Our Health Differences: Not an Equal Opportunity Agenda

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: May 26, 2010

There are differences between the sexes when it comes to health and disease prevalence, manifestations and causes of death. The field of study, known as Gender Based Biology, identifies biological and physiological differences between women and men. Men have a life expectancy that is 5 years less than that of women, even though studies have shown that women experience more illnesses than men. Why do some of these differences exist?

Men tend to be risk takers and engage in different risk taking behaviors. The greater propensity for risk taking behaviors may result in more injuries and severe health consequences for men. Motor vehicle deaths among males are twice the rate among females and men are two times more likely than women to die from unintentional injuries. Women are also more likely to engage in health protective behaviors including – regular check-ups, breast screenings, pap smears; and women are more likely to report their health problems than men. Women also visit their healthcare providers more frequently. Compared to women, men are more apt to not have health insurance. For this reason, they are less prone to see medical care, even when they experience symptoms.

When it comes to chronic diseases and feminine vs. masculine health differences, here are some things of interest which may be of interest to women:

  • In the USA there are more than 90 million Americans who have chronic diseases.
  • These diseases are responsible for approximately 70% of all deaths in the USA.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death of American women. 9.6 million US women have heart disease, yet women are less likely than men to be referred for heart care. Only 35% of female health patients recognized their symptoms as heart related.
  • Osteoporosis affects approximately 25 million Americans. 80% of those affected by osteoporosis are women.
  • Arthritis affects approximately 42.7 million Americans, 26.4 million are women.
  • Approximately 10.3 Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, 8.1 million are women. The prevalence of diabetes is greater, in fact, 2 to 4, amongst African American, Hispanic, Native Americans, Asian and Pacific Islander women, than among Caucasian women.
  • Women are twice as likely as to experience depression and anxiety as men. Approximately 7% of men, compared to 12% of women in USA will experience a major depression during their lifetime.
  • Urinary incontinence affects 13 million Americans; 11 million of those are women.
  • About 75% of autoimmune diseases occur in women, i.e., Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or Lupus) (9 out of 10 cases occurs in women) and it is three times more common in African American women than in Caucasian; More women than men are affected by Sjogren’s Syndrome; Scleroderma (systemic sclerosis); Multiple Sclerosis (MS); Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS); Hasimoto’s thyroiditis (hypothyroidism); Grave’s Disease (hyperthyroidism) and Fibromyalgia.

And, even migraine headaches are not an equal opportunity affliction.

So, the bottom line is that there are far more differences which we should be aware of that are influenced by our gender. The medical community is beginning to realize how important these differences are and is taking a different approach, no longer treating women the same as they do their male patients. They realize there are different approaches in health research, screenings, diagnosing, taking preventive measures, and treatments that are unique to women and which may help women improve their quality of life. So be informed, have frequent check-ups and realize the importance of gender based biology. Understanding the difference can make a difference.