Men and women are alike in a lot of ways, but when it comes to health, many don't know that there are vast differences. For example, while men are more likely to become alcoholics and develop certain cancers, women are much more likely to become obese, depressed, and develop osteoporosis. Additionally, the symptoms of certain diseases are different in women than in men. Luckily, there are steps you can take to lessen your risk of developing these conditions. Read on to find out about the top conditions that women need to especially watch out for:
Depression: Women are approximately twice as likely as men to become depressed. Different causes have been suggested: hormonal differences, biology, unequal status, and menopause. Indeed, many research studies have shown that hormones are directly related to brain chemistry, which helps explain why women sometimes develop postpartum depression after they give birth. Women are also more vulnerable to depression during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. In contrast to men, women tend to experience certain depressive symptoms more than men, such as seasonal depression (also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder).
What You Can Do: In addition to eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, make sure to watch for symptoms of depression. If you feel sad, guilty, fatigued, worthless, indecisive, or have trouble sleeping, these could be signs that you are depressed. Talk to the people around you about how you’re feeling. Women with a good social support system tend to be much more mentally healthy than those who isolate themselves, so don’t be afraid to reach out. If you think you may be experiencing depression, talk to your doctor about the various treatment options, including psychotherapy and medication.
Osteoporosis: Women make up about three-quarters of the osteoporosis population worldwide, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. Why? In addition to having naturally lower bone density, women tend to lose bone mass faster than men as they get older. This is probably due to genetic factors as well as hormonal changes. Estrogen is important when it comes to bone health, but women experience big dips in their estrogen levels when they reach menopause and that makes them more vulnerable to bone loss than men.
What You Can Do: Make sure your diet is rich in calcium and vitamin D. Additionally, keep your muscles strong by exercising regularly. Try weight-bearing exercises such as yoga, aerobics and weight lifting. Other good preventive measures include limiting your alcohol intake, not smoking, and taking certain medications that have been shown to reduce osteoporosis in women who are especially vulnerable to it.
Heart Disease: Surprisingly, many more women die from heart disease each year than men. While it’s unclear exactly why this happens, this is a situation where symptoms greatly differ between men and women. Part of the higher fatality rate could be due to a lack of action by patients and doctors alike when the symptoms are seemingly odd.
What You Can Do: Know what the heart attack symptoms are for women, and do not wait to seek help. The most common sign of heart attack for women is pain in the chest, much like it is for men. But women also have symptoms that can be indicative of a heart attack that they may not recognize, such as shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, and fatigue. Other symptoms include pain in the upper back, shoulders, and neck. If you experience these symptoms and are concerned, seek help right away. Other things you can do to lower your risk of heart disease include keeping yourself at a healthy weight and exercising regularly.
Chronic Pain: For several reasons, women are more likely than men to experience chronic pain. Women tend to be more sensitive to pain because they experience it differently than men. Medical experts agree that hormones like estrogen and progesterone can intensify the experience of feeling pain. Women’s brain structures may play a role as well, since some studies have suggested that their central pain processors show more activity than those of men who are experiencing the same amount of pain.
What You Can Do: Make sure you exercise and keep your weight in control. Being overweight is a huge risk factor for many chronic pain conditions because of the strain it puts on your body’s organs and joints. Good posture will also reduce your risk of chronic pain conditions. In terms of exercise, building up to 30 minutes of brisk walking each day can lower your likelihood of developing chronic pain.