International Day Of The Girl Child: 4 Health Risks In Girls And How To Prevent

Each year, 11th October is celebrated as the International Day of The Girl Child, as marked by the United Nations.

While most young girls are extremely conscious about the way they look and dress, it is also important to ensure they are equally, if not more, careful about their health. From childhood to pre-teen and teen years, there are various measures you can take to help your daughter stay healthy and fit and avoid some common health concerns.

4 Common Health Risks In Girls And How To Prevent Them

1. Obesity

This is one of the most common health risk that affects more girls than boys [1]. Obesity can lead to more serious health risks, such as diabetes, heart diseases and hypertension. In girls, it can also lead to hormonal imbalance, excessive hair growth, irregular menstruation cycle, infertility, PCOS and more.

Causes – There are various reasons that can contribute towards obesity. Some of the immediate ones include less physical activity, poor eating and sleeping habits, hereditary issues, puberty and associated hormonal changes and being bottle fed as a baby instead of breastfed.

Prevention Include more fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet as opposed to packaged foods. Make sure your daughter takes up some physical activity, such as sports or dancing, that can help her stay fit. Sleeping for at least 8 to 10 hours at night will also help prevent excess weight gain and keep her alert and fresh. Divide responsibilities in the house, so that your daughter is active and not glued on to gadgets during her free time.

2. Bulimia

Girls are overly conscious about their bodies and are at a high risk of being affected with bulimia. It is a type of eating disorder and a recognized medical condition. If your daughter has bulimia, she will binge eat, but induce vomiting to remove the food and reduce feelings of guilt as well as the fear of gaining weight. Bulimia can lead to severe mood swings, depression, fainting or seizure, dehydration and inflammation of the oesophagus.

Causes There is no specific cause of bulimia, but the most common trigger is lack of self-worth and poor self-esteem. If your daughter is already overweight, she may look at bulimia as an easy way to satisfy her food craving, and then get it out of her system to avoid more weight gain.

Prevention Have a healthy conversation with your daughter and help her feel good about herself. Tell her about all the qualities that you value in her, and why you are proud of her. Also, the moment you notice her disappearing after meals, or notice any fluctuation in weight, visit a counsellor to begin the right treatment at the earliest.

3. Teen Pregnancy

You may not want to acknowledge it yet, but the fact is that more and more teens are getting involved in physical relationships. Teenage pregnancies are extremely hazardous for both the young mother and the unborn baby. The mother is at a high risk of developing anaemia, have a miscarriage or pre-term labour, have a baby born with birth defects, and get affected with hypertension.

Causes Often, young girls are unaware about safe sex, and the only information they have is from friends and peers. Also, many young girls are not fully aware about sexual intercourse and its outcome, and may become pregnant without understanding the implications. Abortions at a young age also come with a very high risk that can also be fatal.

Prevention  The most effective way to prevent a young pregnancy is by having an open communication with your daughter. Make sure she is able to confide in you honestly, without worrying about being judged. If you have a very young child, teach her about the good touch bad touch concept. If you have a pre-teen, talk to her about menstruation and about safe sex, when the time is right.

4. Breast Cancer

While breast cancer mostly affects women over the age of 40, it is never too early to take preventive measures. If detected in its earliest stage, stage 0 and 1, the survival rates are higher as compared to later stages 

Causes  There are no clear causes for developing breast cancer, but a history of breast cancer in the family means the females in your family are also at high risk. The other reason that definitely leads to breast cancer is some type of damage to the DNA of a cell. Also, girls who have their periods at a very early age have a higher risk of breast cancer.

Prevention – Your daughter can reduce her risk by doing some basic examination at home. Once she hits puberty, take her for regular examinations to the doctor and show her how to look for lumps around the breast area herself.

[1] 1: Kral JG. Preventing and treating obesity in girls and young women to curb the epidemic. Obes Res. 2004 Oct;12(10):1539-46. Review. PubMed PMID: 15536217.

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