BY AYEESHA RASHID
International Women’s Day was born out of a socialist movement in the early 20th century. The year was 1907; textile workers were distressed about long shifts, low wages, and dangerous conditions in their place of work. They took to the streets of New York in protest.
To pay a tribute to their courage, socialist groups in the United States celebrated the first National Woman’s Day in February, 1909. It marked the last Sunday in February as a commemorative day for women. Later in 1910 at the International Socialist Women’s Meeting in Copenhagen, Luise Zietz, a German Socialist, formalised the idea of a day dedicated to women.
That is where an international celebration entered the picture. Now, over a century later, why does the 8th day of the 3rd month of our Gregorian calendar still subsist as a legacy? We trace our way back a hundred and four years in the past, to 1917, Russian women in Petrograd had revolted under the tag of International Women’s Day.
Eventually the agenda blended into the infamous February Revolution, which resulted in the abdication of Czar Nicholas II. This event established International Women’s Day on 8 March, with Vladimir Lenin officially naming it a communist holiday in 1922.
March 8, 2022, is just past, and I write with pure contentment in my heart, as a granddaughter, daughter, sister, niece, aunt, a future wife and mother. We make up half the world’s population. And create all of it, life and everything that surrounds it. A big part of who I am today is all thanks to the women in my life. This is to them and for every other woman that there is, an anchor to someone just like me.
In our venture Gauri Healthy Heart Project, patients from 20 districts of J&K got free medical treatment for Hypertension, Diabetes Mellitus and established cardiovascular disease.
During my volunteer tenure with GKF, I noticed heart related ailments in women were sparse, geographically concentrated in particular areas and even then, not as frequent as men. Although our patient turnout would provide evidence to the contrary - more women were admitted to our camps than men.
This, owing to the fact that their illness was left untreated, except for cases that were symptomatic but still diagnosed late. Statistically speaking, men have more heart attacks than women, but women still have a higher heart attack death rate and awareness among them is fairly low.
According to GHHP Annual Report, around half of those diagnosed have Blood Pressure readings more than the target of 140/90 mmHg in spite of treatment. Management has improved over the years, but figuratively there hasn’t been any significant development.
This finding is consistent with international data on population studies which shows a more pronounced age-related reduction in Hypertension control in women than in men. This is likely to increase the number of cases in uncontrolled HT of female population as the longevity of our population increases. This is on account of sub-optimal treatment, non-compliance or true resistance.
The woman who birthed me is my primary source of inspiration. My mother, Sabiya Rashid, is a practicing dietician and a licensed special educator. I’ve used her insight and intermingled the learning from my time at GKF to come up with a Woman’s Guide to Perfect Her Heart.
Choose foods that are low on sodium. You can use more herbs, spices, and seasonings like lemon juice and vinegars to enhance flavour. Many herbs have anti-inflammatory properties, so your diet can be healthier and even tastier. You can opt for basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, dill, mint, cilantro/coriander, sage, parsley, chives etc.
Cut back on sugar. It might also be labelled as ‘glucose’, ‘fructose’, ‘sucrose’, and ‘corn syrup’ in some products. Some alternatives for sugar are organic brown sugar, maple syrup, jaggery, dates, honey, coconut sugar, agave, stevia extract etc.
Limit foods that have ‘trans fat’. Too much trans fat can cause heart attacks. Try fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean meats, fish, nuts, and lean poultry instead.
Take your medicines as directed. Don’t be erratic or inconsistent. Follow your doctor’s advice unconditionally.
Consider using less costly generics as safe and effective alternatives to your more costly brand medication. Discuss it with your doctor prior to consumption.
If you have family history of diabetes, get your blood sugar level checked.
Ask a professional how you should manage your health conditions during pregnancy.
Some women need a device to facilitate their cardiac functions. Talk to a specialist about what device is best for your concern.
Get your BP checked regularly and cholesterol tested.
Know the signs of a heart attack
The signs of a heart attack can be different for women than they are for men. The most common symptom for both women and men is chest discomfort. However you can still have a heart attack without experiencing chest pain or pressure. Women are susceptible to other symptoms such as back pain, jaw pain, indigestion, and nausea or vomiting.
Look out for the following signs:
Sharp pain in your upper body in the form of uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the centre of your chest or back between your shoulder blades. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
Pain in arms, neck, jaw or stomach.
Shortness of breath (with or without chest discomfort).
Breaking out in a cold sweat.
Feeling dizzy or light-headed.
Feeling sick to your stomach.
The pointers in this guide are preventive measures and for awareness purpose; curative advice can only be taken from a medical practitioner.
Ayeesha Rashid Bhat is a student of Humanities and an intern at Gauri Kaul Foundation.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.