As we celebrate International Women’s Day we're asked to "Imagine a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated."
This includes empowering women’s choices in health and ensuring women have the options and facilities to take care of their own health and wellbeing.
As Michelle Obama said, "Communities and countries and ultimately the world are only as strong as the health of their women."
Here we look at what can be done to support women’s health and how we can help #BreakTheBias to ensure that women and our communities stay strong.
Age is only a number
Research shows that in the UK about 40% of people over the age of 65 are considered inactive. This means they're getting less than the recommended amount of physical activity each week. For adults 19 and over the recommended amount is 150 minutes of moderate excise per week.
As women age oestrogen levels fall, and women are more susceptible to osteoporosis. Regular exercise is essential to help combat this issue and weight- bearing exercise and resistance exercise are particularly important for improving bone density.
Hitting the gym has traditionally been a male domain but more and more women are beginning to enjoy the benefits of gym-based activity, with Cross Fit becoming popular with women of every age.
Focusing on ten areas including: cardiovascular, endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility and balance, CrossFit provides a safe environment for women of all ages to get active.
Age is only a number and if anything, exercise is more important to women as we age.
Women still cook the majority of meals eaten at home, as can be shown by recent statistics. With less education in school on what and how to cook, this skill is less likely to be passed down by each generation.
A healthy diet is key to everyone’s health and learning how to prepare a balanced healthy meal should be part of everyone’s education. For those who know how to cook passing this knowledge to future generations of women is key and for those who don’t, learning from others or taking a course can make a real difference to the health of everyone in the family.
With obesity levels rising and pre-cooked foods readily available, learning to cook may not only be fun and provide tasty meals but is also good for your health.
Protecting young women's mental health
Women are more likely to experience common mental health issues than men. Young women, in particular, have been identified as a high-risk group, with over a quarter (26%) experiencing a common mental disorder, such as anxiety or depression—compared to 9.1% of young men.
In addition, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown that since 2012 suicides among females aged 10 to 24 have increased significantly. Experts say young women are now a “high-risk group” and point to links between mental illness and violence or sexual abuse, and possible pressures from the rise of social media.
This has prompted calls from researchers for more funding to protect the nation’s mental health.
Allowing safe spaces for women to talk, to be safe and to communicate is essential. Whilst research is continuing we can all do our part simply by asking our friends and family “are you ok” and listening to the answer.
Cervical and breast cancer are the two cancers affecting women the most. If detected early both have good survival rates.
About half a million women die from breast cancer and half a million from cervical cancer each year, the majority of these from countries with low screening rates.
In the western world stigma around screening is decreasing. But many communities still need to be encouraged to have regular checks and encouraged to take vaccinations where appropriate.
In many countries this isn’t available so the global community need to pull together to break the health gap.
Understanding women’s health in the workplace
Women do have different health situations than men, it’s a fact. Periods, pregnancy and menopause are unique to women. These all have symptoms that affect the workplace.
Legislation is now in place in the western world for maternity rights but other areas such as menopause are still largely ignored.
A recent study on menopause by Circle found that "there is a culture of ignorance and isolation around menopause in the workplace, and a glaring lack of support for employees and their managers."
Some 83% of study participants said their work was negatively affected, over half (58%) of respondents that experienced menopause said that managing work during their menopausal transition was 'challenging,’ while 48% of all respondents struggled with their drop in confidence at work, and almost as many (46%) felt stressed by having to hide their experience.
Understanding these changes and allowing women to work around them is key not only to women's health but to the health of the workforce in general.
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