“From the bitterness of disease, man learns the sweetness of health.” That’s a Catalan proverb that speaks to the importance of maintaining our well-being.
When was the last time you went for a full physical check up?
Do you know your blood pressure parameters?
Do you know your haemoglobin levels?
What about your reproductive health?
Had a pap smear recently?
Breast health check-up?
These are just a few questions to ask yourself. Women are usually the strength of the community. They nurture and bring up families, often neglecting their personal welfare.
Below are the top mortality causes that you, as a woman, should watch out for.
According to the World Health Organisation, as of 2015, the maternal death rate was 239 in 100,000 live births. This is higher in the rural areas than urban centres. This is replicated in other developing countries.
75 percent of maternal deaths are as a result of:
• Severe bleeding after child birth
• Infections after child birth
• High blood pressure during pregnancy and lack of proper monitoring
• Complications after delivery
The other 25 percent is from having malaria or AIDS-related complications during pregnancy
• Attend your antenatal clinics religiously to allow proper monitoring of existing conditions.
• Seek skilled care during childbirth, and care and support in the weeks following childbirth. This will allow for safe delivery.
Cancer cases are on a steady climb and this is worrying. Not a week passes before someone asks for monetary contributions for offsetting medical bills of a loved one.
Official data shows that in Kenya, reported deaths from cancer rose from 14, 175 in 2014 to 15,714 in 2015.
By 2026, the rate will likely double. As it stands, there is a 12 percent risk of dying from cancer if you live in Kenya.
For the women-specific cancers, cervical and breast cancers are the leading causes of death followed by ovarian cancer.
For the men, prostate cancer is leading followed closely by oesophageal cancer. Cancer is classed as a lifestyle disease and the major predisposing factor is our everyday habits.
• Take care of your health by going for regular checks.
• This being the Cancer Awareness Month, take advantage of the subsidised rates and get yourself a mammogram and a pap smear.
• Make healthy eating a habit, exercise, drink alcohol only in moderation and quit smoking.
Cardiovascular diseases refer to the diseases of the heart and circulation. They include heart attacks, coronary heart disease, angina and stroke. They are non-communicable diseases.
In developed countries, heart disease is the leading cause of death among women and this is slowly catching on in the developing world.
Dr William Maina of Ministry of Health notes the growing strain that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) — such as heart disease, stroke and cancers — are placing on the national health care system.
“We are seeing the burden of NCDs escalate in this country. If you walk into any hospital, you will find more than half the occupancy of hospital beds is due to NCDs. Almost half of deaths reported by hospitals are due to NCDs,” he says.
The risk factors include high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use.
• Watch your blood pressure
• Lower your stress levels
• Stop smoking
• Make healthy food choices
• Limit alcohol to one drink a day
Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS rightly stated that AIDS is sadly an epidemic largely for women.
Women are at considerably higher risk of HIV infection than men. The 7th edition of AIDS in Kenya reports that the prevalence rate is eight percent in women compared to four percent in men.
Women also experience a shorter life expectancy due to HIV and AIDS. Official data states that 50,530 women, and 38,090 men were infected with HIV in 2013.
Young women between the ages of 15-24 contribute to 23 percent of new infection rates.
• Practice safe sex and remain faithful to one partner
• Get tested and know your status
• Adhere to the anti-retroviral therapy specifications if infected
• If you are pregnant and living with HIV, attend your ante-natal clinics faithfully to reduce risk of mother-to-child transmission.
Pneumonia is the swelling of tissue in one or both lungs where the air sacs get filled up with fluid. It is characterised by intense chest pains, breathing difficulty, rapid heartbeat and a cough.
The symptoms may develop pretty quickly in 24-48 hours or slowly over time.
Pneumonia has been cited as a top killer in women and young children and more so those in the rural areas.
• Get your children vaccinated.
• Avoid the risk factors including smoking indoors, using kerosene, animal waste, charcoal and wood fuel for cooking in poorly ventilated spaces.
DIABETES AND TB
Though they have been flagged as grave health concerns for women, gender-specific studies haven’t been conducted to quantify the prevalence.
Diabetes, specifically Diabetes Mellitus, has been on the rise lately. It is a chronic disease attributed to being overweight and lack of physical activity.
Unfortunately, in Kenya it is often diagnosed too late when the health complications have set in.
TB has been like a thorn in Kenya’s flesh since independence. According to the TB advocacy group, Stop TB Partnership Kenya, at least 60 people die everyday while 270 new infections come up.
• Avoid smoking, alcohol and drug abuse
• Get tested for TB, more so if you are living with HIV or you have been treated for TB in the past two years.