Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Impact Of Gender On Health

With all the risk factors, gender does have an impact on health. Here, we focus on the ways in which gender impacts health as regards common diseases in men and women.

On having a heart attack, a man usually tends to hold his chest, grab his left arm, and fall on the ground. But when a woman has a heart attack, the symptoms can differ strikingly. In fact, 50% of women do not experience chest pain at all. Instead, they feel symptoms like pain in their neck, jaw, back, or stomach, nausea, fatigue, or light-headedness. This difference was not completely documented or publicized until 1990. It then sparked a new wave of thinking about not just heart diseases but also the human body and medicines. It was once assumed that all humans were almost the same. But today, this thinking has drastically changed. Each and every tissue of the body is believed to be quite different in men and women.

Read on to know more about the symptoms, causes and prognosis of common diseases in men and women, and impact of gender on health.

Common Diseases In Men And Women - Impact Of Gender On Health

Heart diseases are one of the main conditions with a strong male-female divide. Some other common diseases in men and women in which we can see impact of gender on health include the following.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease mostly affects people aged 65 years or more and is one of the common diseases in men and women. This condition is characterized by rapid, premature deterioration of the brain which leads to dementia. Women are more affected by this disease than men. The high prevalence of this illness in females can be partially attributed to the fact that Alzheimer’s typically affects the elderly and women tend to live longer than men. Further, studies have also shown that healthy women carrying the gene variant ApoE4 have an 80% chance of developing cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s disease, while men with the same gene only face 27% risk, which explains the impact of gender on health, particularly in this condition.

Colorectal Cancer

The overall risk of colo¬rectal cancer, one of the common diseases in men and women is around 5%. But the mortality rate is lower in women than men, based on the impact of gender on this health condition. Studies have also shown that females tend to develop colorectal cancer 5 years later than males. In women, the tumors are mostly located in the right side of the colon, whereas they are in the left in men. The location of the tumor has a serious implication. Since the right section of the colon is larger than the left section, it takes longer for tumors in the right side to grow and become large enough to cause visible bleeding. It is because of this reason that colorectal cancer in women gets diagnosed mostly at advanced stages of the disease. However the survival rate for women is greater than men because females respond better to some chemical treatments.

Depression

Depression is a syndrome characterized by constant feeling of sadness, guilt, hopelessness, worthlessness or loss of interest. Nearly 20% of women and 10% of men experience depression at some point in their lifetime. Women are more likely to attempt suicide than men, but men more often die from the attempt. Differences between the brain structures and hormones of men and women can explain the split in prevalence. The impact of gender on this condition and disparity in prevalence can also stem from the difference in upbringings of boys and girls, and even the rates of abuse, women’s disadvantaged social stage and their tendency to use internalizing coping styles.

While women usually experience symptoms like weight gain, increased appetite, anxiety, hypersomnia, and physical pain, men tend to suffer from weight loss, insomnia, and irritability. Women also respond better to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors, than tricyclic antide¬pres¬sants.

Migraine Headache

Migraine headache is one of the common diseases in men, but it is believed to affect women more than men, i.e. in a ratio of 3:1. Migraine is a severe, throbbing head pain which is often accompanied by nausea, blurred vision, and sensitivity to sound, light, and smells. Female hormones play a vital role in migraine headaches, and it is because of this reason that migraine attacks mostly worsen around a woman’s period and, improve during childbirth and after menopause. The different brain structures of male and female could also account for the impact of gender on health. An experiment conducted on mice showed that female brains expe¬rience more excitability and activity than male brains, and thus gets more easily triggered to launch a migraine. However, migraine associated with menstruation is more difficult to treat.

Sleep Apnea

About 25% of men and 10% of women suffer from sleep apnea. It is a disorder in which breathing stops for short periods during sleep. Since female sex hormones help to protect against apnea, the prevalence of this disorder is less in women than men. Also, men develop sleep apnea more easily because their airways are longer and more prone to collapse. A woman’s risk for sleep apnea however increases after menopause when their sex hormone levels dip. While men suffering from sleep apnea tend to snore loudly and feel sleepy during the day, women experience subtler symptoms. Females may not snore at all but rather complain of mood changes, fatigue, and lack of efficiency, another example of impact of gender on health.

Stroke

Stroke is a condition in which blood stops flowing to the brain. Men have a higher risk of stroke until the age of 85 years, while the risk for this disease accelerates at this age for women. While stroke is common in men and women, the outcomes are also different, showing the impact of gender. Women’s strokes more frequently results in fatality or lead to a poor quality of life. Along with the common stroke symptoms like confusion, weakness and numbness in the face, arms, or legs, and difficulty in speaking or walking, women also experience face, chest and limb pain, sudden hiccups, nausea and exhaustion.

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: September 6, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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