Among other things, you need calcium to build healthy bones and teeth, keep them strong as you age, regulate the heart’s rhythm, and ensure your nervous system functions properly. Calcium deficiency can lead to, or exacerbate, mood problems such as irritability, anxiety, depression, and sleep difficulties. If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, your body will take calcium from your bones to ensure normal cell function, which can lead to weakened bones or osteoporosis. Women are at a greater risk than men of developing osteoporosis, so it’s important to get plenty of calcium, in combination with magnesium and vitamin D, to support your bone health.
A well-balanced diet, comprised of a variety of foods, adequately meets women’s needs for vitamins, minerals and energy. For good health, women need to pay special attention to calcium, iron and folate (folic acid) intake. A healthy diet also should minimize the intake of fat and sugar. Diets high in saturated or trans fat can promote high levels of blood cholesterol and increase risk for heart disease. A diet that includes high sugar provides empty calories, or calories that do not provide any nutritional value and often times replace more nutritious food selections.
It has affected more than 200 million women and girls who are alive today. The practice is concentrated in some 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.[77] FGC affects many religious faiths, nationalities, and socioeconomic classes and is highly controversial. The main arguments advanced to justify FGC are hygiene, fertility, the preservation of chastity, an important rite of passage, marriageability and enhanced sexual pleasure of male partners.[11] The amount of tissue removed varies considerably, leading the WHO and other bodies to classify FGC into four types. These range from the partial or total removal of the clitoris with or without the prepuce (clitoridectomy) in Type I, to the additional removal of the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (Type II) to narrowing of the vaginal orifice (introitus) with the creation of a covering seal by suturing the remaining labial tissue over the urethra and introitus, with or without excision of the clitoris (infibulation). In this type a small opening is created to allow urine and menstrual blood to be discharged. Type 4 involves all other procedures, usually relatively minor alterations such as piercing.[78]
The ability to determine if and when to become pregnant, is vital to a woman's autonomy and well being, and contraception can protect girls and young women from the risks of early pregnancy and older women from the increased risks of unintended pregnancy. Adequate access to contraception can limit multiple pregnancies, reduce the need for potentially unsafe abortion and reduce maternal and infant mortality and morbidity. Some barrier forms of contraception such as condoms, also reduce the risk of STIs and HIV infection. Access to contraception allows women to make informed choices about their reproductive and sexual health, increases empowerment, and enhances choices in education, careers and participation in public life. At the societal level, access to contraception is a key factor in controlling population growth, with resultant impact on the economy, the environment and regional development.[58][59] Consequently, the United Nations considers access to contraception a human right that is central to gender equality and women's empowerment that saves lives and reduces poverty,[60] and birth control has been considered amongst the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.[61]
The effect of education programs on nutrition outcomes is difficult to assess because programs often have poor baseline data or nutrition outcomes are not evaluated (174, 182). Studies that used longitudinal analyses and “natural” experiments (e.g., before and after a national education policy) found that education was associated with reduced fertility (183, 184), and delayed early marriages and pregnancies (184–187). The impact was more significant for higher levels of education (185). However, 1 study in Malawi identified negative associations between education and timing of first birth, although these findings were largely not statistically significant (188). Secondary education for adolescents and women of reproductive age also showed no impact on women's empowerment (184), although it did show an impact on improved literacy and leadership (174). Educational interventions that provided conditional cash transfers (CCTs) and school feeding, as well as other forms of social protection to families of enrolled girls, were associated with greater school enrollment and attendance (189–191), improved test scores (189, 190), reduced gender gaps (192), and reduced hunger (190, 191).
In addition to diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors can also play an important role in bone health. Smoking and drinking too much alcohol can increase your chances of developing osteoporosis, while weight-bearing exercise (such as walking, dancing, yoga, or lifting weights) can lower your risk. Strength or resistance training—using machines, free weights, elastic bands, or your own body weight—can be especially effective in helping to prevent loss of bone mass as you age.
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