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Taking Charge of Women’s Health

Do you ever wonder what it is like to live without diseases? As pleasing as that would be, it is practically impossible to live disease-free. As you age, the fear of being affected by some or other medical condition rises. It is especially pertinent to women who are at a higher risk to fall into the chronic health issues slab often characterized by socioeconomic elements. 

This uniqueness of women’s chronic diseases can be linked to the various stages a woman goes through from gynaecological issues, pregnancy, and menopause. What needs attention here is that females step up and take charge of their health, for there is nothing more important than the well-being of oneself. 

African women have a variety of progressive medical conditions to fear. These conditions when not diagnosed on time could lead to severe repercussions. So, understand your body and watch out for any signs of potential health conditions that might be a hazard to your body.

To celebrate womanhood and make them aware of what stands as a threat to their health, we have compiled the top women’s chronic diseases that need awareness in the African zone and identified them at the earliest.

Top chronic diseases women in Africa should pay attention to

1. Osteoporosis: With age, people especially women lose bone mass faster than the new bones are created causing a bone disease called osteoporosis leading bones to become brittle and weak. It is caused by the lack of estrogen which happens post menopause and causes bone loss. Other causes of osteoporosis are the body’s inability to absorb calcium and deficiency of Calcium or Vitamin D in the body. The various risk factors associated with osteoporosis are genetic, thyroid history, low intake of Calcium and Vitamin D, medication interfering with bone-building like steroids, excessive alcohol consumption or tobacco use, and an inactive lifestyle. Osteoporosis is often characterized by back pain, stooped posture, and brittle bones.

2. Thyroid: The small butterfly-shaped gland which is present at the base of the neck is Thyroid. It is responsible for making thyroid hormone which travels to all the parts of the body through blood. The thyroid controls the metabolism of the body including the menstrual cycle in women. When the thyroid gland is unable to make the right amounts of thyroid hormones, it causes thyroid disease. There are different thyroid diseases affecting women viz. Underactive Thyroid or Hypothyroidism, Overactive Thyroid or Hyperthyroidism, Thyroiditis, Thyroid Cancer and Goitre. It is often characterized by weakness, mood swings, significant weight gain or loss, menstrual Cycle imbalance, sleeping difficulty, and increased or decreased sweating. The thyroid can upset the hormones causing ovulation which in turn will affect and complicate pregnancy. 

Being one of the worst women’s chronic diseases, thyroid treatment includes medication and sometimes surgery. 

3. Breast Cancer: Breast cancer has been slowly becoming one of the most common and deadly diseases in African women with a reported 94378 new cases in the Sub Saharan region. While the disease in itself is complicated, it can be identified at the early stage when paid attention to. Understanding where it happens is a step towards identifying the issue. A woman has three main parts called lobules, ducts, and connective tissue. While lobules have the function of producing milk, ducts carry that milk to the nipple and connective tissue holds everything together for normal functioning. Most breast cancer starts in the ducts or the lobules causing the cells in the area to grow out of control. It can be identified in two categories, Invasive Lobular Carcinoma and Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. There are various risk factors associated with the disease as genetic, sedentary lifestyle, hormone replacement therapy history, and excessive alcohol consumption. Women can identify the symptoms of breast cancer through the symptoms of a lump or mass in or around the breast area, change in size or skin of breast or nipple, clear or bloody discharge from the nipple, and Inflammation or pain in or around the breast area.

4. Cardiovascular: Cardiovascular disease or heart disease is the leading cause of strokes and heart attacks in African women. With risk factors such as genetic, obesity disease, excessive smoking or alcohol consumption, diabetes disease, and unhealthy lifestyle, women have to be cautious more than ever to prevent the condition. It is often characterized by abnormal chest pain or discomfort, abdominal pain or throat, jaw pain, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting

5. Autoimmune Diseases: Autoimmune is one of the most commonly affecting diseases in African women. It happens when there is a flaw or abnormality in the human body and its immune system that defends the body from foreign invaders starts attacking the normal cells. It can happen in one of many ways such as diabetes disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), sclerosis, psoriasis, vitiligo, and Autoimmune Hepatitis. It is often characterized by fatigue, yellowing of eyes and skin, muscle and abdominal pain, stiff joints, constipation or loose stool, abnormal menstrual cycle, significant weight loss, and ulcers.

Women’s chronic diseases are an issue that needs much health awareness and requires women empowerment, especially in Africa where the health of a woman is determined by the socio-economic status. Be wary of the symptoms related to the physical or mental self and consult a doctor immediately in case of an emergency. Maintain a regular doctor appointment to ensure better wellness and early diagnosis. 

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