It is often viewed that women are generally good at multitasking, managing various responsibilities including family, motherhood and career.
Very often, they get tired from juggling so many things that they are left with little energy to pay attention to their own health. This can be detrimental to their physical and mental health in the long run.
It is important that these “superwomen” realise that they should be in fine fettle before they attend to the multiple priorities in their lives.
We highlight four conditions that most women are at risk of.
Heart disease in women
Contrary to popular belief, heart disease does not only afflict males. Females are susceptible to it as well. In fact, the disease kills about six times as many women in Singapore as breast cancer does.
The tricky bit is that when a heart attack strikes, women — more often than men — may have subtler, less recognisable symptoms. They include upper abdominal discomfort, light-headedness, nausea and unusual fatigue. Women can improve their chances of recovery if they recognise these symptoms and get medical attention in a timely manner.
Dr Chan Wan Xian, a cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, says that women are more likely to experience a heart attack at an older age, on average 10 years later than men. This usually happens after menopause as lower oestrogen levels are a high-risk factor for heart attack.
But it is not only post-menopausal women that may suffer a heart attack. A recent study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions reported an increased incidence of hospitalisation due to heart attacks in younger women aged 35 to 54, whereas the incidence decreased among men in the same age bracket.
Dr Chan recommends the following actions that women can take to improve their heart health:
- Go for regular health screening.
- Recognise the importance of preventive measures such as maintaining a healthy diet, keeping up with a regular exercise regimen and modulating stress in their lives.
- Make lifestyle changes for primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases as early as possible in life.
- Seek treatment as early as possible if diagnosed with heart disease or cardiovascular risk factors (diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidaemia).
Breast cancer doesn’t mean having to lose your breast
The most common form of cancer among women is breast cancer. Depending on the stage of cancer, some type of surgery may be required.
Dr Ong Kong Wee, breast surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, says that if mastectomy is required, some women may opt for breast reconstruction where the patient’s own tissue, such as muscle from the back or abdomen (called a flap), or an implant can be used to restore the symmetry of the breast.
He adds that having breast reconstruction generally does not interfere with subsequent chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, for patients undergoing radiotherapy, the surgeon would avoid using an implant or place the implant only after the patient completes her radiotherapy.
Dr Ong debunks these myths about breast reconstruction:
Myth: The cure rate for cancer is lower if patients opt for breast reconstruction.
Truth: All clinical studies show similar cure rates for patients with or without reconstruction.
Myth:The procedure is very painful and the recovery period is long.
Truth: Pain is well controlled and, in most cases, the patients will be able to get out of their beds the day after surgery and eat normally. Hospital stay is between three to five days and full recovery can be expected within three to four weeks
Myth: The risk of surgery is very high.
Truth: The risk of major complications such as loss of tissue flap and skin necrosis is only about one to two per cent.
Myth: It is only suitable for young patients.
Truth: It can be safely done in older women who are fit and healthy. (Dr Ong’s oldest patient was almost 70 years old when she did bilateral reconstruction)
Conceiving after 35 years old
Fertility steadily declines with age, especially for women. In general, the likelihood of a woman conceiving a child falls from 20 per cent a month, when a woman is in her late 20s, to eight per cent in her late 30s.
Early diagnosis and treatment of infertility is crucial in assisting patients on their journey to parenthood. Women who are unable to conceive after six months of trying to get pregnant or who may be at risk of a gynaecological disorder should consult a fertility specialist. Some disorders include a history of amenorrhoea (no periods), oligomenorrhoea (infrequent periods) and dysmenorrhoea (painful periods).
Infertility can be treated, but the treatment methods depend on its cause.
Dr Kelly Loi, obstetrics and gynaecology specialist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, says: “In the case of cysts, fibroids and blocked fallopian tubes, laparoscopic or key-hole surgery may help to improve chances.
“For problems related to abnormal ovulation, fertility drugs or injections may help to enable ovulation to occur in a more predictable manner.”
Artificial reproductive technology can also help to increase the chances of a woman conceiving. It refers to the use of laboratory techniques to remove eggs from a woman’s body and mix them with sperm to be fertilised into embryos.
High heels: Silent killers on your feet
When women wear pointed high-heeled footwear, they are basically squeezing the front of their feet into narrow, triangular toe boxes, leading to potential forefoot problems like bunions.
Dr Tan Ken Jin, orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, says that the high and narrow heels of footwear also destabilises the ankle, making it easier for women to sprain their ankles. The ankle tendons also work harder to maintain a woman’s balance and can result in ankle tendinitis and Achilles tightness and pain. Walking in high heels tips a woman’s centre of gravity forward and increases the strain on her lower back muscles too.
Dr Tan adds: “Sometimes, the foot pain does not go away even when you are out of the heels and can persist even when you wear flats. In these situations, a minimally invasive bunion correction can help, especially when the bunion is not yet too severe.”