Women, Men Experience Health Conditions Differently

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Those words by Professor Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady” pose a question that for a long time seemed to be the norm. Even today when I read new health research, it becomes apparent that many in the medical profession make sweeping statements about how health conditions are the same in all people, as in men and women.

    But we know now that most often, this isn’t true. So what are some of the diseases and the differences?

    The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development pointed to eight health conditions in which women are affected differently than men. These conditions include:

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    • Heart disease – This condition is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. While it also is the leading cause of death for men, women are more likely to die after a heart attack then men. In addition, women often experience more delays in emergency care and to have treatment to control cholesterol levels. And the American Heart Association points out that the symptoms of a heart attack differ between women and men’s.  Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure, ” said Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer. “Instead they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.”
    • Stroke – More women have strokes annually then men. And women have some unique risk factors beyond a family history of stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These other risk factors include taking birth control pills, being pregnant, , using hormone replacement therapy to relieve menopausal symptoms, having frequent migraine headaches and having a waist circumference larger than 35.2 (especially if a woman is post-menopausal and has high triglyceride (blood fat) levels.
    • Mental health – More women than men are diagnosed with depression annually. Women also struggle with anxiety.
    • Stress – Women report stress more often than men. IN addition, almost half of the women who were surveyed by the American Psychological Association said their stress had increased during the past five years, as compared to 39 percent of men.
    • Osteoarthritis – This condition, which is the most common form of arthritis and causes joint pain, stiffness and swelling, affects more women than men. 
    • Urinary tract health – Women are more than 50 percent more likely to experience a urinary tract issue than men.  Urinary incontinence is diagnosed in twice as many women as men. This is caused by the way a woman’s urinary tract is structured.
    • Sexually transmitted diseases – Women often are more seriously affected by sexually transmitted diseases and infections
    • Alcohol abuse – The health effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism are more serious in women. Currently, it is estimated that 5.3 million women in the United States abuse alcohol. Health effects for women include an increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease.

    In addition, there are other conditions that only affect women. These include:

    • Gynecological health and disorders - These issuess include menstruation and menstrual irregularities, pelvic floor disorders, bacterial vaginosis, vaginitis, uterine fibroids and vulvodynia.
    • Other disorders and conditions - These health conditions include such as Turner syndrome, Rett syndrome, and ovarian and cervical cancers.

    Therefore, it’s important to realize that women aren’t the same as men when it comes to health considerations. Make sure that you and your health care provider discuss your health issues and, in doing so, make sure that the answers reflect what these conditions mean for a woman (and not for a man).

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    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    American Heart Association. (2013). Heart attack symptoms in women.

    Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2012).  What health issues or conditions affect women differently than men?  National Institutes of Health.

    Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human

    Development. (2012).  What health issues or conditions are specific to women only? National Institutes of Health.

Published On: April 18, 2013