Tuesday, August 18, 2015
You don’t have to be a scientist to notice that there are fundamental differences in the body make-up of men and women. There are many health issues that are gender neutral and affect men and women in equal measure, but there are some conditions that affect genders disproportionately or more acutely. Some can be explained by the pre-determined biological differences in men and women, but others can be affected by social factors.
Autoimmune diseases have been found to affect women at a higher rate than men. These types of diseases involve the immune system attacking itself, as well as attacking the healthy tissue. For example, 9 out of 10 people affected by lupus are women. There have been many studies trying to conclude why this is the case. There isn’t a proven cause yet, although the focus has been on oestrogen.
Women are more likely to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and although they do share a lot of the same causes as men who suffer from them, there are some factors that are exclusive to women. Many women have reported getting the disease after pregnancy or around the time of menopause when their sex hormones are in flux. The change in female hormones can contribute towards rheumatoid arthritis.
Thyroid problems are ten times more likely to affect women than men. An underactive or overactive thyroid can cause a range of problems, as the thyroid regulates your temperature, heartbeat and metabolism. Causes are thought to be stress, pregnancy and autoimmune issues.
Heart disease is one of the most common causes of death in men. There are a myriad of reasons why men tend to suffer from more cardiovascular diseases than women. High cholesterol can cause heart problems and because women possess high levels of oestrogen, especially in premenopausal women, they have more lipoproteins to protect them from heart issues. The gendered division of labour means there are still barriers to women in the workplace, and men hold a disproportionate level of high positions in organisations, which can lead to stress and consequently heart complications.
Specific types of cancer such as colon cancer and pancreatic cancer are more likely to affect men. This is thought to be because of certain lifestyle choices. The smoking of tobacco, higher alcohol consumption and obesity are thought to contribute towards this.
Studies have shown that depression affects the same rates of men and women. There are issues with how open men are to seeking a diagnosis for their symptoms, but researchers have found that when using a nationally representative survey and a scale to ascertain criteria for depression, there was not a significant difference in the number of men and women suffering from symptoms.
A common assumption is that only women get breast cancer. Much higher rates of women do suffer from this disease because they have more breast tissue, but male breast cancer is on the rise because of increased levels of obesity and therefore breast tissues.
Men are increasingly suffering from more eating disorders as they start to feel the pressures of a society preoccupied with image. This can lead to complications such as bone loss and heart problems.
Women are prone to more bladder infections and urinary tract infections and this can often happen after having sex. However, men are also susceptible to bladder/UTI infections because of kidney stones or an enlarged prostate.
One of the underlying messages in most gender and health based research is that men do not seek medical attention at the same rates as women and therefore do not always receive a diagnosis in the infancy of a disease. This can lead to obvious problems in treatment, therefore checking yourself and visiting the doctor if you are unsure is crucial to good long-term health.
A lot of gender based diseases can be genetic, such as breast cancer, so it is worth checking out your family’s history of disease and being more aware of your own health if there are patterns.
Some diseases that affect women are affected by hormone variations around pregnancy or the menopause, so looking out for any changes to your health around these times is important.
Last but not least, some conditions that affect men can be based on the gendered division of labour. For example, manual labour, involving heavy lifting can have future consequences on health, so being safe at work and having frequent health checks is advised.