to be damsels in distress, waiting for someone to rescue us. Here are some factors that we can take into our own hands to minimize and cope with women’s health issues.
Here are 6 ways to maintain women’s health
1. Frequent checks
Women are at higher risk for diabetes and heart disease if they habitually smoke and/or drink alcohol as compared to their male counterparts with a similar volume of consumption. That said, a lot of women have the same stress levels and lifestyle as their male counterparts and might turn to vices as a form of release, the same way that their make counterparts do. Women should, however, at least ensure that they undergo regular checks and diagnostic tests.
Regular visits to the gynecologist to rule out breast cancer and cervical cancer and also less serious disorders like PCOS, PCOD and fibroids are extremely essential.
Women need to balance their need to adhere to beauty standards with the need to be properly nourished. It is possible to be slim and strong at the same time. All you need to do is eat a balanced diet. Read up a bit on how a balanced diet works or (if you have the capital and the budget) talk to a nutritionist.
Alternatively, adhere to these rules of thumb
About 2-3 whole fruit (not juiced) servings per day
- Carbohydrates, represented by rotis, rice, pasta, bread, potatoes
- Protein, represented by meat, chicken, fish, pulses, legumes some nuts and seeds, vegetarian sources like paneer and soy
- Vitamin and fibre from your vegetables (shoutout to all the hardcore non vegetarian folks out there: a vegetable and something vegetarian are not the same thing. Chole, for example, comes under pulses and is a source of protein, not a vegetable).
3. Exercise and strength building
How often have you heard obese people saying to a fit woman who exercises regularly, “but you don’t need to exercise. You’ll disappear.”
Weight loss is not the only benefit to be derived from exercise. In fact, exercise builds muscle and immunity to diseases, improves circulation and respiratory function.
The goal of exercise should be women’s wellness by optimal health and optimal weight. Women who exercise regularly are stronger, healthy women, so long as they consider the need for additional nutrition. It is necessary for women to consume enough carbs to fuel their workout.
4. Mental health
From work stress, to family stress, relationship stress and the unrealistic goals that women set for themselves based on what they see on reality TV and social media, women are sitting ducks for mental health disorders.
Moreover, in general, Indian corporates do not offer any semblance of a work-life balance and this, alongside perpetuated rigid gender roles where women are the caretakers of the home and kids, puts tremendous mental strain on women.
In India, there is the added issue of social stigma attached to seeking help from a mental health professional.
If you find yourself stressed or anxious, find a way to get mental health care. Mental health professionals typically need to adhere to patient confidentiality and cannot tell anyone you see them.
Between all those major roles, most women do not get sufficient sleep. Inadequate sleep for as little as one week can raise glucose levels to the point where you’re literally pre-diabetic.
Lack of sleep also increases your risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
You will experience a lower ability to cope with stress and will find yourself more irritable. You could also suffer from migraines, low immunity and acidity all thanks to even one hour less than your required amount of sleep per night.
Get your 8 hours of proper, peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. There’s no way around this; no hack and no shortcut.
If you suffer from insomnia, consider chamomile tea or bananas close to bedtime. Magnesium also helps promote longer and most restful sleep. Turn down the lights and put your phone away a little before bedtime to combat insomnia
6. Medical insurance/ financial support
Get medical insurance, save for your retirement; perhaps even invest in critical illness cover. Women typically get lower amounts of pension than men and sadly, the pay scales are also tipped in favour of our male colleagues (Even our biggest actresses in both Bollywood and in Hollywood, get paid less than male actors of the same level). We might not be able to change any of this in our lifetimes (though activists will try) but we can look after ourselves by investing in being able to support ourselves financially. Learn the fundamentals of investment and get independent in this regard.