February 22, 2022 was memorable because it was an ambigram and a palindrome, and this special “two days” was celebrated with great joy. By contrast, on the same day, the tragic disappearance of a popular 39-year-old RJ from cardiac arrest came as a shock and reiterated an extremely worrying societal development.

Generally, the incidence of heart attacks is known to be lower in women than in men, especially in the premenopausal age group. However, as doctors have pointed out, it is causal risk factors such as smoking, irregular exercise, poor weight management, lack of adequate sleep, compounded by stress, that are the primary reason for this increased incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in young women.

Although there are not yet adequate studies on cardiovascular diseases in young women at present, according to reported statistics, seven out of the top 10 causes of death among women in India are due to diseases non-communicable diseases (NCDs), led by heart attacks, strokes and respiratory diseases.

Over the past 24 months, in coping with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a nation and humanity as a whole has finally realized the close connection between the health of people and the health of economy. Therefore, it is essential that we make a concerted effort to address anomalies and inequalities in health and access to care for all.

Women are an important pillar of society and yet they continue to have poorer health outcomes. So, on International Women’s Day 2022, I urge my fellow citizens to join India in adopting a multi-pronged strategy to change the status quo.

One certainty is that women are the backbone of a family and men too would agree with this fact. The untimely demise of a young female family member causes unimaginable anguish and often the scars of loss remain for generations.

So, as a first step, I strongly believe that educated and empowered women must strive to be in exemplary health, to avoid NCDs by being aware of the risk factors and also to make preventive medicine a mode of life. I would point out that we should nurture this as a societal culture because millions of young women would emulate them and then we can aspire to build healthier and happier families.

Let’s also keep in mind that it’s not just NCDs, more than 150 women in India die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Until now, the lack of easy access to contraception, ignorance of reproductive rights, widespread prevalence of anemia and many diseases and health inequalities persist and it is incumbent on each of us to solve them.

For eons, women have been conditioned to believe that they should have a high tolerance level and keep quiet about minor health issues. All this must change and women must be made aware of their rights but also of the risks of neglecting their health. An example would be breast cancer, the most common cancer in women worldwide each year. Unfortunately, it is also the leading cause of cancer-related death in women and that is a shame because oncologists have pointed out that breast cancer can be cured if detected at an early stage. Yet it continues to account for about 15% of all cancer deaths in women, or nearly one million each year.

Going forward, as a responsible nation, we should strive to see professional women and housewives make their own health a priority. It would be a step towards “Breaking down prejudices” and promoting equality. A change like this also calls on men to motivate every young woman in their lives – be it their mother, sister, colleague or friend to take care of their health and also be aware of the risk factors and symptoms of NCDs.

Health is an individual and collective responsibility. Therefore, we must all come together as one nation to address all health challenges and empower our women to be much more productive members of our society, as building a sustainable India is essential.

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