Health Q&A

Women’s Biggest Health Concerns and How to Prevent Them

August 1, 2017

August is National Women’s Month so here at Topmed we wanted to honour this by discussing women’s health.
According to WebMD, the following medical conditions are of the greatest concern to women:

● Heart disease
● Breast Cancer
● Osteoporosis
● Depression

We want to empower you to stay healthy. So, we’ve covered each condition below with a focus on how it can be prevented and overcome.

Heart Disease

While heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in South Africa, it is preventable. Here’s how:

● Get your blood pressure checked
Unfortunately, South Africa has the world’s highest rate of blood pressure among people over 50, with 75% of people not even knowing they have high blood pressure. Get it checked and if it’s high, your doctor will suggest lifestyle changes or prescribed medication.

● Stop smoking
Almost 20% of South Africans over the age of 15 still smoke. We understand that giving up smoking can be difficult so take a look at our top five tips to stop smoking.

● Maintain a healthy weight
1 in 2 adults in South Africa are overweight. Being overweight puts excess strain on your heart and increases your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, which can contribute to heart disease. Cut down on your weight by exercising. It’s recommended you do 2 hours 30 minutes of aerobic activity a week to protect your heart. You can also get to a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet – Health24 offers a great eating plan to help you.

Breast Cancer

Sadly, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, but the risks can be reduced, and as the previous president of the American Medical Women’s Association, Diana Helentjaris, MD, says, “There’s a lot of treatment for breast cancer…It’s not a death sentence”.

Women can reduce their risk of breast cancer by living a healthy lifestyle – maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and not smoking. The best way to deal with breast cancer is to be aware of your body and any changes in your breasts – early detection of cancer is the best way to fight it.

The first noticeable sign of breast cancer is a lump on your breast so check them regularly. 90% of the time breast lumps aren’t cancerous but it’s best to always get them checked. CANSA have a useful infographic showing breast cancer warning signs, myths and facts which includes helpful images on what you should look out for.

Osteoporosis

Women are more likely than men to get osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile. This is for two reasons:
1. Women tend to have smaller and thinner bones
2. Oestrogen, a hormone in women that protects bones, decreases when women reach menopause

The good news is that it’s never too late to look after your bones. Starting an exercise programme is great way to strengthen your bones and muscles. WebMD have some helpful weight-bearing, muscle and non-impact exercise suggestions targeted at preventing and managing osteoporosis.

Certain foods can also help, calcium and vitamin D are important for maintaining strong bones. Calcium can be found in:
● Leafy green vegetables
● Dried fruit
● Tofu
● Yoghurt

And, you can get vitamin D from:
● Oily fish
● Red meat
● Liver
● Egg yolks
● And of course, sun!

Depression

It’s no surprise that depression is a health concern for women with it being the predominate mental health problem worldwide. Again, a healthy lifestyle can fight and prevent depression, this consists of:
● Healthy eating
● Getting plenty of sleep
● Exercising
● Reducing stress
● Cutting down on alcohol intake

However, if you do feel that you’re suffering with depression, it’s important to seek help. The South Africa Federation for Mental Health offers help and support in a number of different ways.

Topmed – Your Plan for a Healthier Life

Topmed’s Wellness Benefit allows you access to certain preventative screening and early detection tests which are payable from Topmed’s Major Medical Benefit, thus extending your day-to-day benefits.

We hope this article will go some way to reassure you that these medical conditions aren’t inevitable, they can be challenged. If you do have health concerns, our trained nurses are on hand to help you through the lifestyle choices you need to improve your health. Get in touch via our contact form or contact us on 0860 00 21 58.