Cardiovascular DiseaseCardiovascular disease (including heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure) kills more women annually than all forms of cancer combined. Contrary to the myth, cardiovascular disease actually kills more women than men each year. According to The World Health Report of 2004, every year, more women than men die of CVD and that CVD leads to more deaths in women than cancer, HIV/AIDS and Malaria combined. CVD is the largest cause of death in women and the risk for CVD rises with age (WHO, 2004). Although more women than men die from cardiovascular disease, virtually all randomized controlled trials on risk and treatment have focused on men.
Heart disease in women often goes undetected and untreated until the disease has become severe. As a result, women who have heart attacks die within one year compared to men. Estrogen plays an important role in preventing heart disease. It helps to keep your tissues elastic, which prevents hardening of the arteries. It also helps to keep your cholesterol down. When the protective levels of estrogen go down after menopause, a women’s risk of heart disease goes up, equaling a man’s risk after several years.
Women who are at higher risk for heart disease and heart attack have the following characteristics. they are older, have a family history of heart disease or heart attack, particularly a relative with a heart attack or stroke before age 60, are black, have high blood pressure, have high cholesterol, have poorly controlled diabetes, do not exercise, have high stress, are overweight, smoke cigarettes, and drink more than 3 alcoholic drinks per day.
OsteoporosisOsteoporosis, a debilitating disease characterized by loss of bone mass is responsible for hip fractures each year. The thinning of the bones is extremely common in women. As many as 1 in 3 women are affected, compared to only 1 in 12 men, because women have a lower bone mass than men–and after the menopause, there’s rapid loss of bone. But it’s not just a disease of the elderly. In the UK, thousands of women in their 50s suffer painful and deforming fractures because of osteoporosis. Broken bones–and the complications that can follow–are the major problem in osteoporosis. In the spine, the vertebrae can collapse, causing loss of height, deformity and sometimes severe pain. Hip and wrist fractures are also common. Unfortunately osteoporosis can be difficult to detect in its early stages, so it’s important that you are aware if you’re particularly vulnerable.
Important risk factors for osteoporosis include.
- The menopause
- A family history of osteoporosis
- Thin or slender build
- Caucasian or Asian ethnic origin
- Calcium deficiency
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Taking little exercise
- Smoking more than 20 cigarettes per day
Bone density scans can pick up osteoporosis. The most commonly used is a technique called DXA. If you are at risk from osteoporosis, you may need regular bone scans. Once bone loss has occurred, it cannot be reversed–but there are many things which can be done to prevent further thinning. These include.
A calcium–rich diet is important, although alone it won–t stop osteoporosis. A daily intake of at least 1000mg of calcium is recommended (a little over a pint of milk). Lifestyle changes such as cutting out smoking and alcohol can help.
Weight bearing exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes, three times a week, is very good for strengthening bones. Exercise also helps to improve balance and co–ordination, thereby reducing the chance of falls and broken bones.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). After the menopause, lack of estrogen is the major reason why osteoporosis develops. HRT can restore estrogen in the body and greatly reduces the risk of fractures (it may cut fracture rates by 50%). However, it’s not so for every woman. There are a range of other medical treatments which you can get from your doctor which can help. Ideally, you should be thinking about taking these steps well before the menopause (i.e., in your 30s) in order to build healthy bones before the major risk period.
Mental IllnessAll women are at a risk for depression. Depression cuts across all classes, race and social lines. Depression afflicts twice as many women as men and they are at a higher risk for major depression (although some researchers maintain that depression is under diagnosed in men.) Young women are most prone to get depressed.
What Are the Risk Factors for Depression?
Menstruation and pregnancy generally do not lead to depression. Infertility, however, can be a source of depression for women who want children. Miscarriages and surgical menopause can also cause depressive symptoms.
Women who are more passive, dependent, pessimistic, or negative in their attitudes are more likely to become depressed, particularly if they dwell on their bad feelings.
Sexual and physical abuse
Violent episodes such as battering and rape may leave women with Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Also, un–diagnosed head trauma from battering can cause depressive symptoms.
Marriage and children
Marriage protects men against depression much more than it does women. Mothers of young children are very vulnerable to depression, and the more children a woman has, the more likely it is that she’ll be depressed.
Other high–risk groups
lesbians, adolescents, and women who are alcoholics or drug abusers are all at high risk for depression.
Why are Women More Likely to Experience Depression?
One reason that men may suffer less from depression has to do with different coping styles. Men are more likely to employ action and mastery strategies, that is, to involve themselves in activities (work, sports, going out with friends) that both distract them from their worries and, perhaps more importantly, give them a sense of power and control. Women, on the other hand, tend to ‘brood’ and dwell on their problems, often with other women. This is one reason why many therapists prescribe exercise (especially aerobic exercise) as a partial antidote for depression; it gives women an increased sense of self–discipline, control, and mastery.
Also women who have multiple roles (eg., a job, children, a marriage, volunteer work, all at once) may suffer from much less depression. This is because these women have many different support sources and lots of outlets for their competence: if things aren’t going well in one area, they can compensate by feeling satisfied with their successes in other areas.
We all get ‘The blues’ now and then. This kind of mild, infrequent depressive mood often passes quickly, particularly if you employ some reliable strategies to get through them (going out with friends, settling down into a good book, whatever works for you). Sometimes, however, depression can be severe and stronger measures may be called for. If you are experiencing the symptoms that last more than 2–3 days or if they are interfering with your normal life you need professional help.
In its most extreme form, depression can lead to suicide. If you have any thoughts connected to suicide, you should get therapy AT ONCE. If this is the case, it is extremely important that the prescribing physician understand biological differences in ethnic groups because people from different ethnic backgrounds metabolize drugs differently. The dosages may need to be quite.
Warning Signs of Depression
- Depressive mood, feelings of helplessness and pessimism.
- Sleep disturbances–inability to sleep or sleeping too much, irregular sleep patterns.
- Appetite disturbance, eating far less or far more than usual.
- Social withdrawal, refusal to go out, to see friends.
- Blaming yourself for your problems, or feeling that you’re worthless.
- Inability to concentrate, even on routine tasks.
- Substance abuse–alcohol or drugs.
- Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which sometimes occurs after exposure to violence, are similar to those for depression and can also include.
- Nightmares or flashbacks of the terrifying past events.
- Increased aggression, and feelings of uncontrollable anger.
- Emotional numbing.
- Avoidance of the outside world, especially of anything that reminds you of past raumas.
Eating DisordersEating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia, are about 10 times as common in women as in men. Anorexia, in which a person starves oneself to control their weight, leads to death in one in ten cases.
BeerAphrodisiac or inhibitor of sex?
Alcohol has long been considered a sexual stimulant. As far back as 405 BC, Euripides headily wrote, “Without wine, life will not be worth living. Love and every pleasure known to man will soon cease”. The famous bard Shakespeare was cynically known to say that although alcohol “provokes the desire… ” “It takes away the performance”.
Many of us today believe in this ‘Power of alcohol’ to induce or enhance sexual pleasure. A ‘Psychology Today’ survey of 20,000 people, found that roughly 2 out of 3 women and nearly half of the men believed that alcohol enhanced sexual pleasure–but is it really so?
Research on Alcohol and Sex
Social drinking may affect fertility. One study found that three drinks per day for three weeks interfered with menstruation. Another study of nearly 2,000 women revealed that women who enjoyed one drink or less per day had a higher risk of endometriosis, a condition of the uterine lining, that can result in infertility.
When alcohol and sex mix, the sex arousing powers of alcohol makes you believe you are sexually more potent regardless of other inhibiting factors. In at least three studies, women reported an increase in sexual pleasure as their blood alcohol level increased, despite a decrease in the blood volume that should have lessened ‘Enhanced sexual feeling’.
Even as the sexual urge declined with drinking, 69 women who kept diaries of their sexual experiences reported that drinking ‘Enhanced their desires’. And, of course, men were more sexually aroused when they believed, that they had consumed alcohol, even though they had not.
If you believe alcohol makes you feel sexier, you probably will feel and act that way. Even though it may not be so. As Winston Churchill once said, “I have taken more out of alcohol than it has taken out of me”.
A word of caution however! Alcohol is a very potent and habit–forming substance. Excessive use of alcohol can adversely affect your physical, social, spiritual, and mental health, as well as your sex life. Drink within limits if you must. Drink responsibly, know your limits, and never drink and drive.
Varicose VeinsIt is definitely a woman’s worst foe. There are women who even choose not to have kids since it’d happened to their friends after childbirth.
No, we’re not discussing weight–gain here, but varicose veins! Well, you’d be interested to know just who is vulnerable to it.
First of all let us understand how our veins are made. Our veins are frail structures any how, and any damage to their walls could result in enlargement and/or damage to the valves within. This damage could in turn result in a buildup of what is known as “Static pressure”, causing the veins to bulge–a condition that is symptomatic of varicose veins.
Although the condition is up to four times more common in women, men could also suffer the agony of these enlarged and painful veins. They usually appear as knots and cord–like strands in the legs. Generally, they affect people in their middle age. Those whose jobs require them to stand for long periods of time are especially prone to it, since pressure in the veins could go up by ten times while standing. Other risk factors include obesity and pregnancy. When varicose veins occur around the area of the anus, they are known as hemorrhoids or piles. Fortunately, varicose veins do not pose much of a risk. However, the condition could deteriorate rapidly sometimes, particularly when it involves deeper veins and may even lead to thrombophlebitis, pulmonary embolism, heart attacks and stroke.
A low–fiber diet that is high in refined foods contributes to the development of varicose veins. Such a diet leads to constipation and straining of one’s bowels, which in turn increases pressure in the abdominal region. Over time, walls of the veins weaken, leading to varicose veins or piles. Exercise is vital to those who want to avoid the condition. Standing for too long ought to be avoided first of all. Walking, jogging and cycling could prove beneficial, since contraction of the leg muscles aids circulation.
Some Old Time–Tested Remedies
Horse Chestnut Plant
Among herbs for varicose veins Horse Chestnut (aesculus hippocastanum) is a favorite. The seeds of the plant improve the tone and strength of vein walls. It contains Aescin, which has an anti–inflammatory action to reduce pain and swelling of enlarged veins.
Other herbs that are popular since they lack the side–effects associated with newer forms of treatment are Butcher’s Broom (ruscus aculeatus), Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and Ginkgo biloba (maiden Hair Tree).