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Posted in Medshield Wellness   |   August 30th, 2019
It is often said that “health is wealth”, and this Women’s Month we take a closer look at women’s health – something that may be neglected because of busy schedules, trying to maintain a work-life balance and, unfortunately, prejudice.
In this regard, Medshield in-house medical advisor Dr Rufaro Machiri shares his belief that regular check-ups are important in maintaining women’s health because, as we know, prevention is better than cure.
“The check-ups I’m referring to are actually available through our wellness benefits, so I would recommend a health-risk assessment, which involves blood sugar, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and a cholesterol measurement annually from the age 16,” he says. “Another good check-up that should be done by women is a mammogram. This should be done once every two years after the age of 40, unless the person is at higher risk, for example, having a family history of breast cancer.
“Another very good test, especially for the female populace above the age of 50, is a bone-density scan, as women are at risk of developing a condition called osteoporosis – where the bones become weak and brittle. The wellness benefit from the Medshield scheme offers a bone-density scan every three years from the age of 50.
“I also think everyone should have an HIV test at least annually, and women should get a pap smear done annually as well,” he says.
Over and above the regular recommended check-ups, women should also educate themselves on contraception and the choices around reproduction, as these are important aspects of taking care of one’s health.
Further, an HPV vaccine is recommended – this is another wellness benefit provided by Medshield. Says Dr Machiri: “There has been a lot of media around HPV vaccination but, in a nutshell, HPV stands for ‘human papillomavirus’, which is a virus that is a risk factor for developing cervical cancer. The vaccination acts against a specific type of virus that is implicated in the development of cervical cancer.”
Although human bodies are relatively similar, some health issues can affect women differently or at a higher rate than men. An example of this is a stroke. Although the symptoms, treatments and risk factors are similar, more women suffer from strokes every year than men. This is partly because there are additional risk factors for women – these include the use of birth-control pills; pregnancy; hormone replacement therapy (used to alleviate symptoms of menopause); having a thick waist, particularly if post-menopausal; and having high blood-fat levels.
According to Dr Machiri, “The leading cause of death among women in South African is complications of diseases of lifestyle – which are diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension. Interestingly, also among the leading causes of death are maternal causes, as well as cancer in the broad sense, which will include cancers that are specific to women, such as breast, uterine, ovarian and cervical cancer.”
He says that the precautions against these causes of death are similar to those mentioned above – taking better care of one’s health and getting regular check-ups.
Referring to how health practitioners can stay vigilant in respect of women’s illnesses, Dr Machiri says, “I can tell you now, I graduated in 2010 and the amount of technological advancement, and data that has been produced since then, with regard to medicine has completely changed. So I think it’s always important to stay on top of the most recent research, and to be mindful and conscious of specific checks for specific conditions.”
Research also suggests that women tend to be misdiagnosed or given inappropriate treatment, and this can be because of prejudice. Dr Machiri advises doctors to stick to their training. This means taking a good history, and asking questions around the symptomatology of a patient; the examination and any further tests of the patient will be determined from this.
Working together with health practitioners, women can take steps to look after their health through regular check-ups, meaning any treatments can be done in time, thanks to early detection of illness.
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