In today’s busy world, working beyond forty hours a week has become normal routine and a part of regular lifestyle, but one that results in increased stress, lack of physical activity, sleep, and appetite, and developing binge eating habits.
The red flags are all around us. Here’s how our lifestyle choices have progressively become unhealthier over time –
- Watching television sets is preferred over an outdoor sport.
- We don’t want to walk a grocery store for half a mile, instead, we take our vehicles and try to park them as close to the elevators as possible.
- Health club packages continue to renew without paying visits.
- Most women in today’s world are so busy that they don’t have any time to take care of their own health.
- We reach out for handy packaged snacks without even knowing what kind of preservatives, additives, and empty calories are contained in it.
All the above conditions give rise to lifestyle diseases. Lifestyle diseases (also sometimes called diseases of longevity or diseases of civilization interchangeably) are defined as diseases linked with the way people live their life. Poor eating habits, ignoring the biological clock, chronic stress, improper body postures, urbanization or sedentary lifestyle – these are the major culprits that lead to these diseases.
Let’s find out what are some common lifestyle diseases in women and how they affect the quality of life drastically.
1) Diabetes: According to a joint survey by WHO and ADA (American Diabetic Association), more than 346 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes. This number is likely to increase to more than double by 2030 without any intervention. According to ASSOCHAM, out of the 68% of working women in the age group 21 – 52 years, who are obese, also suffer from diabetes as they have poor eating habits and/or sedentary lifestyle.
Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder with poor insulin response and inability of the body to utilize the food. Type-2 diabetes or adult-onset diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. DM sometimes may run in the family, but it can be controlled.
Control – Adopting a diet that considers a body mass index of 25 kg/m2, consuming more fiber and whole grain foods with proper calorie modification, sticking to foods low in saturated and trans-fats and high in glycemic index, regular exercise, abstinence from smoking, and moderate consumption of alcohol – all this may help to control Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. However, for high risk subjects, whether Type 2 Diabetes can be prevented by lifestyle interventions alone is still unknown.
2) Metabolic Syndrome (MS) : Metabolic Syndrome is directly linked to obesity, elevated blood pressure, a variety of cardiovascular diseases, elevated fasting plasma glucose (a diabetic condition), high serum triglycerides, and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels (suppressed good cholesterol). The exact cause of metabolic syndrome is still under investigation. According to a joint survey by WHO and ASCOM, majority of the women affected by MS are between age group of 25 to 45 who have poor eating patterns, sedentary lifestyle, and have a degree of insulin resistance. Stress is also known to be a contributing factor.
While the most important risk factor still is diet (particularly sugar-sweetened beverage consumption), other associated factors are low physical activity, disrupted sleep, and excessive alcohol use.
Control – Major dietary modification is a must. In addition, an active lifestyle has to be maintained. These are among the best known preventive measures for most of the health complications arising from Metabolic Syndrome.
3) Osteoarthritis: Arthritis (Greek arthro– meaning joint, and -itis meaning inflammation) is an autoimmune disorder that affects joints, includes joint pain and stiffness within the joints, and minimal range of motion within the affected area. According to recent studies more than 20% of women suffer from arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, causing erosion in both major and minor joints of the body, including the hands, wrists, feet, back, hip, and knee. This condition is aggravated eventually by the two opposing bones eroding into each other. More than 30% of women are afflicted by some degree of osteoarthritis by age 55. Risk factors for osteoarthritis include prior joint trauma, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Control – Well managed diet can be incorporated with some anti-inflammatory agents such as EPA and DHA to manage the condition. Light to moderate activity should be considered too.
4) PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome): The most common yet neglected form of hormone abnormality in reproductive-aged women is PCOS. Women suffer menstrual abnormalities when ovulation does not occur normally, leading to enlarged ovaries containing multiple small follicles (polycystic ovaries). This is another dreadful condition that causes major hormonal imbalances in women.
Women with severe PCOS suffer menstrual irregularity, tend to put on weight and have more severe risk factors for lifestyle diseases than women with less severe condition.
Control – Lifestyle change, including diet and exercise, can bring down the severity of PCOS to a large extent. It is important to note that in women suffering from PCOS, weight gain worsens both reproductive and metabolic abnormalities.
5) Obesity: A medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health. Obesity decreases life span, severe obesity (BMI greater than 40 kg/m2) reduces life expectancy in women by ten years.
Control – A well planned diet with careful calorie considerations, and a structured regimen for physical activity (moderate to heavy) will start making a dent if followed consistently. With a chronic condition like obesity, it is only through systematic lifestyle changes that the negative effects can be reversed in time.
6) Hypothyroidism: A condition where your thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland is located in the front lower part of your neck. It releases thyroid hormones which travel through your bloodstream and affect nearly every part of your body, from your heart and brain, to your muscles and even your skin! The thyroid controls how your body’s cells use energy from food, a process called metabolism. Metabolism affects your body’s temperature, your heartbeat, and how well you burn calories. So basically, if you don’t have enough thyroid hormone, your body’s processes slow down, your body makes less energy, and your metabolism becomes sluggish.
Inflammation of the thyroid occurs after pregnancy. This is called postpartum thyroiditis. Women with this condition usually have a severe increase in thyroid hormone levels followed by a sharp drop in thyroid hormone production.
Control – Most women with postpartum thyroiditis will regain their normal thyroid function with structured diet and increased physical activity. The thyroid needs iodine to produce the thyroid hormone. Your body doesn’t make iodine, so you need to get it through your diet. Iodized table salt is rich in iodine. Other food sources of iodine include shellfish, saltwater fish, eggs, dairy products, and seaweed.
Following are few tips to prevent and manage the lifestyle disorders:
- Whole grain and green leafy foods, nuts, and seeds should be preferred over sugar and those harmful “handy snacks.” Look for the nutritional label to get an idea of what you are having – you will be surprised and may not able to identify all the ingredients, or understand the information give. In such cases, simply avoid the packet that you’re planning to buy – it’s not worth it when you don’t know what you are having!
- Sodas and packaged juices have loads of sugar or artificial sweeteners used within them to enhance the taste. This will only increase your sugar cravings and should be replaced by plain water, infused water, and/or butter milk.
- Avoid excessive use of caffeine. Caffeine is good in moderation, however, consumption of 300 milligrams or above may have adverse effect on women. People with hypertension should be very careful about caffeine usage. Though caffeine is a number one beverage when it comes to weight watchers, it may not be the best option for everyone. So, for those who do not have this option, you can go for lemon water and green tea.
- Correct your body posture. Whether you believe or not, 75 % of back problems in women arise due to improper body posture or long hours doing sitting jobs. When you sit, make sure you are at correct posture lean back straight to the chair with your back resting on the chair. If you work on a monitor place it a little higher than its normal position. Involve yourself in some sort of stretching routine in between your work, stand up and take a walk to take a break from long periods of sitting.
- Involve yourself in physical activity. You may not necessarily be able to take out time from your busy schedule, but a few doable things are – avoiding the usage of vehicles for nearby places, avoiding elevators and taking the stairs instead while you are in office – all these are still considered exercise.
- Prefer a walk, or outdoor recreation to your TV sets. Avoid indoor activities and encourage active outdoor games as a hobby. This is a good idea to give time to your kids and keep them engaged too.
Stress is a devious factor that affects working women. Read how to identify and cope with work stress with the Fitmag article “Common Health Mistakes Working Women Make”
Women are the backbone of our society. They have many roles to play. They have to be healthy and strong to perform their role in the society. Obesity, unhealthy eating patterns, not having a balanced diet, and not involving in physical exercise are some of the prime factors that contribute to lifestyle disorders in women. The preexisting condition can be managed, however prevention is better than cure and a proactive approach is always better than a reactive approach.
Article Credits – Navdeep Chawla