We always believe that awareness is key to catching a disease early on and thereby greatly improving the chances of treating it. However, it’s not enough to simply know about what that the health issues are. It’s also important to know how these health issues can affect women differently. There are some conditions which affect women primarily or at least more severely than men. Although the symptoms may be similar, the effects of the condition and the care can differ significantly.
Here are some such conditions that we take a look at:
The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain/pressure but women may experience a heart attack without feeling any chest pressure. The association of a heart attack with a dramatic symptom is so strong that women chalk down lesser known symptoms to a flu or acid reflux. Women 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. Some women experiencing a heart attack describe upper back pressure that feels like squeezing or a rope being tied around them.
One can suffer from hypothyroidism (too little thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid). Both of these types are more common in women though the exact reason for this is unknown. When a woman gets pregnant, her immune system is suppressed and the function of the thyroid gland is altered. In most women, the thyroid regains normal functioning after pregnancy when the immune system is released from suppression. For some, the thyroid gland never fully recovers resulting in thyroid disorders.
Though many of the risk factors like a family history of stroke, high blood pressure and cholesterol are common to both men and women; there are some risk factors unique to women such as:
- Taking birth control pills
- Being pregnant
- Using hormone replacement therapy
- Having frequent migraine headaches
- Increases waist size (larger than 35.2 inches), particularly if post-menopausal, and high triglyceride (blood fat) levels
Women are always going through hormonal changes – from puberty to pregnancy to menopause. That’s not all! Their hormonal levels fluctuate every month too. These changes make women more vulnerable to the effects of stress. The manifestation of stress in women is different than men as it results in acne, irregular periods, hair loss and decreased fertility amongst others.
Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis are very common in women especially after the age of 50. This is because women tend to have smaller, thinner bones than men and because the hormone, estrogen, which protects bones, decreases when women reach menopause. Also, the bone density in women in lesser than that in men and this decreases rapidly as they age. Muscle weakness around the knees and broader hips which result in more long-term stress on their knees are the reasons why Osteoarthritis is more common in women.
Urinary tract health
Women are more likely to suffer from urinary tract infections. This is largely due to the structure of the female urinary tract in which the distance that bacteria must travel to reach the bladder is less. Also, menopause causes the level of estrogen to go down which causes changes in the urinary tract that make it more susceptible to infection.