Some health problems that are common to both women and men affect women in different ways. While the symptoms may be similar, the effects of the disease and the necessary care may be significantly different for women. In addition, some of these diseases could affect mainly, or more seriously, women than men. For example, nearly 12% of women in the United States are at risk for developing breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. Male breast cancer accounts for less than 1% of existing cancer cases.
Below are some health problems and their effects on women.
Up to 5.3 million women in the United States abuse alcohol, putting their health, safety and overall wellbeing at risk. While men are more likely to have alcohol dependence or addiction than women during their lives, the effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism (when a person shows signs of alcohol addiction) are more severe in women. These health effects include an increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and fetal alcohol syndrome, in which babies born to mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy suffer brain damage and learning disabilities.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women. While these diseases are also the leading cause of death in American men, women are more likely than men to die after a heart attack. In addition, women are more likely to experience delays in emergency care and to receive treatment to control cholesterol levels.
Women are more likely than men to have signs of depression and anxiety. Depression is the most common mental health problem in women, 5 and more women than men are diagnosed each year.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Causes pain, stiffness and inflammation in the joints. Arthritis is the leading cause of physical disability in the United States. This disease affects almost 27 million people, affecting more women than men.
Sexually Transmitted Infections / Sexually Transmitted Infections
The effects of STD / STIs in women may be more severe than in men. In the United States, untreated STD / STIs cause infertility in at least 24,000 women each year. Women’s STD / STIs are often not treated because the symptoms are less obvious than in men and are more likely to be confused with a less serious disease, such as a fungal infection.
According to a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, stress on women is on the rise. Women are more likely to report having stress, and almost 50% of women surveyed, compared with 39% of men, reported that their stress level had increased in the past 5 years. Stress also has unique effects on women. A recent NICHD study found that stress could reduce a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant.
Every year, more women than men suffer from a stroke. While many of the risk factors for a stroke are the same in men and women, such as family history of stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, some risk factors are unique to women. These include:
- Taking Birth Control Pills
- Be pregnant
- Use hormone replacement therapy – a combined hormone therapy of progestin and estrogen designed to relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Having frequent migraines
- Having a wide waist (over 35.2 inches), particularly if the woman is in the post menopausal stage and has high triglyceride levels (blood fat)
Urinary tract health
Women are more likely than men to have urinary tract problems. For example, urinary incontinence affects twice as many women as men due to the structure of the female urinary tract.