Women’s health is a largely neglected subject in Indian families

11:55 am Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine

A shift in policy that addresses the needs of women and their health is the need of the hour

New Delhi, 24th December 2018: The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) 2015/16 shows that less than two-thirds (63%) of married women have any say in their own health care or other household decisions. And 30% of women experienced physical violence since the age of 15. Further, 33% of married women experienced physical violence, 14% sexual violence and 7% spousal sexual violence. Given that about 59 crore of India’s population is composed of women, there is a need to empower them in terms of access to basic health rights.

In an earlier report on women and health, the WHO had indicated that although women tend to live longer, they do not stand to gain from the greater longevity, particularly in parts of Asia. This is due to factors including gender discrimination, and violence against them – which is also an additional risk to their health.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Health is usually put at the backburner in case of women – by them or their families – and any health conditions in them generally go unnoticed until it’s too late. Women are not diagnosed or treated as aggressively as men. A classic example of this is the fact that even though more women than men die of heart disease each year, women receive only 33% of all angioplasties, stents and bypass surgeries; 28% of implantable defibrillators and 36% of open-heart surgeries, according to the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. Women are an integral and indispensable part of any family and therefore, should receive equal attention and care. It is imperative to spread awareness on the fact that women too are prone to serious health problems, which if diagnosed and treated at the right time can help in preventing further complications. Some such health issues in them include cancers of the breast and cervix, heart diseases, pregnancy complications, etc.”

Metabolic syndrome — a combination of increased blood pressure, elevated blood glucose and triglycerides — has a greater impact on women than men. Mental stress and depression affect women’s hearts more. Smoking is much worse for women than men.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Ask all women who are older than 45 for a heart check-up. Make them aware of the need to get timely health check-ups at various stages of life. Ask all young women to do minimum of 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-to-intensity activity (brisk walking) on most, and preferably all, days of the week. Ask women to change their lifestyle to include weight control, increased physical activity, alcohol moderation, sodium restriction and an emphasis on eating fresh fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.”

Some tips for women

  • Reduce your saturated fats intake to less than 7% of calories. Your diet should include oily fish at least twice a week as a source for omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Make sure you do not take hormone replacement therapy, selective estrogen receptor modulators, antioxidant supplements (vitamin E, C and beta-carotene) and folic acid for primary or secondary prevention of heart disease.
  • If you are 65 or older, ask your GP for routine low dose aspirin regardless of heart disease risk status. The upper dose of aspirin for high-risk women is 325 mg per day rather than 162 mg.
  • Reduce bad LDL cholesterol to less than 70 mg/dL in case you have a very high-risk of heart disease.

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