A HEALTH GUIDE FOR WOMEN IN THE 20’S
We cannot state that we are a site dedicated to women’s ambitions and successes if we do not feature articles on one’s biggest asset – their health! It is easy to overlook the importance of health and wellness in our 20s, as studies and our careers take precedence during this period. However, in the overwhelmingly stressful world we live in today, strokes have started manifesting in people as young as 25! Read below as Dr Duma Qolohle, Gynaecologist and Obstetrician, informs us of key health triggers one ought to monitor carefully…
- Weight: Your weight, if unsupervised from early childhood and teenage years, can have grave consequences on your long-term health, reproduction and fertility.
- Maintain a BMI or body mass index (weight(kg) / height (meters squared) of 26 to 30
- A persistent state of overweight is associated with long term and fatal illnesses such as Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension Heart disease and Infertility.
- Being underweight, on the other hand (a BMI below 18.5) is associated with fragile bones and skeleton, poor bone mineralization, stress fractures, and in the long-term structural deformities and ill health.
Precaution: Exercises / gym /physical activity/ and muscle building walks. A balanced diet throughout life and physical activity secures a good musculo-skeletal structure and longevity.
Family chronic illnesses
Identify your family chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, morbid obesity (BMI of 35 or more) and many more. These are potentially life shortening illnesses, and should be avoided at all costs. Furthermore, these conditions may result in complications in the event of pregnancy.
Precaution: Keep yourself informed on these conditions and look for preventative strategies such as healthy eating. Visit your family physician or a dietician with interest in these subjects. Again, physical exercises are cheapest and easiest.
Identify Familial cancers
Hereditary cancers can be devastating, and result from an inherited cancer gene or mutation, which predisposes the affected individual to cancer. Common examples are breast cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, hereditary pheochromocytoma, nevoid basal cell carcinoma, and the list goes on.
Precaution: Mere knowledge that your family member died from cancer should prompt questions about possible inheritance of that particular cancer and others. This is then accompanied by a vigorous annual or 6 monthly surveillance plan organized with the help of your family physician and an expert/specialist in that field.
Smoking, illicit drugs and excessive alcohol
Almost every family can testify of such a member, and the impact is devastating to the entire family. There is often impairment of social relations, occupational functioning and extreme recklessness with harm to one’s self and others. Children, students and young adults are often targeted victims from good homes. Healthcare deterioration and untimely death are the eventualities.
Precaution: Look for subtle signs such as small change/money theft, evasiveness, new strange/suspicious company, disappearing acts and late night outings. Involve the family physician, and if needed the social workers, clinical psychologist and even psychiatrist.
Your early dating years may carry risks
In your early dating years, remember what HIV has done to our societies. Thus no contraception is complete or adequate without consistent, correct use and commitment to condom use. To millions, the condom has been a life-saver.
Precaution: The slogan ‘Abstain, be faithful and Condomise’ has been our government long-time motto. Not knowing one’s partner’s HIV status is irresponsible, yet knowing his negative status does not guarantee HIV immunity.
Human Papilloma virus (HPV), the new sexual epidemic
This virus has long been around, but was misallocated and poorly understood. We now know that this virus is sexually transmitted. It is the all-time cause of male and female genital warts, pre-cancer (dysplasia) of the cervix, invasive cancer of the cervix, cancer of the vagina in late life, cancer of the vulva in elderly women, and cancer of the anus in males and females – a broad spectrum of disease!
Precaution: Vaccination is the sole prevention, and best offered to young girls (age 9 onwards) before their sexual debut. Vaccination is steadily becoming available to boys as well, preferably before their sexual debut. Those who have already started sexual activity, it is safer than sorry, to be vaccinated. The condom may not be completely effective to block HPV.
Monitor your stress levels, burnout and exhaustion
During your early working years, be cautious of burnout and exhaustion. They may dent your career. They are often characterized by long-term hard work, with physical exhaustion, short temper and loss of work passion.
Precaution: Avoid very late night sleeps, take short 7-10 minutes power naps at your desk and wake up revived. If this is not helping take a break and meet those loved ones who normally boost your morale. Gym, jogging and exercise are always helpful. In worse cases consult your family physician, whom may have to exclude anemia, iron deficiency, dehydration and anxiety disorders. A psychologist and later psychiatrist might later be consulted.
Be very cautious of your menstrual cycle disorders
Both heavy menstrual periods and scanty periods are a sign of underlying gynaecological illness and should be investigated.
Precaution: Know your cycle quite well and keep track of the dates and strange changes. Consult your family physician or gynaecologist
Unplanned unwanted pregnancy
Consult early when you have missed a period – pregnancies should be dated and certified safe from ectopic pregnancies, molar pregnancies and non-viable pregnancies. Ectopic pregnancy is known to be fatal
Precaution: Buy a pregnancy test kit and test. If it is a planned/wanted pregnancy, and there are no strange symptoms such as cramps, pain and bleeding, see your doctor on the second month. There is no place for unsafe ‘backstreet’ abortion’ in this day and age.
Article By: Dr Duma Qolohle
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
MB ChB, D.Obstet COG, FCOG (SA)
Suite 504, Mediclinic Muelmed Arcadia